Oleksii Makeiev, Ambassador of Ukraine to Germany
Germany has gone from 5,000 helmets to EUR 7.6 billion of military aid per year
20.02.2024 21:06

Oleksii Makeiev has been head of the Ukrainian Embassy in Berlin since September 23, 2022. For almost a year and a half, he has been using every opportunity to convince: German politicians and arms manufacturers of the need to increase military support for our country; government officials of the irreversibility of Ukraine's path to NATO; officials of a change in the approach to employment of Ukrainians; and those who have not yet fully shed their "romantic" perception of Russia of the need to see the true face of this country.

In an interview with Ukrinform, the diplomat spoke about the work being done to improve the situation with the treatment of our wounded; what needs to be done to make it easier for Ukrainian specialists to find decent jobs; whether Germany is finally ready to play the role of a European leader; and hinted at when we can expect the signing of security guarantees for Ukraine with Germany.


- Mr. Ambassador, the media are spreading information, partially confirmed by politicians on both sides, that the work on the document on Germany's security guarantees for Ukraine is nearing completion and will be signed soon. They say, in particular, that this may happen on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference. Can you hint whether this is true?

- There have already been several rounds of negotiations between the teams. Recently, a large negotiation team headed by Deputy Head of the OP Ihor Zhovkva and including high-ranking officials, including Minister for Strategic Industries Oleksandr Kamyshyn, Deputy Foreign Minister Mykola Tochytskyi, Deputy Minister of Justice Iryna Mudra, Deputy Minister of Economy Taras Kachka and others, was in Berlin. That is a large team for all elements of the agreement.

We would like to sign the agreement as soon as possible. To do this, we need not only our readiness but also the readiness of the German side, and most importantly, the readiness of the text.

The negotiating teams are working to make this happen as soon as possible.

Let me remind you that the first and so far the only such agreement was signed during the visit of the British Prime Minister to Kyiv. We are also looking for such an opportunity. And now it comes automatically...

- So, can we say that we expect a representative Ukrainian delegation in Germany, particularly in Munich, in the coming days?

- Every time we talk about large representative delegations, the place, time and composition of this delegation, for objective reasons, will not be publicly announced.

But I can say that yes, we are preparing to sign a bilateral agreement at the earliest opportunity, when the texts are ready.

- Okay, we won't make any spoilers then. But under any circumstances, Ukraine will be represented in Munich, and we already know that certain events are planned...

- Yes, we are planning a number of events in Munich.

For example, the topic of defense industry cooperation is a very important topic. And we have specific developments, including for Munich.

- I recall that last year, in February, a joint meeting of the leading defense companies of Ukraine and Germany was held in Munich with the participation of Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba. Is something similar planned?

- We are planning several important events.


- For many months now, the issue of long-range Taurus missiles has been a hotly debated topic in both Ukraine and Germany. Despite all the debates and demands, the leadership of the federal government continues to "stall." Do we continue to negotiate or focus on other things?

- We continue to negotiate on each specific system that our Armed Forces of Ukraine need.

All our conversations with the German side regarding this or that type of weapon are not because someone wants something, but because there is a real need. Whether it's a Taurus or an Self-propelled artillery or 155-caliber ammunition, our conversation is not conducted via Twitter (currently X). We show the layouts: this weapon is needed to achieve such and such a goal. Sometimes during such conversations we turn in a different direction when we are told: maybe you don't need this, but this, we have this, or let's turn to the manufacturers of this weapon, what they can offer.

I have several cases when, during such conversations, for example, with representatives of the German industry, we came to the realization that the equipment should be changed, that additional equipment should be supplied. This is the kind of pragmatic conversation we are having.

As for some systems, for objective reasons, the conversation is not conducted in public.

- I understand. Recently, informed German sources have reported that, taking into account what has been transferred to Ukraine since the beginning of the full-scale invasion and what is already planned, we are talking about a total of about EUR 30 billion. Have you ever seen such a figure?

- The total figure of all the assistance provided by Germany - macro-financial, humanitarian and military - is more than EUR 27 billion. At the end of 2023, we had 5.66 billion in military aid. And in the 2024 budget, we have 7.6 billion planned for military purposes only, of which a certain part has already been contracted, so we know what is being delivered and when it will be delivered.

If you follow the website created by the German Ministry of Defense last year and look at the regularity of the messages, you can conclude that every week another portion of weapons, equipment, and ammunition comes from Germany to Ukraine. And this is a constant process.

- Recently, German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius noted that Germany sends transports with ammunition, materials, and weapons to Ukraine almost every day, sometimes small ones, but to help as soon as possible

- It is happening, this flow is constant.


