Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier concluded his two-day visit to the US capital Washington on Friday evening (28 February). The main focus of his talks, including with US Secretary of State John Kerry and the Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Christine Lagarde, was on bilateral relations and current international issues. At the Brookings Institution, a respected US think-tank, Steinmeier gave an address on transatlantic ties in the 21st century.
Following his arrival in Washington, D.C. on Thursday morning (local time), Foreign Minister Steinmeier headed first to the Department of State, where he had lunch with his counterpart, Secretary of State John Kerry. Prior to the meeting, Steinmeier said the fact that he was meeting Kerry for the fourth time in the relatively short period since taking up office showed that there had been much to do in recent weeks and months to tackle the international challenges.
Political and financial stability for Ukraine
These challenges include the current situation in Ukraine. Steinmeier stressed that the new Government under Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk had a huge amount of work to do. It had to prove that it was a Government for all Ukrainians and that it was working to bring the country political and financial stability. Above all, the Minister said, it was important that the IMF quickly send a group of experts to Kyiv to assess the country’s financial needs.
The two Foreign Ministers quickly got on to the subject of Ukraine at their joint press conference after their intensive talks as well. Kerry thanked Steinmeier for his mediation in Kyiv as part of the Weimar Triangle last week and called on Russia to take a constructive role in stabilising Ukraine. The German Foreign Minister, too, emphasised the international community’s shared responsibility for the country:
Ukraine needs breathing space now to attain political and economic stability. That means that the EU, US, IMF and hopefully also Russia must together ensure that Ukraine receives the financial assistance it needs.
Getting lots of partners round one table
At a working breakfast with IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde on Friday morning, the main topic was again the crisis in Ukraine. Lagarde warned against panic-mongering with regard to the country’s financial situation. At the same time, she said that a team of experts would be travelling to Kyiv this coming week to establish the facts and prepare the ground for a possible aid programme. Steinmeier again emphasised that stabilising the situation in Ukraine meant getting “as many partners as possible round one table”. This included Russia, he went on. Trade and economic relations between Moscow and Kyiv were so dense, the Minister said, that Russia had a heightened interest in stabilising Ukraine.
Relationship between freedom and security
The second key issue during Steinmeier’s two-day trip to the US was the transatlantic relationship. The talks between the two Foreign Ministers, which John Kerry subsequently described as candid and constructive, also touched on the tensions between the two countries following the NSA surveillance affair. Steinmeier pointed out that the US and Germany had differing understandings of the relationship between freedom and security, but at least the debate was no longer being carried out by the media, but directly between Government, academia and civil society in the two countries. A cyber dialogue is to be established as a forum for this debate, enabling “differences and similarities in our attitudes to protecting privacy” to be defined.
Transatlantic relations in the 21st century
Bilateral relations between Germanyand the United States were also the main topic of the speech made by the German Foreign Minister at the Brookings Institution, a respected US think-tank. On Friday morning, Steinmeier spoke to a sizable audience, including many American and German students, about the future shape of transatlantic ties, underlining the importance of the practical application of shared values in the 21st century.
Only if we transpose our shared values to today’s problems will younger people be interested in our transatlantic partnership.
During his time in the UScapital, Steinmeier also had the opportunity to meet US Senators Bob Corker and Dianne Feinstein, as well as presidential adviser John Podesta. Shortly before departing Washington on Friday afternoon, the Minister had another appointment, at the White House: while President Barack Obama was giving a statement on reports about Russian soldiers being deployed in the Ukrainian peninsula Crimea, Steinmeier was meeting his National Security Adviser, Susan Rice, a few doors along the corridor.