MOSCOW/BERLIN (Own report) – Berlin has announced a “German-Russian Youth Year” for 2016/2017. As former Head of the Federal Chancellery Ronald Pofalla (CDU) declared last week at the conclusion of a German-Russian Cooperation Meeting (“Petersburg Dialogue”), cooperation between German and Russian civil societies are “more important than ever.” Therefore, the German government’s efforts to intensify the German-Russian student exchange program must be supported. Already at the beginning of the Petersburg Dialogue, which has restarted, following a year’s interruption, Chancellor Merkel explained that Germany is “interested in a reliable partnership with Russia.” Business functionaries are concluding that willingness to cooperate, which had waned due to the Ukraine conflict, is again growing “on both sides.” Wolfgang Ischinger, Chairman of the Munich Security Conference, foresees a “diplomatic process” under Berlin’s leadership that will lead to a further rapprochement during Germany’s OSCE chair – beginning January 1, 2016. Ischinger explicitly points to similarities to the cold war’s so-called détente policy, from which the West emerged the winner.
Chancellor Angela Merkel had spoken out in favor of intensifying cooperation with Russia already at the beginning of this year’s Petersburg Dialogue. She was personally not present at the event, but had sent a message of greetings, wherein she declared that “Germany is interested in a reliable partnership with Russia.” Relations between the two countries have been “put to a hard test,” however “only if we speak with one another rather than about one another, will we be able to lay new foundations, upon which we can build our relations and cooperation,” declared Merkel. Other politicians from her party expressed a similar approach. “We are very interested in reviving relations with Russia,” insisted former Defense Minister, Franz Josef Jung (CDU), “because there are so many subjects and challenges that we would be better able to confront with Russia as our partner.” The Chair of the German-Russian Parliamentary Group, Bernhard Kaster (CDU), gave practical grounds for rejecting the current sanctions policy: It is “not very helpful” that Russia recently refused entry of German parliamentarians; “however, the same goes for Russian parliamentarians, who are not allowed to enter Germany for talks, because they are on a list of European sanctions.” This hampers parliamentarians in fulfilling their “functions as bridges between the two parliaments, and between the parliament and their respective governments.”
Under German Leadership
The implementation of the Second Minsk Agreement is the prerequisite for lifting sanctions against Moscow and for a tangible improvement of relations. This was decided by the EU on the initiative of Germany. The German government’s Russia Coordinator, Gernot Erler (SPD), spoke last week of the significance of this EU decision. As Erler explained, Berlin’s “reaching a long-term consensus” within the EU, “is the prerequisite for Europe even being taken seriously as a negotiating partner.” In the future one may possibly “read in the annals of these months” that “it was essentially the German policy that had achieved and maintained this political unity of all 28 EU member states.” In fact, in its recent insistence on compliance with the Second Minsk Agreements, the German government has not only enhanced the possibilities for ending Ukraine’s civil war, but has, at the same time, demonstrated its ability to independently impose elements of a reorganization of Europe. During the wars in Yugoslavia, in the 1990s, the relevant negotiations were still being predominated by the USA. Washington has not even been a party to the Minsk Agreements.
Ischinger also suggested the strategic framework in which, in his opinion, the new cooperation with Russia should take place. “We should follow the double strategy that evolved from the decades old Harmel report,” urges the German diplomat. “On the one hand, a robust defense of NATO territory …, on the other, however, leaving the door ajar, in case Moscow decides to turn westward again.” The 1967 Harmel Report laid the groundwork for the second phase of the cold war, in which the West coupled economic cooperation with military deterrence. There are obvious similarities today. While in Berlin, demands for economic cooperation are becoming louder, NATO is also escalating its policy of military threats toward Russia. (german-foreign-policy.com reported.) This tandem corresponds neatly to German interests. While a new phase of German-Russian commerce goes into swing – bringing German companies additional profits – NATO is keeping Russia under pressure. The so-called détente policy led to the victory of the West.