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Three Roles for German Foreign Policy Towards Russia

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

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.


Conclusion:
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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Joe Noory on :

WHy does the whole thing sound like making excuses for past events? To quote an old fable, at a diplomatic cocktail party, a French diplomat is ratting on about the governments his government has installed, diposed, and invaded to secure oil on the African continent. The joke goes that the German diplomat sitting next to him says [i]"all we have to do is buy it".[/i] What I want to know is [i]where has that common sense capacity to deal with international relations gone?[/i] When did the Aussenminister need to become chief pimp for Deutschland AG? Russia simply [b]IS[/b]. It will still need German ueber-techno-rubbish, and it will still seek a buyer of its' oil, and even it's industries. WHY is it that a nation needs to deal in 'taking sides' on this that or another thing to do trade, or to parrot silly, empty platitudes supplied by NGOs. In truth, it doesn't. The risk is that the old European disease: [i]never mind biting the hand that feeds you[/i], worry about the habit of [i]licking the boot that kicks you.[/i]

Clear Thinker on :

Hmmm. Taking either of your sides is not possible. When I went to Russia for the first time in 1990, German was the main foreign language spoken by the elite and educated. Germany was without question the number 1 economic partner with the Soviet Union. On a visit to Mesh-1 in Moscow most of the foreign companies were from Germany and Austria. The second most influentially taught language was English and the US was fast approaching as #2 and easily capable of taking the #1 spot, especially with Germany's unification taking up so much of their economy at the time. By 1993, the USA catapulted to theh #1 spot with enormous investments including Wrigley, Gilette, Ford, Coca Cola and soon Philip Morris and other companies. By the end of the decade however, after the World Bank scandal in Moscow, Clinton turned his back on Yeltsin and Putin (almost exactly when Sobchak died) and US investment nearly stopped. As we approached the New Millenium I watched US relations sour with Russia. I had surely hoped that trade accords negotiated between Gore and Chernomyrdin that were signed by Clinton and Yeltsin would lead to great opportunities in trade between our countries but these soured too. Russia, the great oil rich power, the country with more forestry than the rest of the world combined, more gold, more metals and natural gas, and Clinton turned to Mexico and the Americas. What ever Germany does now should be stopped. The Russians made it clear in the 90's that they prefer US relations versus German. If the Obama-Biden Administration allows the Germans to continue to make strides I fear they will turn it into an excuse to use Germany as a go-between rather than fixing and cementing new powerful relations with Russia

Marie Claude on :

To quote an old fable, at a diplomatic cocktail party, a French diplomat is ratting on about the governments his government has installed, diposed, and invaded to secure oil on the African continent. The joke goes that the German diplomat sitting next to him says "all we have to do is buy it". When did I say that? I don't think I've ever used the term "colonial policy" at this site at all. where is the error ? anyone all the puppets in Latin America ? KHOMEYNI,the One, but not the first in the same country... etc, etc, etc....

Joe Noory on :

It's so hard to argue with such a great mind as yours'. One with such great capacity to remain focussed, to stay in context. Are you trying to tell me that simply mentioning that the French ruled parts of Africa is some proof of some unrelated matter in the past? It's foolish, and I'm not even going to bother with addressing it. On the other hand, you realize that people parsing tiny details without asking questions about the elephant in the room, the idea that an entity within the EU needs to represent the interests of Russia is eclipsed by your egotistical capitalization of the subject. In this matter of a Russia that could do perfectly well in representing its' own interests, where are the clown leaping in and screaming that "someone is dividing Europe from within" as they would do with the US? More to the point, as an entity dependent on Russian gas, where is the real diplomacy? I don't even see a nominal degree of "healthy scepticism" from those otherwise obsessed with using the energy security issue to argue for policies that will dismantle and make feeble modern civilization.

Marie Claude on :

thank you for the complimentsame to you :lol: More to the point, as an entity dependent on Russian gas, where is the real diplomacy? I don't even see a nominal degree of "healthy scepticism" from those otherwise obsessed with using the energy security issue to argue for policies that will dismantle and make feeble modern civilization you read too many pessimist litterature

Thorsten on :

There would be little to add to this post, if it was not for Germany's inclination to overdo things a bit... I think there are two aspects to be kept in mind. 1. Undoubtedly it is a central element of Germany's national interest to integrate Russia in a broader European - or Western - structure. This is indeed what all governments of the Federal Republic of the last 40 years have been trying to do. From a German perspective the integration of Russia is the eastern equivalent of the integration of France in the west - and equally important. Important for the same reasons: Both Russia and France are European greatpowers that have shown an unsettling tendency to satisfy their imperialist ambitions at the expense of Central Europe in the past. Germany tried to solve this problem militarily and failed miserably in two world wars. As there are thus good reasons to assume that Germany is just too weak to contain these ambitious neighbours in the long run, integration has become the strategy to provide security and influence for Germany. With considerable success. 2. There is, however, often a certain naivety in Germany concerning Russia's willingness to let herself be integrated. A number of people here feel a vague romantic affection towards Russia which is sometimes characterized by clichés about "the Russian soul", German-Russian political alliances of the 19th century or even a supposed common aversion against "Western capitalism". Others like to play 19th century style great power politics, imagining Russia and Germany as equal partners in a new race for influence and resources in a multipolar world. Both fail to realize that Russia is not keen on being "guided" by Germany nor is Russia willing to share her influence or her political resources. Russia is a sovereign nation state with strong imperialist traditions that have not been compatible with German national interests in the past. Russia tried to block the rise of Prussia, she tried to block the democratisation and unification of Germany in the 19th century, she tried to reverse the rise of imperial Germany, she tried to export her revolution to Germany, she successfully amputated and divided Germany in 1945, she transformed a part of Germany into a Russian protectorate. All this is no argument against the concept of integrating Russia, on the contrary. But Germany must not be naive: Russia is a potential rival as much as a potential ally. In the past years Russia has been trying to instrumentalize Germany in order to weaken the European Union (and NATO). The EU, however, is even more important to Germany than Russia, and it is [i]much[/i] more important. So a policy of integrating Russia is essential for Germany - but I'd like to plead for a healthy emotional distance.

