Commenting on German-Russian relations, Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said: “The more complicated the relationship, the clearer the language we need. We need firm positions that we combine with clear offers.” What does this mean in concrete Terms?
Following the illegal annexation of Crimea and the destabilisation of eastern Ukraine, a considerable amount of trust has been lost in relations with Russia. Further issues include the wide-ranging modernisation and rearmament of the Russian military, as well as military exercises that fail to provide sufficient transparency. As a result, the European security environment has become less secure. The risk of unintended military incidents is rising. That is the main reason why it is important to discuss risks with Russia and to create greater transparency.
This was the aim of the meeting of the German-Russian High Level Working Group on Security, which took place on 12 November and was co-chaired by State Secretary Andreas Michaelis and Vladimir G. Titov, First Deputy Foreign Minister of the Russian Federation. During the meeting, various groups of participants discussed topics including the future of the INF Treaty, the situation in Syria and Georgia, and the fight against terrorism (please see here for further information). The focus was on the conflict in Ukraine. A further meeting in this format was pencilled in for 2019.
The NATO-Russia Council is another communication channel aimed at fostering transparency. It last met at the end of October 2018.
Speaking in Berlin on 15 November, Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said :
Russia is Europe’s largest neighbour. Only by engaging in exchange with one another will we prevent unwanted escalations.
“Without a dialogue with Russia we will never be able to resolve international conflicts such as the one in Syria,” Maas said. That is why Germany is continuing to discuss international issues with Russia, both via direct political channels and within the framework of the United Nations and OSCE. On Syria in particular, the German Government constantly reminds Moscow about its responsibility for resolving the conflict politically.
The situation in the Council of Europe shows that cooperation in international organisations is not always easy. Russia has not paid its contributions since mid-2017 and is considering leaving the Council. However, through its membership, Moscow has undertaken to uphold rule-of-law standards. Moreover, everyone in Russia has the opportunity to seek justice at the European Court of Human Rights. That is why “we want Russia to remain a member of the Council of Europe, with all the rights and duties that entails,” Maas said.
Strengthening people-to-people links
Despite political differences, there are close relations between people in Russia and Germany. The German Government supports these ties in a large number of projects, which include the German-Russian Year of Municipal and Regional Partnerships, in which German-Russian partnerships at municipal and regional level were supported between June 2017 and September 2018. For the coming year, Foreign Ministers Maas and Lavrov have agreed to hold a German-Russian Year of University Collaboration and Research .
Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said :
It is our responsibility to preserve these people-to-people relations. At the same time, these ties can also serve as a bridge for developing closer political relations and, most importantly, achieving real results.