Markus Lanz is currently in Ukraine filming. In a podcast conversation with Richard David Precht, the ZDF talker explains to the philosopher why the Ukrainians can only laugh when asked about negotiations – and that they are prepared for many more years of war.
The most recent editions of the ZDF talk show “Markus Lanz” were recorded a few days in advance. The reason was explained on Friday: Lanz is currently traveling through Ukraine while filming a TV report.
In episode 108 of his podcast “Lanz und Precht”, the talker and journalist contacted his conversation partner Richard David Precht from a hotel room in Kiev. “It’s evening, we’re waiting for the now almost usual nighttime air alarm. If that happens, we have to interrupt.”
The alarm did not occur for the duration of the podcast conversation, and so Markus Lanz had the opportunity to talk in detail about his experiences and impressions of the past few days. “I can’t and don’t want to pose as the great Ukraine expert,” is how he puts his expertise into perspective. “I’m just a curious reporter traveling through the country.” In this role, he had encounters “with very ordinary people who really got under my skin.”
Lanz: Ukrainians “thank you for what Germany is doing”
Lanz describes the encounter with Ukrainians as “touching, open” and surprisingly friendly: “You experience people who have lived in an exceptional situation for a year and a half and who still always have a smile for you. They always react in a friendly way when they hear that you come from Germany. Who say thank you for what Germany is doing. That really moved me.”
Specifically, Lanz talks about, among other things, the acquaintance of a mother and her daughter, both of whom were seriously injured in the war. A teenager from Butscha described to him the horror of the war crimes that he had experienced and that he wanted to “avenge” at some point. A soldier showed him terrible pictures from the front near Bakhmut on his cell phone. “You see things that you can’t imagine,” Lanz remained vague at this point. “He says, ‘I’m fine with this.’ You notice: He can’t cope with it at all.”
At the same time, he admires how the people in the country do not lose their courage to live, how they maintain a daily routine and even celebrate weddings. “This resilience, this perseverance, it impresses you, and you always ask yourself: Could you do it yourself?” Lanz recapitulates and also formulates his insight: “I think we could do it too, I think people are like that.”
Can Ukraine win the war? According to Lanz, “no one in the country believes that”
While Richard David Precht remains largely in the interested and noticeably moved listener role for the first half of the podcast, halfway through the conversation he turns to the political consequences.
Quite a controversial topic between the podcaster friends. Early after the start of the Russian invasion, Precht recommended a Ukrainian surrender for moral reasons, then admitted a “misconception” about their ability to defend themselves, but later questioned the sense of further arms deliveries to the attacked country.
He now wanted to know from Lanz what the “more dominant feeling” was based on the impressions he had gained at the scene of the war: that Ukraine had to fight back against injustice “at any cost,” even if it meant many more years of war? “Or are you saying that every day that this murderous war continues is a crime against the people involved in it?”
“Neither one nor the other,” Lanz answered and then took a step back. The fact that Ukraine will win the war and liberate all areas is initially a “persistence slogan” that “seriously” no one in Ukraine believes. Precht directly pointed out that this assumption was definitely believed “in German talk shows” and named the CDU foreign politician Norbert Röttgen, the political scientist Carlo Masala and the FDP defense politician Marie-Agnes Strack-Zimmermann as examples.
“That’s what people here are afraid of”
Markus Lanz has a different understanding of their positions; he suspects that there are “tactical considerations” behind them in order to put Ukraine in a powerful position in ceasefire talks. But “the issue” in Ukraine is completely different. If you ask the people there about the need for negotiations, all you get is incomprehension: “They laugh at you. They say: ‘How? There is a cruelty on the other side that you cannot imagine.’”
Precht replies: It is also clear that Russia cannot win the war. Lanz counters: “The point is, people here are really afraid. They say: If the Russians stop the war, the war will stop. But if we stop, Ukraine will stop.” This sentence has become a catchphrase, but “of course there is real truth to the argument.”
To understand this, you only have to look at photos from Russian torture chambers, which have been around since 2014 and in which unimaginable atrocities are “everyday life”. “That’s what people here are afraid of.”
Precht doesn’t understand exactly that: “If the war is frozen, then the hope is that it will come to an end, then this immediate threat is less.” Lanz, who only wants to repeat but “doesn’t want to take a position,” counters : “They just don’t believe them. The Ukrainians say: They carry on, they will come back.” In their eyes, Russia historically embodies “a culture of death.”
“This probably can’t go on for years.” – “Yes.”
Precht then assumed that, no matter how “horrible” the war was, the Russians had “rational motives from their position” and named NATO’s eastward expansion as a conflict issue that could at least conceivably be resolved in negotiations. But here too, Lanz can give him little hope.
The Ukrainians are convinced that the war will last “for years.” Precht considers this to be illusory: “It probably can’t go on for years.” The shocking reply: “Yes. Ukraine needs 300,000 to 400,000 men every year, and they can keep that up for a long time.” Precht: “Do you think that Ukraine will let the entire potential of these people die?” Lanz: “I asked them that question too, but they ask “They don’t.” Nobody develops long-term prospects beyond the next day. “First of all, it’s about getting through.”
In the coming days, Markus Lanz wants to head further south towards the war front, to Mykolaiv and Kherson, and then travel back to Germany via the port city of Odessa: “We’ll have to see whether we can actually keep this plan going.”