Zelensky Echoes Ronald Reagan in Scathing Speech to Germany

In a heartfelt 20-minute speech to the German parliament on Thursday, Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky asked Germany to help tear down the "wall" that Russia is building between Western and Eastern Europe.

Echoing a famous speech by Ronald Reagan on June 12, 1987, when the American president stood in front of the Berlin Wall and asked then-President of the Soviet Union ​​Mikhail Gorbachev to "tear down this wall," Zelensky asked the Bundestag to fight the division Vladimir Putin is creating in Europe.

"Dear Mr. Scholz [Olaf Scholz, the German chancellor], tear down this wall," he pleaded in his address on Thursday.

"It's not a Berlin Wall—it is a wall in central Europe between freedom and bondage and this Wall is growing bigger with every bomb," Zelensky said.

The Ukrainian president also complained about the size of Germany's military aid to Ukraine and the country's reluctance to give up the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline. He appealed to Scholz to "give Germany the leadership role that you in Germany deserve."

The end of Zelensky's speech was greeted with a long applause from members of the Bundestag.

Zelensky Germany Bundestag
Members of the German parliament Bundestag give Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky a standing ovation after he speaks in a virtual address to the parliament at the Reichstag Building in Berlin, Germany, on Thursday. AP Photo/Markus Schreiber

In 1987, then U.S. President Reagan stood 100 yards away from the Berlin Wall, dividing the city's Soviet-controlled East and Western-controlled west, when he delivered one of him most memorable remarks: "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall."

More than two years later, on November 9, 1989, the wall which stood for over 28 years finally crumbled. Its destruction began after half a million people gathered in East Berlin in a mass protest at its continued division of the German capital's communities.

In Zelensky's speech on Thursday, the Ukrainian leader also told German lawmakers: "Peace is more important than income," as he called harsher sanctions on the Kremlin.

'Why Does 'Never Again' Not Apply'

Germany has shelved its plans to open, the already constructed, Nord Stream 2—a major gas pipeline that planned to carry oil from Russia to Germany.

He thanked Germany for its help, but said its support "came too late to stop war".

"Why does 'never again' not apply," he asked, this time echoing a popular phrase about the Holocaust. "What is Germany's historic responsibility towards Ukraine today?"

And he went further, criticizing Germany's other business interests in Russia.

"We could see your willingness to continue to do business with Russia and now we're in the middle of the Cold War," Zelesnky said.

"And again this is something you have failed to see. You're still protecting yourself behind a wall that does not make it possible for you to see what we are going through."

Zelensky has directly addressed lawmakers in the U.S, Britain and Canada since the full-scale war began on February 24.