A lot in common or still at odds?
No one will deny that Russia and Germany have a very solid list of issues on which both sides are ready to co-operate in the long term. Despite the current EU sanctions over Ukraine, economic co-operation between the two countries has positive dynamics. A striking example is the Nord stream-2 energy project, which, despite the harsh and brazen opposition of the United States, has a chance of survival. Germany, more than anyone in Europe, is interested in this project and has already demonstrated its readiness to resist the unprecedented pressure from Washington, which seeks to strangle the almost finished gas pipeline in order to flood the European market with its liquefied and expensive gas, writes Moscow correspondent Alexi Ivanov.
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas (pictured) tried to find answers to this, as well as many other questions, in Moscow during a visit to Russia on 11 August.
Germany has recently accumulated a lot of inconvenient claims against Russia. This is a sensational case of hacker attacks on the email addresses of many German politicians, including Chancellor Merkel. The high-profile murder of a Chechen from Georgia, Zelimkhan Khangoshvili, in August 2019, as well as a difficult exchange of views on the situation around Syria and Libya.
On the eve of the visit to Moscow, Maas said that “German-Russian relations are too important to be left to their own devices. This is all the more true because the coronavirus pandemic makes direct contact between Germans and Russians even more difficult. Only if Moscow is involved in important international issues will we achieve long-term results. This applies equally to the situation in Eastern Ukraine, Libya and Syria. Russia’s stance also plays a key role in arms control. We want Russia to realize this responsibility”.
German-Russian relations and key international issues are now in the spotlight at the talks between Sergey Lavrov and Heiko Maas. This is the first personal meeting of the foreign Ministers of the two countries since the pandemic.
Mass has already stated that it is impossible to achieve results in resolving the conflicts in Ukraine, Syria and Libya without Russia’s participation. Sergey Lavrov also noted the importance of strengthening comprehensive cooperation between Moscow and Berlin: “The agenda is very tight. And today it is of particular importance, given that during this period we cooperate in the UN Security Council, where Germany is now a non-permanent member. And, of course, given the fact that Germany now runs the entire European Union”.
Russia and Germany participate in a number of international organizations and are members of the Normandy four regarding the the situation in the Eastern Ukraine. “In these times, when there are a number of international crises and conflicts, we need Russia to find the necessary solutions, ” said Heiko Maas.
Another topic of the current joint agenda is the construction of the Nord stream-2 gas pipeline. Just the day before, Maas touched on this issue in a telephone conversation with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and expressed concern about the threats of US congressmen against the operator of the German port, where pipes are supposed to end. This is not the first attempt by Washington to put pressure on European consumers to sell their expensive and unprofitable liquefied gas.
Heiko Maas arrived in Moscow almost on the 50th anniversary of conclusion of the historic agreement on cooperation between Russia and Germany. After difficult negotiations, which, as it is known, were hindered by the Americans, the Moscow Treaty was signed [in 1970], which opened a new page in the detente between the USSR and the West for the whole of Europe.
The economy helped to remove military conflicts from the agenda and put pragmatic cooperation in the foreground. Today, the future of the energy Alliance between Germany and the Russian Federation is a matter of principle, but it is often hindered by conflicts that are inflated by the press. Heiko Maas could not avoid the topic of the murder of a Chechen in Berlin, because the German media accompanied his visit with a demand to deal with what happened in the Tiergarten. In addition, Germany does not want to lose the trust of the European Union — some of its members are not ready to involve Russia in the pan-European processes, so the Russian issue is very difficult for Germany today.
In May 2020, Germany asked the European Union to use the mechanism of cyber sanctions and impose appropriate restrictions against Russian citizens allegedly involved in the attacks on the Bundestag in 2015. As Heiko Maas said in an interview with the Russian Interfax news agency, Berlin’s partners in the European Union “widely support” his proposal, and therefore the process of introducing measures is likely to “move quickly forward” after the summer break.
According to the German side, five years ago, hackers hacked the email of several members of Parliament, as well as Chancellor Angela Merkel, downloading at least 16 GB of information. Politicians received identical emails allegedly from the UN with a malicious link inside. To stop the spread of the virus, Berlin had to temporarily disable the entire it system of the Parliament. German law enforcement authorities accuse Russian Dmitry Badin, who, according to their data, works for the hacker group Fancy Bear. In may 2020, the German Prosecutor General’s office put him on the international wanted list.
Moscow has repeatedly denied these accusations, insisting that there is no concrete evidence of its involvement in these attacks. After the talks on August 11, Sergey Lavrov said that Russia also has claims against Germany in this regard. According to him, from January 2019 to May 2020, 75 hacker attacks were recorded on Russian state institutions, which came from the German Internet sector.
Naturally both sides, as active participants of the Normandy Four group discussed the situation on the Ukrainian dossier. Russia and Germany, as it was once again stated by Minister Lavrov: “Have a common understanding of the lack of alternatives and the need to implement the Minsk Package of measures as quickly as possible. Once again, we called on our German colleagues to use their influence on the Kiev leadership in order to encourage it to fulfill its obligations under the Minsk process as soon as possible. We regularly exchange views on the future prospects for cooperation within the Normandy format, as an important tool to stimulate the activities of the Contact group, in which Kiev, Donetsk and Luhansk should interact directly on the implementation of the Minsk agreements signed by them.”
At the same time, issues related to the crisis situation in the Middle East and North Africa were considered. Both sides have a common position on the need for full implementation of the UN Security Council resolution 2254 on the Syrian settlement, which means confirmation of the country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. Lavrov and Maas discussed preparations for the upcoming resumption of the work of the Constitutional drafting Committee in Geneva.
Both Moscow and Berlin also have a common interest in resolving the situation in Libya and once again confirmed the need for a political solution to this conflict based on the principles set out in the final documents of the Berlin conference on Libya and confirmed in the UN Security Council resolution.
Among other issues on which Russia and Germany are actively cooperating is the situation around the Iranian nuclear program. There are a number of ideas put forward by the European colleagues. Russia, in turn, has made some proposals that would help to find better solutions.
While in Russia, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas also payed tribute to the victims of the siege of Leningrad during his visit to Saint Petersburg.
“The siege of Leningrad is a heinous war crime against the Russian population, for which Germany is responsible,” said the head of the German foreign Ministry.
“And we must never forget this,” Maas said.
German foreign Minister made a “humanitarian gesture” during his one-day working visit to the Russia Northern capital.
He provided help for the “War veterans hospital” by giving it modern medical equipment.
Earlier, Heiko Maas wrote in an article in Der Spiegel magazine that it was Germany that unleashed the Second world war by attacking Poland in 1939. The foreign Minister apologized to the people of Poland for the crimes of Nazism.
This gesture is a recognition of the historical guilt of Germany and of the war crimes that still live in the memories and stories of the blockade-runners today.
Today, Germany is one of the most reliable partners of St. Petersburg. There are 450 German companies operating in Russia, and a tenth of them are located in St. Petersburg. Many universities in the Northern capital cooperate with universities in Germany. In St. Petersburg, the German side plans to establish a Russian-German meeting centre.