- So, we can actually say now that Germany, perhaps not wanting to, but having to take on the role of our main partner in Europe, the leadership role...

- "Leadership role" - Führungsrolle - was one of the first words I started using when I arrived here, calling on German decision-making centers - government officials, politicians, MPs - to show this role. I talked about how Ukrainians who study German know that Germany is associated with leadership in Europe, that it is the engine of European integration, the leading nation in European security processes. And that is why, in the context of Russia's current war against the entire civilized world, and especially against Europe, who else but Germany should take on this role?

And the most important thing is that Germany already realizes this role. Of course, we must admit that not everyone understands this yet, not everyone wants to understand it. But let's take a look at how far Germany has come over this period: from 5,000 helmets to EUR 7.6 billion by 2024.

- When you meet with politicians at different levels, do you feel that they are really going through this "change of times", Zeitenwende, which Chancellor Olaf Scholz spoke about almost a year ago? Or are there those who continue to hope that somehow it will all come to an end by itself and they will be able to return to business-as-usual with Russia?

- Well, the Zeitenwende is not happening because the Chancellor has said so. The process comes from awareness and from conviction. And, of course, those politicians who participated in the Minsk negotiations in 2015, or those politicians who made the construction of Nord Stream possible, or those who have been implementing the concept of Willy Brandt and Germany's "eastern policy" since the 1970s, are undergoing tectonic changes. None of the Germans expected this Russian attack and its consequences.

But the fact of this aggression is not enough to change the Russlandversteher, the one who understands Russia. One speech by the Chancellor in the Bundestag is not enough. That's why I spend most of my time when I travel to the regions talking to and convincing skeptics, all those who may be simply moving in a popular direction but are not changing internally. I have a dozen examples of politicians who have completely changed their attitude or are changing it gradually; not immediately, but they understand what we are talking about, they understand when they get more into the Ukrainian context, when they understand the consequences of this war. We are gradually moving from the statement "this is not our war" to the statement "it is in our interest that Ukraine wins".

It is with these beliefs, awareness and basic narratives that we, the entire embassy team, work. Because this whole "era of change" is happening because of the awareness of one's actions and the strategic orientation of countries and their policies.

- Nevertheless, we often hear about war fatigue, although at the official level, at all press conferences, we hear that the decision when and whether to sit down with Moscow should be made exclusively by Ukrainians themselves. Behind the scenes, behind closed doors, do you hear any hints that, "Well, let's negotiate somehow"? Perhaps we are not so much being forced as pushed towards "peace"?

- No. In official Berlin, no one is pushing us to make any concessions or negotiate. Here, official Berlin is completely on our side. It is up to us to decide.  Today, the entire German apparatus is focused on helping Ukraine win this war. Someone is saying it very clearly, while others are avoiding such wording.

The main basic narrative should sound like this: it is in the interests of Germany as a state and the German people to help Ukraine for as long as necessary and with whatever it takes to ensure that Ukraine wins the war. Not out of pity or just to keep Ukraine alive, but because it is in Germany's interest, in the interest of Europe.


- The Minsk Agreements, Minsk has already shown us that freezing the conflict does not stop it completely, although we wanted it to stop spreading further...

- There are a lot of people who know a lot about Minsk. I also know a lot about Minsk.

But I believe that today in Germany 'Minsk' has become the 'anti-word' - the Unwort - of the month: everyone is molding it to fit in and out of place.

No one today can seriously talk about any "Minsk" because "Minsk" means freezing, "Minsk" is not a solution. We have seen that Minsk did not work, and we have seen that it did not work not only in 2015, but also in all the years since. It may have delayed something - historians can debate this and so on - but it did not prevent a huge aggression. Who today needs some kind of "Minsk" that will create another Bucha or another Izyum?

It should not be "Minsk," it should be The Hague, it should be Nuremberg, if you will.

- The anniversary NATO summit is approaching. Germany's position on the issue of providing Ukraine with membership prospects continues to be not very favorable for us, unlike the EU membership track. What are we doing to convince our German friends?

- Diplomats have the only weapon - the word. That is why we are talking. The topic is not only German.

And the summit will obviously be not only about Ukraine.

I would very much like Germany to realize the importance of Ukraine's membership in NATO. When and how will this happen?  We are working on it.


- Let's move on to humanitarian issues. During a recent conference on mental health, psychological assistance and rehabilitation in Berlin, attended by the first ladies of Ukraine and Germany, German Health Minister Karl Lauterbach said that the number of wounded from Ukraine who have been or are being treated in German clinics is 980. During a meeting with you earlier this year, Ukrainian activists told us that there are many problems that our wounded, as well as those who help them, face. How does the situation look like?

