Some say like this, others like this: Once again world politics is arguing whether and how one can get along with Vladimir Putin. Should the former chancellor’s attempts at mediation be a reminder?

One word keeps coming up in politics: humility. Officials and dignitaries practice it, for example after elections or times of crisis, all too often one is linked to the other. Anyone who shows humility in politics wants to signal respect and insight in order to give even unpleasant circumstances a meaningful purpose. In this respect, humiliation can be understood as the blatant opposite of that, which can at most cause madness.

Emmanuel Macron sees this as a great danger, his latest statements leave no doubt about that. With regard to the Ukraine war, the French President warns that one must not “humiliate Russia”, i.e. degrade or offend it, in order not to block a diplomatic way out. Meanwhile, Federal Chancellor Olaf Scholz is warning not to let the thread of talks with Kremlin ruler Vladimir Putin break off. Both are sharply criticized for their attitude. A good connection, to the aggressor of all places?

Andrzej Duda was “surprised” by the course taken by his counterparts. Poland’s president hasn’t spared criticism in the past few days anyway. “These talks are useless,” he now told the “Bild” newspaper. “They only legitimize a person responsible for crimes committed by the Russian army in Ukraine.” Duda cemented his own stance with a historical comparison: “Did anyone talk to Adolf Hitler like that in World War II? Did anyone say that Adolf Hitler had to be able to save face?”. He doesn’t know such voices. “Everyone knew: you have to defeat him.”

After 106 days of the Russian campaign against Ukraine, the dispute is once again picking up steam as to how to deal with the war monger from the Kremlin, who has so far seemed to refuse any kind of crisis diplomacy, and how a possible end to the fighting could be achieved.

Some call it so, others so

Some call it so, others so. Macron says: “The situation is worrying.” In early June, he told the French daily Ouest France that he couldn’t count the number of talks he’d had with Putin since December, that they had been “all in all probably a hundred hours”, in all transparency and at the request of Ukraine. “One must not humiliate Russia so that we can find a diplomatic way out the day the fighting ends,” Macron said. He was convinced that this was France’s role, “to be a mediating force.”

He is obviously supported by Chancellor Scholz, who was last on the line – and then again saw himself in the situation of defending the joint phone calls. The talks are important to keep making it clear to Putin that his strategy of attacking Ukraine is not working, Scholz said on Tuesday in the Lithuanian city of Vilnius.

It was quite a remarkable appointment. During his visit, Scholz met the heads of government of the three Baltic states. The central topic was the Russian war of aggression and securing NATO’s eastern flank. The joint efforts in the fight against Russia were emphasized, but the differences also came to light.

“Our goal is clear: Russia must lose this war and Ukraine must win it,” Latvian Prime Minister Krišjānis Kariņš was quoted as saying by Reuters – a statement that Scholz has not left his lips with such clarity to this day. Like Lithuanian President Gitanas Nausėda, he criticized Macron’s remark that Russia should not be humiliated. “We will humiliate Russia in the spirit of Macron, both militarily and economically,” he said. “Russia has humiliated itself with this war.” Referring to the talks with Putin, he added that dealing with a dictator is very complicated. The Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas had previously criticized the phone calls.

In this respect, the date also symbolizes the meeting of two schools of thought. One is based on the assumption that the West must show Putin a way out in order to at least reduce the risks of a further escalation of the war. The other sees it as simply wasted effort and calls for more courageous action. Alone: ​​What have the mediation attempts achieved so far? A what-if scenario that is almost impossible to decipher.

“Vladimir Putin doesn’t need our help for that”

Nevertheless, observers express their skepticism as to whether showing Putin a “way out” would actually help:

Whether attempts at mediation are useful or not can also not be said with absolute certainty. The events of war and the speed on the battlefield change every day, and there are practically no reliable certainties. And it has apparently never been so in dealings with Russia, as former Chancellor Angela Merkel recently explained.

On Tuesday, in her first public interview after leaving office, Merkel tried to explain what she had done to prevent the escalation that was to be expected, but was ultimately unable to prevent it. The rest is history: Putin has responded to what he saw as a humiliation of Russia. Despite all attempts at mediation by the former chancellor.

Asked about the benefit of Merkel’s intervention today, she replied: “I don’t have the impression that it’s of any use at the moment.” Putin made a decision that she considers fatal and catastrophic. “Therefore, in my view, there is little to discuss at the moment.”