Germans still can’t stop lecturing Poles 

Germany fed the Russian beast and let it loose thinking it had tamed it, argues Marek Pyza

editor: Grzegorz Adamczyk
author: Marek Pyza
Former German Ambassador to Poland Rolf Nikel attends an event with German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas that aims to present a concept for a "Place of Remembrance and Encounter with Poland" in Berlin, Germany, September 15, 2021. (Michele Tantussi/Pool via AP)

Berlin is worried about Poland’s increasing significance at a time when German influence is waning, Rolf Nikel, the former German ambassador to Poland, unwittingly confirmed in two recent interviews.

Now, Germany is increasingly frustrated at developments that undermine its hegemony in Europe. 

The key phrase during the interviews, picked up by a Polish news outlet, was the warning that “Poland’s five minutes in the sun may soon be over.” If we are to treat this as a warning, it is by no means a friendly one. It’s more of a threat. Nikel says it in the context that Poland is missing its chance to become Germany’s partner in a new joint approach on Russia and, as a result, could lose because “Germany may revert back to its old ways.”

In his interview, Nikel describes the pressure by Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki’s on Chancellor Olaf Scholz over the delivery of Leopard tanks for Ukraine as being “rather extraordinary in relations between allies and partners.”

And he thinks the claim for World War II reparations is also impertinent, calling it ill-advised and ill-timed when war threatens Western unity. All he is prepared to offer are “gestures” of goodwill when it suits Germany. Not much sign of a partnership there. 

In another interview with Bild, Nikel makes it clear he believes Poland is being aggressive in order to strengthen its hand in the EU and also because the Polish government in an election year is trying to drum up public support by using Germany as its whipping boy. He complains that while Germany is always able to find an understanding with France, this is proving difficult with Warsaw because Poland wants to strengthen itself internally “rather than strengthen Europe.” 

Once again, the signal is that criticism of Germany is off limits as it is bad for Europe, the EU, and NATO. Thinking more typical of autocratic regimes than democracy. 

On reparations, Nikel also gets his facts wrong. He claims Poland gave up on any claim back in the early 1990s, so the issue is being raised by the current Polish government purely for internal reasons. But in reality, there was no settlement on reparations in the early 1990s and the matter is not internal but external, with the Polish government realizing that it will take years to make progress. An experienced diplomat should not lie. 

Not much has thus changed beyond the Oder River. Nikel’s views are an example of the typical German arrogance we have experienced for centuries; the total inability to take criticism and a lack of reflection on how disastrous German foreign policy has been over the past decades. German diplomats were courteous towards Poland as long as Poland was prepared to play second fiddle to Germany over Russia. The war in Ukraine means that those days are well and truly over. 

Germany is facing the specter of losing its dominance in Europe. A loss well deserved because German dominance has led us into this barbaric war in Ukraine. Germany fed the Russian beast and let it loose thinking it had tamed it. It’s time for Germany to accept that it has no right to lecture Poles, especially on anything to do with security. 

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