Crucial German Role in Revitalizing EU-Russia Relations

In a review of the Feb. 13-14 meetings which German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier had in Moscow with Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and President Vladimir Putin, Alexander Rahr (German Foreign Policy Association, German-Russia Forum) said in an interview with Voice of Russia Friday night that these meetings have the potential of revitalizing constructive relations between Europe and Russia, and thereby have a “historical” dimension. “German-Russian relations are much better than the relations between the EU and Russia in general. Germany has always had a specific view of Russia and was always interested in building up pragmatic, real political relations with Russia unlike the other parts of the EU, which now have too many conflicts with Russia.”

Steinmeier, Rahr said, was the key architect of then Chancellor Schröder’s Russian policy ten years ago, he invented the idea of modernization partnership between Russia and Germany, and he has now gone to Moscow “with a very interesting package …. with new ideas how to boost this modernization partnership. And one key element of this partnership is cooperation in small and medium-size enterprise activities between German companies and the Russian ones. I think this is the way that the German and Russian economies could further cooperate, besides the large projects which are already becoming part of cooperation between major companies of both countries. Now, the medium-size business is coming into play and I think this will further serve a modernization partnership on both sides and better cooperation between the two countries on the political level also.”

Granted, there are still a lot of stumbling blocks, Rahr said, “But I think that German and Russian diplomats always worked well in discussing them and smoothing angles in the transition to a kind of solution. I’m cautiously optimistic that German diplomacy could become instrumental in finding a way out of the Ukrainian crisis. Germany, may not be the only, but is one of the very strong countries in the West that has just publicly said that we can’t solve Ukrainian problems without or against the Russian interests.

“And now Germany has to convince other European countries that we need some kind of triangle dialogue or triangle talks, maybe negotiations, not on Ukraine in particular, but on the whole Eastern Partnership involving Russia. And that could be the beginning of a truly workable and functional Eastern Partnership, rather than this partnership, which we’ve seen before in the past five years, which was more been designed to distance Russia from Europe, to isolate Russia. It was more oriented on Ukraine and Moldova than on cooperation with Russia. That has to be changed.”

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