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Three Roles for German Foreign Policy Towards Russia

Posted by Editors in German Politics, International Economics, Transatlantic Relations on Tuesday, December 9. 2008

Our regular commenter Zyme from Bavaria has written the following guest post:

Three traits of modern German foreign policy have manifested themselves in recent events:

1. Germany as the Representative of Russia's interests in the West

2. Germany as the Diplomat seeking to upkeep civil tone –

3. Germany as Businesswoman according to the phrase of "Deutschland AG"

1. Germany as the Representative of Russia's interests in the West

The New York Times describes Germany as aiming to guide the West's Ties to Russia. A part of this is attributed to the strong economical ties between Germany and Russia, making Germany Russia's most important trading partner and the relationship thus more enduring even in times of an international crisis like in Georgia. Berlin is seen as seeking to keep its "pivotal" role in Russian affairs and thus not interested in redefining its relationship towards Moscow like the Americans do.

Because of the intense economical interdependence between Berlin and Moscow, Germany is described to be the primary address for Western countries when dealing with Russia. Without consent of Berlin, every ambitious policy towards Moscow is doomed.

This could also be witnessed when the US and Eastern European countries intended to clear the way into NATO-membership for Georgia and Ukraine so that Russia could be restrained.

Germany was among the most vocal in rebuffing the plan and insisted on keeping the regular accession procedure, which will keep Ukraine and Georgia out of NATO for the foreseeable future.
2. Germany as the Diplomat seeking to upkeep civil tone – 
At the election of Barack Obama, Russian President Medvedev announced the deployment of Iskander missiles to Kaliningrad, should the American plans for a anti-missile programs in Eastern Europe continue. 
Otherwise quite friendly to the Russian concerns, German foreign minister Steinmeier quickly rebuffed Russia here, as such an announcement is seen to be "the wrong signal at the wrong time" here.

This statement can be seen in line with a tendency to restrain Russia especially when its rather martial actions are also damaging its own interests. So the German government does not only want the Americans to downgrade their plans in Eastern Europe, but also intends to keep the Russians in the diplomatic boat.

3. Germany as Businesswoman according to the phrase of "Deutschland AG"
Since October the economical relations have resumed business as usual on the highest level after a moment of silence during the Georgia Crisis. Upon a regular meeting of Merkel and Medvedev in St. Petersburg additional interlocking between energy provider Gazprom and producer E.ON has been agreed upon. Shares in subsidiaries of both companies responsible for drilling and marketing have been swapped. This is seen as another manifestation of E.ON's intention at gaining direct access to drilled gas while Gazprom aims at getting a direct share at marketing and selling gas in Europe. 

The same pattern could be seen at a deal struck on November 12th between Gazprom and the German chemical company BASF. This deal marked the entry of the first international company into drilling gas in Russia on its own while Gazprom gained additional control over marketing and selling. Direct access of German companies into the Russian fields is seen as a key part of guaranteeing energy security for Germany.

This close relationship can be expected to intensify as the decisive meeting between Merkel and Medvedev in St. Petersburg was part of the 8th "Petersburg Dialogue". This tradition of the political, economical and cultural elites of both countries meeting yearly was founded by Schroeder and Putin in 2001 and is reminiscent of Franco-German reconciliation after the war.

While the ongoing economic interlocking between both countries itself is hardly surprising, its untouched upkeeping after the Georgia Crisis is. Representing Russian interests and guarding the persistence of a civil tone in international relations though are decisive hints at Germany's reassessing role in the first half of this century.

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