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What we should learn from “My Fair Lady”

Interview with Hans-Friedrich von Ploetz about the Western dialogue with Russia

News from Oct 17, 2014

In an interview with Spiegel Online, Hans-Friedrich von Ploetz, Chairman of the CGP Advisory Board and former ambassador in Moscow, argues that the West should have more patience with Russia and „not demand a litmus test of whether the country also corresponds with our ideals of democracy every day." While von Ploetz shares the criticism on Putins authoritarian rule, he still advocates to continue the so-called Petersburg Dialogue between Germany and Russia. “The process is important, but it takes a long breath.”

The former top-level diplomat believes that a value in itself lies in the fact that the head of the Russian state is exposed to actors of the German civil society in all its diversity. Furthermore, Russia's President participates in the closing plenary of the dialogue. “This is an experience they are not familiar with. Often, they do not like it. But it does them well”, von Ploetz says.

He also points out to Russia´s recent history and recommends that many people in the West should reconsider their expectations. For him, Western policy makers too often behave like the professor in the musical “My Fair Lady”, who tried to transform the flower girl Eliza Dolittle into a Lady of the upper class.

“The musical culminates in the professors’ desperation that Eliza can not be like him. I know many German friends of Russia who are deeply disappointed. They had hoped that Russia will be like the West. But we should not forget where Russia comes from. The country has experienced long years of dictatorship. Strategic patience is a virtue quite underdeveloped here.”

Hans-Friedrich von Ploetz, 74, was German representative to NATO, State Secretary at the Foreign Office, and, from 2002 to 2005, Ambassador in Moscow. After leaving the foreign service, he became engaged in the German-Russian Youth Exchange and a youth parliament which holds its sessions in the framework of the so-called Petersburg Dialogue. This top-level forum was set up by Gerhard Schröder and Vladimir Putin in 2001 in order to develop the relationship between Germany and Russia.

Photo: Jürg Vollmer/ Flickr/ Creative Commons


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  • Hans-Friedrich von Ploetz Spiegel Interview Russia Russland Putin Gerhard Schröder Petersburger Dialog