Marina Weisband was born in Kyiv in 1987, though she was still called Onufriyenko. But when her parents emigrated to Germany in 1993, they once again adopted their original surname. “In Germany, no one cares that we are Jewish. In Germany we can just be people,” her father told her.

Marina grasped German hospitality with both hands. She studied psychology, became political director and the public face of the German Pirate Party from 2011 to 2012, and later switched to the Greens, where she is active in the fields of digitization and education. She also developed into a thoughtful publicist with a special focus on citizen participation as the way to revitalize and strengthen democracy. Not in the least because she painfully realized that, despite her father’s optimism, the anti-Semitic specter still roamed Germany.

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“In this country, too, it is still too dangerous for us to be visible. We send our Jewish community mail in unmarked envelopes. We walk past armed guards to the synagogue in the community center, the Jewish school and the kindergarten,” Weisband told parliamentarians, Chancellor Merkel and President Steinmeier in 2021 during her speech in the Bundestag on the occasion of the Holocaust commemoration.

After the full-scale Russian invasion in February 2022, Weisband emerged as a passionate advocate of German arms supplies to Ukraine.

Do you know any Ukrainians who are so tired they want to give up?

The Polish Volunteer Bringing Wheels to Ukrainian Soldiers
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The Polish Volunteer Bringing Wheels to Ukrainian Soldiers

Since shortly after the full-scale war, “Exen” has been taking vehicles from his native Poland and transporting them to Ukrainian soldiers at the front.

No, no one. Of course, the economy, people and emotions are exhausted, but for Ukrainians fatigue is not an option.

It is said that the West would suffer from Ukrainian fatigue. Can one be tired of war if one is not present and fighting?

Yes, you can be tired of your own powerlessness in the face of the news, so you shut yourself off from it. But when people in the West are tired, not only Ukrainians lose. Even when the West still showed a lot of interest in Ukraine, however, they did not do enough to prevent a war of attrition. There was always just enough military aid delivered so Ukraine would not die and too little to live.

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How do you assess the current situation?

Ukraine is being destroyed bit by bit. Putin is winning, not because his troops are advancing so far, but because, according to estimates, it will take about 600 years just to remove all the mines left behind by the Russians. These will continue to claim many victims even after the war is over. We do not yet realize how far-reaching the consequences are. The Ukrainian economy has been completely destroyed, farmland largely unusable, industry brought to a standstill in many places, nature partly destroyed beyond repair by the blowing up of the Kakhovka Dam alone. Putin’s goal was not the conquest but destruction of Ukraine, in this sense he is winning. And this is very much due to Western states that never decided that Russia should be pushed back as soon as possible.

Ukrainian Commander-in-Chief Gen. Valery Zaluzhny spoke to The Economist of a stalemate, although Zelensky emphatically refuted this.

The situation can be greatly affected by Western aid, but I think people in the West keep talking about a stalemate to avoid responsibility. If one had done everything to support Ukraine in 2022, the war would have been over long ago, although the tide can be turned even now. The bigotry of Western analysts who refused to give the Ukrainians what they begged for and then say that the offensive is very slow or speak of a stalemate infuriates me. Ukraine does not disappoint, we disappoint Ukraine.

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German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius said recently that Berlin has no firm plans to provide Ukraine with the requested long-range Taurus missiles.

I get the impression that the West is not aiming at a complete rollback of Russia. It seems pretty clear to me that the US is speculating that Russia is bleeding itself to death in this war. Most Democrats and Republicans do not seem particularly interested in a quick Ukrainian victory, otherwise they would have provided the means for it and it would have been achieved long ago. How many Ukrainian soldiers and civilians will pay the ultimate price for that and how permanently Ukraine is destroyed does not seem to matter.

Republicans in the House of Representatives refuse to support Ukraine any longer. If Biden’s $61.4 billion military aid package does not pass Congress, how will Europe react?

Europe won’t react. We saw that [Chancellor Olaf] Scholz does not assertively oppose the US and whenever possible even presses the brakes. Eastern Europe has always warned and reacted but has already made all its resources available. Ukraine is not an issue during the US elections, so aid is reduced. Especially if Trump wins.

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Putin seems to be prolonging the war in the hope that Trump will be re-elected, and that chance seems high at the moment, given the polls. Zelensky invited Trump to Kyiv. Is that a good idea?

