Interview given by Foreign Minister Frank‑Walter Steinmeier on the current situation in Ukraine. Published in the Thüringer Allgemeine newspaper (17 May 2014).
Mr Steinmeier, your mediation efforts in Ukraine haven’t made any progress. Quite the opposite, in fact. How frustrated are you by that?
The situation is serious. We are not talking about a regional conflict here. What is at stake is no less than a new rift dividing Europe – with unforeseeable consequences for Germany as well. We cannot accept any military option. We have a responsibility to prevent that and to use every opportunity to deescalate the conflict and find a path towards peaceful resolution. Of course we would have liked to see more progress. But more often than not diplomacy moves forward with small steps. And every act of violence, like in Slavyansk, Odessa and Mariupol, sets it back by long strides. Yet from my point of view there is no alternative to fighting day in day out for a diplomatic solution.
Voices from the CSU commented your travels as follows: Huge expense, no recompense.
I won’t dwell upon that for a second. To be honest, the conflict is too dangerous and time is too precious given the tense situation to waste time on utterances like that.
Helmut Schmidt said: As far as Ukraine is concerned, no‑one has any idea what to do – and he seems to include you as well. Are you hurt by that?
There is no quick fix for a complex conflict like this. We can only try to approach the problem from various angles and proceed step by step. The first step will be the presidential elections on 25 May, which, the hope is, will lend fresh democratic legitimacy and more authority to the Kyiv Government. The second step would be a new constitution giving the regions, particularly in eastern Ukraine, more rights and greater powers, and the third step would be parliamentary elections. Simultaneously, perpetrators of violence must be disarmed and webs of corruption combatted.
Isn’t that just wishful thinking?
An overall solution is not going to fall out of the sky just like that. We have no other possibility but to advance partial solutions step by step.
The interview was conducted by Martin Debes and reproduced by kind permission of the Thüringer Allgemeine.