Marie Claude on :

Both Russia and France are European greatpowers that have shown an unsettling tendency to satisfy their imperialist ambitions at the expense of Central Europe in the past. are you trying to say that Alsace was the object of our imperialist ambitions towards the Central Europe ? 1870 anyone ?

Pat Patterson on :

That's a fairly muddled response considering Napoleon III declared war on Prussia and attacked first over France's increasing loss of control over the North German Confederation. The rise of Prussia as the dominant state in Central Europe was coming at the expense of French alliances and hoped for territorial gains. So yes indeed, French control of the Alsasce as well as demands to control any area that had a majority of Catholics even if German speakers was definitely the goal of French policy.

Marie Claude on :

Prussia's defeat of Austria in the Seven Weeks' War in 1866 had confirmed Prussian leadership of the German states and threatened France's position as the dominant power in Europe. The immediate cause of the Franco-German War, however, was the candidacy of Prince Leopold of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen (who was related to the Prussian royal house) for the Spanish throne, which had been left vacant when Queen Isabella II had been deposed in 1868. The Prussian chancellor, Otto von Bismarck, and Spain's de facto leader, Juan Prim, persuaded the reluctant Leopold to accept the Spanish throne in June 1870. This move greatly alarmed France, who felt threatened by a possible combination of Prussia and Spain directed against it. Leopold's candidacy was withdrawn under French diplomatic pressure, but the Prussian king William I was unwilling to bow to the French ambassador's demands that he promise to never again allow Leopold to be a candidate for the Spanish throne. Bismarck edited William's telegraphed description of this interview, and on July 14 he published this provocative message (the Ems telegram;), which accomplished his purposes of infuriating the French government and provoking it into a declaration of war http : //www.onwar.com/aced/data/foxtrot/franceprussia1870.htm http : //en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Franco-Prussian_War I think there wasn't any french alliance, one would have heard of the Brits one, if they had taken part to it, they know how to look good in making their own legend. I suppose they were happy to see France in trouble, as they were concurrents in the colonies (yes Joe !!!) http : //en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alsace Alsace was already tied to France since the kings Louis XIII and Louis XIV, and the language that was spoken there is a germanic dialect, ununderstandable by the Germans

Thorsten on :

[i]are you trying to say that Alsace was the object of our imperialist ambitions towards the Central Europe ?[/i] I was not thinking of Alsace in particular nor was I saying that "you" have imperialist ambitions. I referred to an undeniable tradition in the foreign policy of France between the 17th and 20th century that caused a lot of headache to German policymakers and cost a lot of both German economic ressources and German lives. From a German point of view the time between 1635 and 1925 (or even 1957) could be described as a long row of French (attempted) invasions and occupations, interrupted by a handful of mostly futile political or military German counter offensives. (WW II, of course, was no counter offensive.) Between the 17th century and 1810 the Franco-German border has continually shifted eastward: the reunions 1679-1688 (including Alsace), Lorraine 1766, the west bank of the Rhine 1795, western Westphalia and the German North Sea coast 1810. Having lost some of their annexations in 1815 French politicians dreamt of reannexing all of Germany west of the Rhine (including Luxemburg) throughout the 19th century. When that proved to be impossible they dreamt of at least annexing the Saarland and separating the Rhineland (and the Ruhr area) from Germany as French puppet states. And I am not even talking about the countless non-annexionist attempts to shape the German map according to French wishes. Only in 1957 these ambitions were given up - after the process of European and Franco-German integration had started. So for several centuries Germans had good reasons to fear the French. And sometimes they still worry about the ambitions of the French political class.

Thorsten on :

[i]"Alsace was already tied to France since the kings Louis XIII and Louis XIV, and the language that was spoken there is a germanic dialect, ununderstandable by the Germans"[/i] Do we really still have to discuss this in 2008? The "germanic dialects" spoken in Alsace are the same as spoken in the neighbouring German regions of Baden and Palatinate. Any German who can understand a dialect-speaking German fellow citizen from Karlsruhe or Freiburg can understand a dialect-speaking person from Alsace. And of course Standard German has played an important role in Alsace. After all Straßburg was a centre of German renaissance literature back in the 16th century. And the university of Straßburg was one of the most important German-language universities until the end of the 18th century. And of course the language of instruction there was not "a germanic dialect". It was the language of Goethe, who studied there. That said, I am certainly not maintaining that Alsace is still "German" today. No, it is French and shall be so in eternity. Amen.

Marie Claude on :

yes, but there was no Germany at these times but only provinces (Lander) that spoke a german language, Germany as she is now, is only dating from Bismarck, otherwise there was a bigger enemi, Austria empire, who eagered to control french kingdom businesses, with family relationships, malicious embassies... um, they also allied with the perfid Albion to damn Napoleon ; Metternich kept his son as hostage... andere Zeiten

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