Yes. Trump is not a rational person, but impulsive and childlike. And after government leaders and politicians visited Kyiv, met Ukrainian citizens and had to take shelter in a bunker themselves, their tone changed, and policy changes followed. If Trump becomes president again, Zelensky has a choice: either Ukraine is an abstraction to Trump while he is only influenced by Putin and by whom he is undeniably heavily influenced, or a possibility arises that he will wake Trump up and get him to act out of personal commitment. Zelensky should seize that small opportunity.

Recently, Zelensky denied reports that the West is pressing for negotiations. But what if Ukraine’s energy network is bombed again in the winter and the situation on the battlefield remains static?

The pressure will increase and at some point Zelensky might say he can no longer guarantee the protection of his people and must negotiate. The Ukrainian people will not accept that, he is aware of that. It could come to the point where he would have to resign. Thus, there would be a ceasefire, allowing Russia to quietly set up the large part of Ukraine it occupies as a launching pad for the next invasion.

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Former NATO boss Anders Fogh Rasmussen proposes that Ukraine become a NATO member, without the occupied territories. However, there would be no freeze of the conflict and ceding Ukrainian land. “Article 5 would prevent Russia from attacking Ukrainian territory within NATO, leaving Ukrainian troops available for the front,” Rasmussen explained.

First, this proposal divides Ukraine in two and thus creates such facts about the occupied territories that they are de facto handed over to Putin. Second, it remains doubtful whether NATO members would agree to this. After all, it is a conflict zone. Supporting Ukraine until Russia is defeated remains the only solution. And let’s not forget that the war also has an impact in Russia and support for it there will not necessarily increase, Russian ranks are also thinning.

Hamas and Israel supplanted Ukraine in the news. Putin who himself has been indicted for war crimes called the civilian massacres caused by Israeli bombing “absolutely unacceptable” and again refers to the US as the true culprit. This resonates around the world. Is the West losing the global battle of narratives? 

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It lost that a long time ago. After all, the West no longer tells its own narrative. Okay democracy, but it is no longer underpinned or truly substantiated. Western democracies allow the gap between rich and poor to widen, resulting in many losers. Many serious problems are not structurally addressed. The only ones questioning the current system are right-wing radicals. This means that people either buy into their conspiracy stories or continue on the current path, even though change is necessary. There are no substantial forces saying: hey democracy is not democratic enough and we need more justice. That voice is not heard at any significant political level. Putin, Trump and all the right-wing populists exploit that to attack democracies worldwide. And it works because there is no emotional narrative in return. The only ones who agitate emotionally are the right-wing radicals, while the democrats no longer engage in politics but merely govern, manage.

Western credibility, especially that of the US, is tarnished because it seems to have different standards. Aside from the West, is Netanyahu also toxic to Ukraine?

Netanyahu is poison to everything he touches. When asked if I am in solidarity with Israel: yes, but not with the government. Netanyahu has opposed peace like no other and is rightly criticized by his own people including my family in Israel. Of course, Putin benefits from the fact that the world’s attention has moved away from Ukraine and of course US support for Ukraine loses credibility because of the almost absolute US support for Israeli war crimes. Either you are against bombing civilians or you are not.

Was Zelensky’s offer to travel to Israel after Oct. 7 wise? Given the horrors in Gaza, shouldn’t he be pleased that Netanyahu turned down his arrival?

Zelensky and Israel have a complicated relationship. That Israel refused to help Ukraine greatly disappointed me. For God’s sake, I experienced during a bombing in Israel how much Iron Dome could have protected Ukrainian cities. Nevertheless, Zelensky has to defend his country, be very pragmatic and make friends everywhere. He also spoke to [Italian Prime Minister Giorgia] Meloni. In retrospect, he could be glad he did not go to Israel. Regardless of the crimes in Gaza, the fact that you as a citizen can no longer be anywhere in the world without fearing for your life deserves its own solidarity, and it is precisely as a Jewish-Ukrainian president that he can show compassion for that.

“Human dignity is inviolable,” reads the first article in the German constitution. And yet, we’ve seen how much it can be violated. Must human dignity be affirmed again and again?

It is not an observation but an exhortation that must be acted upon. People forget that human dignity is not a natural law. That civilization is fragile. That democracy will not automatically protect them, but that is their task to protect democracy. West Germans in particular have had it so good for so long and when you get used to peace and prosperity, it’s much harder to fight. And that is something Germans seem to have lost: the ability and willingness to fight for democracy.

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