- It is important that after the meeting with the community, several of its representatives sent me very specific descriptions of specific cases and suggestions on how to solve them. With these cases, we went to the key German institutions that deal with treatment, among other things. These are the ministries of health, interior, labor, etc.

It is very good that we were able to categorize the problems today, because each of them needs to be addressed to different institutions and agencies.

I personally raised this topic at a meeting between Ministers Karl Lauterbach and Viktor Lyashko. It will be discussed at the next meeting of representatives of the central government and the federal states. Following the meeting, we will invite representatives of civil society who are involved in this issue.

So, the classification has been made, and all the institutions involved are familiar with the topic. In the near future, we will hold several targeted meetings with these institutions, and together we will definitely try to solve these basic problems. I am sure we will solve them.

- You also planned to meet with Minister of Labor Hubertus Heil. What did you discuss? After all, our people who came here after February 24 have access to the labor market here, the government is talking about "turbo-employment," but the share of asylum seekers who have been able to find a job is still very low.

- We sat for a very long time, talking with Minister Heil and the head of the Migration Department.

We took a systematic approach, because we need to first define the categories of Ukrainian citizens. Unfortunately, the German side does not know who has come, cannot say how many teachers, doctors, mechanics, and so on have arrived. Accordingly, there is no targeted approach. We suggested that we could use our digital structures, such as Diia, to reach out to citizens and collect data. They liked this idea.

Accordingly, we will propose our own approach for each of these categories of citizens. Together with Minister Heil, we decided that we would address each of these categories separately. Job centers will be instructed to pay attention to professional education.

For many of our interlocutors in the German authorities, it was a revelation, but it is their statistics that 51 percent of our asylum seekers have a university degree. And, accordingly, this requires the Germans to change their approaches.

We tell German companies that if they are going to work in Ukraine later, they will need specialists. These specialists are here today, and they will be people who will become reliable representatives of German companies when they return to Ukraine. I am already engaged in such communication.

We will also pull up statistics, show some successful examples of employment that exist in Berlin, Hamburg, and Lower Saxony, and we will try to extend these successful cases to other categories of citizens.

- The German authorities continue to do a lot for Ukrainians who have found themselves here fleeing the war, more than one million people. However, we hear from populist politicians and even some representatives of the democratic opposition that too much is being spent on Ukrainians, that they are "first-class refugees." Are there any hints that the German state will reduce assistance to Ukrainians?

- In German and European legislation, a new category has been invented - "asylum seekers". This applies specifically to Ukrainians.

My main goal is to ensure that this protection is provided; that the rights of Ukrainians are not violated, that they feel protected, that they can work, get an education, and that their children go to school.

And as soon as they feel it is possible and acceptable for them from a security point of view, they should return to Ukraine. This is the main task.

And you know, if you don't chase "points" in the press or in the election race, everyone understands perfectly well that today in Germany there is a need for skilled labor. And Ukrainians across Europe are able to fill this deficit.

When I talk to German politicians, I say that today we are actually living in a situation where Ukraine is already a member of the EU, because all these people have the right to be employed. This is what Europe will look like when Ukrainians join the EU. But then Germans will also be able to find work in Ukraine.

- Speaking of the media. Many people drew attention to the scandalous report by a ZDF correspondent from occupied Mariupol. Have you received any explanations from the media company?

- As soon as this appeared, we immediately wrote a letter to ZDF and pointed out several unacceptable aspects of this report, starting with an unauthorized trip, illegal entry into the territory of Ukraine and ending with the actual justification of the Russian crime of aggression.

I received a letter acknowledging the mistake, but even more importantly, many journalists expressed their outrage. People called, I spoke with representatives of public and private broadcasters. I had a conversation with the editor-in-chief of ZDF on Thursday.

Collaboration with war criminals, relativization of war crimes, crimes of aggression is incompatible with the concept of media freedom.

We do not need Walter Duranty in the twenty-first century." [Walter Duranty headed the Moscow bureau of the New York Times in 1922-1936, and is notorious for denying the Holodomor in his publications].

- And what is this story about a fake letter allegedly on behalf of the embassy, in which you allegedly ask the migration department to provide information about Ukrainian men for further transmission to the Territorial recruitment centers? Where do the legs come from?

- We have a rough understanding of who is preparing such fakes.

But, as always, everything is done clumsily.

I urge all Ukrainians to read Ukrainian-language texts carefully and notice mistakes. Because Muscovites have not yet learned to write in Ukrainian.

Olha Tanasiichuk, Berlin

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