No going back to pre-war policy towards Russia: German ambassador to Poland

Thomas Bagger, Germany's Ambassador to Poland, attending the “Germany and Poland toward Ukraine” conference. Warsaw, November 14, 2022. Photo: PAP/Piotr Nowak

During the “Germany and Poland toward Ukraine” conference, Germany’s ambassador to Poland, Thomas Bagger, said the war will effectively transform the European Union and that Poland will be of central importance to the coming transformation. The German diplomat also stressed there is no return to the ways of the old Russo-German relationship, or to the old energy policy.

The “Germany and Poland toward Ukraine” conference was held by the Polish Senate and hosted by Deputy Speaker of the Senate Michał Kamiński. The conference was attended by the German ambassador to Poland Mr Thomas Bagger, who spoke among other things on the new challenges faced by the European Union and the need for the bloc to undergo changes after Ukraine eventually wins the conflict.

“The European Union will change as a result of this war and Poland will be of more central importance, because the centre of the Union will shift east,” said Ambassador Bagger. He advised that the future of the EU will necessitate Polish-German co-operation.

Mr Bagger also highlighted the German support for Ukraine, in particular in terms of helping refugees. “There are a million Ukrainians in Germany today, only in Poland are there more,” he said.

He moreover stated that the EU should make it its aim to ensure Ukraine is a sovereign and democratic country capable of defending its territorial integrity and becomes a member state of the bloc.

The diplomat assured that Germany is changing its approach toward Russia for good now, since the Kremlin, by its invasion of Ukraine, has violated the principles and values Berlin holds dear. He explained the change was long in the making because up until the last moment Germany found it inconceivable that Russia would start the war. But, as Mr Bagger said, the change is now irreversible.

There can be no return to the pre-war relationship with Russia or energy policy, said the German ambassador, adding that Germans are now aware the Nord Stream pipeline had been a mistake.

“There is an epoch-making breakthrough underway in Germany when it comes to energy policy, as well as defence policy,” said the German ambassador, firmly stating that “There is no return to the principle of ‘business as usual’.” v As Mr Bagger said, Germany sees its own change in policy as a chance to improve the relationship with Poland now that Berlin’s approach is shifting closer to that of Warsaw. He further noted that Germany will announce its new strategy in terms of its defence policy among others, early next year.

Piotr Buras, director of the Warsaw office of the European Council on Foreign Affairs explained that Poland is finding it hard to understand many aspects of German policy, citing Berlin’s reluctance to deliver a sufficient number of tanks to Ukraine as an example. He put forward that tank deliveries for Ukraine should be co-ordinated on the EU level. Mr Buras also expressed his belief that the current situation, although hard, may paradoxically be a chance for improving the relationship between Berlin and Warsaw. As he described it, “Hitting rock bottom may be reinvigorating.”

Dieter Bingen, a German political scientist and contemporary historian, who from 1999 until 2019 served as director of the German Institute for Polish Affairs in Darmstadt, said that Ukraine should become fully integrated with the EU in the long term. “Not everybody will be overjoyed by this, but this is what must happen,” said Mr Bingen. “This is a project on which Germany and Poland should collaborate with one another.”

The host of the meeting, the Deputy Speaker of the Senate, thanked Ambassador Bagger for recognising the coming shift in the European centre of gravity following Ukraine’s victory.

“This is not something that should flatter us, this is something that we should treat as a commitment,” said Mr Kamiński.