German Russia policy to be realigned | Germany| News and in-depth reporting from Berlin and beyond | DW | 29.11.2013
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German Russia policy to be realigned

The coalition agreement between the CDU/CSU and the SPD contains a paragraph on Germany’s relationship with Russia. But what does it really say about the government’s intentions? DW’s Ingo Mannteufel has this analysis.

Ingo Mannteufel (Photo: DW/Per Henriksen)

Ingo Mannteufel heads DW's Russia department.

The coalition partners of Angela Merkel's CDU, the Bavarian sister party CSU and the Social Democrats (SPD) believe Germany's ties with Russia are an important area of foreign policy. The mere fact that the coalition agreement dedicates a whole chapter to the topic shows its importance.

In the previous government's coalition deal between the CDU, CSU and the FDP, it was merely mentioned on the sidelines, alongside other topics.

Now, apart from a few general statements such as "Germany and Russia are strongly linked because of their eventful history" and "Russia is the largest and most important neighbor of the European Union", the 300 word-chapter entitled "Open dialogue and broader cooperation with Russia" contains four core messages.

Conditions for partnership

The first message is an offer to Russia to establish a partnership and Germany's willingness to collaborate with Russia, with the aim of guaranteeing stability in Europe together with, rather than against Russia. But the second message is that this partnership offer comes with strings attached: Russia has to develop into a modern, economically strong and democratic country first.

The much heralded partnership of modernization with Russia is to be extended. But the future German government stresses in its founding document that it plans to "talk openly with the Russian leadership about different ideas of a partnership of modernization". That's German diplomatic jargon for open display of criticism.

Beyond the Kremlin

The third core message on Russia in the coalition agreement is that the future German government does not plan to limit ties to Russia to the country's highest state and government level, but instead it extends its offer of a partnership to Russia's middle class and civil society.

To that end, "new kinds of social dialogue with Russia" have been announced. There are also promises of "a further liberalization of visa requirements for entrepreneurs, scientists, civil society stakeholders and students".

No more special relationship

The fourth core message makes it clear that Germany does not intend to establish a special relationship with Moscow within the EU, but that the future government instead intends to "push for more coherence in the European Union with regard to Russia".

Many critics in Brussels have long claimed that Germany has prevented that coherence by maintaining a special relationship with Moscow. It is therefore likely that Germany's policy towards Russia will be brought much more in line with the common European. Interestingly, Poland is to be a key player in this context.

Those four core messages are certainly no sign of a revolution with regard to German-Russian ties. But Germany's policy towards Russia is slowly being realigned, taking into account the current political situation in Russia in a pragmatic way.

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