The ninth meeting of the Russian-German Forum, Petersburg Dialogue, which was set up eight years ago under the initiative of then-president Vladimir Putin and then-Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, took place in Munich on July 14-16.
Russia’s Dmitry Medvedev and Germany’s Angela Merkel held a meeting within the scope of the forum to discuss issues of cooperation between the two countries.
Germany has become Russia’s major partner in Europe during the recent years. To which extent are the Russian-German relations strong? Pravda.Ru interviewed one of the leading German experts on Russia, an expert with the German Council for Foreign Politics, Alexander Rar.
“How would you estimate the relations between Russia and Germany?”
“I would say that Germany is the closest partner for Russia in Europe and maybe in the whole world. The two countries always stand together when other states attempt to push Russia from Europe to Asia.”
“Which position does Germany has regarding the gas conflict between Russia and Ukraine?”
“We discussed this question at the German Council for Foreign Politics at the end if June. Germany virtually took Russia’s side. Russia will most likely become a member of the European gas consortium in the future because of Germany’s position on the matter.”
“Does Germany intend to build the Nord Stream gas pipeline?”
“As for Nord Stream, this project is doomed to be successful, because German firms have already invested in it. The German government will be taking a lot of effort to defend the project in spite of the fact that Poland and especially Sweden have been showing a lot of resistance against the project. But Germany will not stop there.
Europe has split in its attitude to the project, which is obviously a negative factor. Germany defends the project claiming that it will be good for everyone. German officials are seriously concerned about the pressure from Poland and Sweden, but the German government is not going to meet their instantaneous anti-Russian requirements.”
“Vladimir Putin is fluent in German. Has it played any role in the development of bilateral relations?”
“I think that it was a big mistake that we missed the chance to establish friendly relations with Russia during Putin’s eight years of presidency. Putin is probably the most Germany-oriented politician in Russia’s history. The two countries achieved a lot during his presidency. Putin’s knowledge of Germany and the German language will has obviously played a positive role. There will be no such chance after Putin, I’m afraid. We missed it because of Germany’s conservative US-oriented political elite.”
“Which are the major discrepancies between the two countries?”
“The biggest one is about the United States. It has been 20 years after the end of the Cold War, but the USA continues to promote NATO’s eastward expansion. Many in Germany share this point of view. Russia is right: what is the point of expanding NATO if no one is going to attack Eastern Europe? If there is no terrorist threat, then what’s the point of the US military presence? The Kremlin is especially concerned about the plans to deploy the missile defense system in Poland and the Czech Republic.
“Moscow believes that the European security must be based on Europe only, without the participation of the United States. This is not the position that many people in Europe share.”
“What about Germany’s criticism about the supposedly poor state of democracy in Russia?”
“This is another contradiction between Russia and Germany. Germany believes that Russia must strengthen its democratic institutes. The nation wants Russia to develop the Western style of democracy. German politicians believe that it would ease business relations with Russia and improve Russia's image as a reliable partner.”
“Are Neo-Nazis strong in present-day Germany?”
“Nazism does not pose any threat to Germany today. This trash has been kicked out of Germany entirely. Local ultra right parties receive only two or three percent of votes at parliamentary elections in Germany. That is why, no one is going to take Russia’s Kaliningrad away, nor does Germany intend to seize other territories, which the nation lost as a result of WWII.”
Interview prepared by Sergey Balmasov and Vadim Trukhachev