Vitali Klitschko as a Product of German Politics
Dmitriy SEDOV | 12.01.2014 | OPINION

Vitali Klitschko as a Product of German Politics

Nowhere in the European Union is taking the forthcoming presidential elections in Ukraine in 2015 so closely to heart as Berlin. This is not surprising. The history of the 20th century and the two world wars are evidence of the particular interest Germany’s ruling elite has in Ukraine’s wealth. In the eyes of the rulers of both the Second and Third Reichs, Ukraine and Southern Russia, rich in fertile black soil and notable for their favourable climate, were considered to be one of the most important economic gains.

Today, they are still of some interest to the advanced German economy. The destabilisation of a growing number of countries in Asia and Africa is leading to an extension of the areas suffering from starvation and, accordingly, an increase in global demand for agricultural products. From this perspective, Ukraine’s black soil could prove to be a new Klondike and, generally speaking, the interests of Germany’s ruling elite today are no different from those of their distant predecessors. The forceful seizure of growing space in the 21st century is out of the question, however, and the roadmap for the acquisition of Ukraine’s riches needs to be radically different. Nowadays, it has taken on the appearance of a fruitful collaboration with Ukraine within the framework of the European Union, where Germany is determined to maintain its leadership in the future. 

Berlin has already done much to lay the groundwork for the successful rise to power of the people it needs in Kiev, and the person Germany has programmed to carry out its future plans in Ukraine is Vitali Klitschko. Why is Germany gambling on a high-profile sportsman with global renown who is inexperienced in politics? To begin with, it would seem that it is because after many years living abroad, Vitali Klitschko has become a real cosmopolitan.

The older of two boxing brothers, Vitali began his professional sporting career in 1995. He quickly acquired the nickname Dr Ironfirst in the sporting world, and since then has appeared more often abroad than at home. In 1997, the Klitschko brothers signed with international sporting consortium Universum Box-Promotion, moved to Germany, and were taken under the wing of German trainer Fritz Zdunek. Their first few fights were in Germany only, but then the location of the fights spread to encompass the whole world. Vitali has fought in the world’s most famous boxing rings. 

During his 15-year sporting career, Dr Ironfirst became a star of the first magnitude and one of the wealthiest professional boxers. He is an iconic figure in world boxing and is completely immersed in this international business. He is also a recipient of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany (2010). In 2011, meanwhile, he received the German national «Sportsman with a heart» award, together with his brother Wladimir, for his work as part of the Klitschko Brothers Foundation. 

Vitali Klitschko has been living in Germany for the last 15 years and is one of the country’s biggest taxpayers in the world of sport. Since 2008, he and his brother have been the faces of the McFit fitness centre chain (with an income of EUR 1 million each).

There is also another reason, however, why German political circles have gambled on Vitali Klitschko becoming the future president of Ukraine: he has a close connection with Germany, which has become something like a second home to him… His entire situation, social status and hopes for the future depend on this country. This man, who is dependent on a foreign country to such an extent that he cannot not become a spokesman for the interests of the country, is being raised to the pinnacle of power in Ukraine. 

The gamble on Vitali Klitschko is primarily a gamble on the youth of Ukraine. Klitschko tried his hand at public activities back in 2003, when he became head of the charitable Klitschko Brothers Foundation, and then adviser to the Ukrainian president (2006-2008). It is alleged that nearly half a million children and teenagers took part in Klitschko Brothers Foundation projects during the ten years of its existence, and that the Foundation’s financial contributions to sporting projects in Ukraine in 2012 amounted to more than 4 million hryvnia, or 65 percent of all expenditure of this type in Ukraine. 

Vitali initially dealt with issues surrounding sport in Kiev. He established the political party New Country, which went through a period of alliances with various political forces, but did not particularly stand out among them. In the same year, the New Country party was renamed the UDAR party (the Ukrainian Democratic Alliance for Reform).

In December 2013, the German publication German foreign policy wrote that the German government intended to gamble on the boxing champion Vitali Klitschko during the presidential campaign in Kiev in 2015 and bring him to power.

Vitali Klitschko and his UDAR party are not just receiving massive aid from the Adenauer Foundation. The whole setup of helping the party is evidence of how Germany is influencing the situation in Ukraine. In many ways, Vitali Klitschko is not just an ally; he is a product of German politics.

In January 2011, Klitschko held talks and consultations in Berlin at various politicals levels, while in the autumn of the same year the Konrad-Adenauer Foundation organised for him to stay in Thuringia, where he studied the experience of municipal politics. It should be emphasised that the Adenauer Foundation is just a façade for working with Vitali Klitschko. During visits to Berlin, he meets with politicians from a wide variety of levels and persuasions. He has constant contact with high-ranking representatives from the German Chancellor’s Office, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and other German government agencies. He also had regular meetings with the former German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle. The last time, Westerwelle appeared in public with Vitali Klitschko on Maidan Square in November last year. It is expected that the new head of the German Foreign Ministry Frank-Walter Steinmeier will continue the tradition of a close working relationship with Klitschko. 

In short, Klitschko had every reason to sincerely thank the Adenauer Foundation in March 2012 for the help given to the UDAR party in its establishment. And they were not empty words. Just six months later, in October 2012, Vitali Klitschko’s party won 42 seats in the parliamentary elections, while Vitali himself headed the party and became a member of the Verkhovna Rada Committee on State Building and Local Government. In the summer of 2013, at the initiative of the Konrad-Adenauer Foundation, the UDAR party held a brainstorming session to discuss ways to increase its number of supporters and develop a pre-election strategy for 2015. 

In the run up to events on Maidan Square in November 2013, the Adenauer Foundation held a seminar with UDAR activists on the issue of Ukraine’s association with the EU. At the end of November 2013, the UDAR party visited Germany to familiarise itself with parliamentary activities, where it once again worked closely with representatives of the Adenauer Foundation. It should be said that the cost of getting Vitali Klitschko’s party to power is expected to be considerable. It is assumed that the Germans are perfectly able to organise effective control of its payouts to Ukrainian politicians eager for «grants». 

Berlin’s interest in Ukraine and Germany’s activities in this direction are increasingly reminiscent of the Teutonic Order’s preparations to march to the east. Only this time, the «Order» is putting a hired Ukrainian «bogatyr» up front. The signal for action will soon be given. Vitali Klitschko, while meeting with the head of the World Boxing Council José Sulaimán last summer, announced that he is planning to stand for office in the Ukrainian presidential elections in 2015...