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Germany and Russian Federation: Bilateral Relations

01.10.2021 - Article

Relations between Germany and Russia are wide-ranging. The two countries’ political relations are overshadowed by Russia’s violations of fundamental principles enshrined in international law in the course of its annexation of Crimea and actions in eastern Ukraine. Germany is working with France in the Normandy format to implement the Minsk agreements.

The European Union has responded by imposing sanctions on Russia that include the freezing of bank accounts and the imposition of travel bans on individuals and companies, as well as economic and financial sanctions in certain sectors. In response, Russia has banned the import of a number of agricultural products from the EU.

Russia’s role in the cyber attacks on the German Bundestag as well as its attempts to exert hybrid influence are also problematic. Annual intergovernmental consultations have been suspended since the illegal annexation of Crimea in 2014.

At the same time, dialogue with Russia remains important. The Organization for Security and Co‑operation in Europe (OSCE) and the Council of Europe are an important framework in this regard. Security policy issues are discussed bilaterally in the German-Russian High Level Working Group on Security.

The two countries also organise events in joint German-Russian years, which focus on a particular topic relevant to bilateral collaboration. The Germany Years focus on the entire spectrum of relations in the areas of culture, business and politics, as well as civil society and academia. There are a range of different formats for exchange and dialogue at the intersocietal level. The Petersburg Dialogue, which includes ten working groups on various aspects of society and meets once each year, is a further important bilateral forum for German-Russian dialogue. Following the listing of three German non‑governmental organisations, including members of the Petersburg Dialogue, as “undesirable foreign organisation”, all events of the Dialogue have been suspended for the time being. Civil society NGOs that have contacts also with Germany are facing increasing levels of repression.

Germany is Russia’s largest trade partner after China. Russia’s most important exports are raw materials such as crude oil and natural gas. For its part, Germany primarily exports machinery, vehicles and vehicle parts to Russia.

Germany and Russia enjoy a vibrant exchange in the cultural and educational sectors. After English, German is the most commonly taught foreign language in Russia. Youth exchange is promoted in various ways, including by the Foundation for German-Russian Youth Exchange.

Remembrance of the past plays an important role in German-Russian relations. The Soviet Union’s victory in the Second World War is a key element of Russia’s culture of remembrance. Germany is aware of its responsibility to Russia and the other post-Soviet states for the 27 million Soviet victims of the Second World War.

The German Government also promotes efforts to preserve the cultural identity of the German minority in Russia.

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