Wednesday, August 31, 2016


As Merkel Heads For Russia, Moscow Is In For A Schockenhoff

Unlike her predecesser, Gerhard Schroeder, German Chancellor Angela Merkel (right) reportedly does not enjoy particularly cordial relations with Russian President Vladimir Putin (left).
Unlike her predecesser, Gerhard Schroeder, German Chancellor Angela Merkel (right) reportedly does not enjoy particularly cordial relations with Russian President Vladimir Putin (left).
By Robert Coalson
Has Russia's special relationship with Germany hit the rocks?

German lawmakers last week passed a nonbinding resolution calling on Chancellor Angela Merkel to raise concerns about the state of human rights in Russia when she meets with President Vladimir Putin in Moscow on November 16.

The Bundestag endorsed a toughly worded report by Merkel's commissioner on German-Russian relations, Andreas Schockenhoff, that specifically links backsliding on Russian democratic development with Putin's return to the Kremlin in May for a third term as president.

For years under former German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, Berlin was one of Russia's best friends in Europe, with relations being built primarily on pragmatic -- i.e., energy -- considerations and on close personal ties between Schroeder and Putin. Schroeder once famously called Putin "a flawless democrat."

But the rapport has been undergoing a change under Merkel.

"In terms of the relationship with Russia, I think it is a relationship that is what the German diplomats like to call 'strategic,' in that we don't share a lot of values, but we need this country for certain things," says Constanze Stelzenmueller, a senior transatlantic fellow at the German Marshall Fund. "I'm being very frank here, but that is the street definition of the strategic relationship. Allies, friends are people you really share values with. The Russians don't qualify for the term ally or friend, I don't think."

Moving Away From Russian Energy

Russian imports account for roughly one-third of Germany's natural gas consumption.

Cognizant of this, Merkel has pushed to wean Germany off its dependence on Russian energy by building coal-fired plants and developing Polish shale gas.

She has also been one of the most vocal European critics of Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka, a close Moscow ally.

She strongly endorsed the European Union's Eastern Partnership program, over Moscow's vocal objections.

According to Stelzenmueller, this strengthened the positions of EU members like Poland and Sweden, who favored developing closer ties with Russia's former Soviet neighbors.

"The point here is that German diplomacy was quite happy to move into sync with Stockholm and Warsaw on a more proactive policy on the eastern periphery," she says. "Exhibit A for this is German-Polish policy toward Belarus."
Andreas SchockenhoffAndreas Schockenhoff
Andreas Schockenhoff
Andreas Schockenhoff

And now the report by Schockenhoff, as well as comments he made earlier about the Pussy Riot case, is casting a shadow over Merkel's visit to Russia this week.

Merkel is due to attend the biannual Petersburg Dialogue and hold talks with Putin in Moscow.

In a recent interview with "Der Spiegel" online, Schockenhoff said: "The fact is that the [Russian] police, courts, and lawmakers now rely on the intimidation and repression of civil society. It's even possible to assign a date to when this approach began: May 6" -- the date of Putin's inauguration.

When the draft of Schockenhoff's report emerged last month, Russia's Foreign Ministry was outraged. It accused Schockenhoff of "defaming" Putin personally and took the radical step of declaring it no longer recognized Schockenhoff as a representative of the German government.

In response, Merkel's spokesperson, Steffen Seibert, said Russia's reaction was "astonishing," and he chided the Kremlin by maintaining that Berlin alone decides who represents the German government. He affirmed that Schockenhoff will be traveling with Merkel to Moscow for the Petersburg Dialogue session.

'A Public Spat'

Edward Lucas, international editor for "The Economist" and author of "Deception: Spies, Lies, and How Russia Dupes the West," believes the willingness to be publicly confrontational with Moscow is a new development for Merkel's ruling Christian-Democratic Union (CDU):

"We now see in the heart of the CDU public dissatisfaction with Russia and a willingness on Germany's behalf to engage in a public spat," he says.

Another sign of this new willingness, Lucas suggests, is Germany's decision to try a couple of accused Russian spies who were arrested in 2011 and are believed to have been spying for Moscow since the late 1980s.

Merkel has reportedly never enjoyed close personal relations with Putin.

Germany's chattering class still tells the story about a visit Merkel made to Putin while he was prime minister. Putin reportedly kept her waiting for an unseemly amount of time and then sat her down next to his black Labrador, although he was aware she is afraid of dogs.

This contrasts sharply with the close personal relationship Putin had with Gerhard Schroeder, Merkel's predecessor as chancellor -- or with other European leaders, for that matter.

Schroeder set up the Petersburg Dialogue together with Putin in 2001 and after leaving the chancellery he became chairman of the board of the Gazprom Nord Stream pipeline project.  And Italian Prime Minister Sylvio Berlusconi occasionally hosted Putin's family at his summer home.

In Lucas's view, the developments of recent weeks make Merkel's Moscow trip particularly portentous.

"These are really sharp things which were all very unusual in the past," he says. "And you add to it the debate in the Bundestag on [November 9] and it sets the scene for a very interesting -- perhaps the most interesting week for a decade in German-Russian relations -- with the Petersburg Dialogue and the Putin-Merkel summit coming up. And I wish I could be a fly on the wall at all of them."
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Comment Sorting
by: Camel Anaturk from: Kurdistan
November 12, 2012 14:30
Last time the special relationships between Herr Ribbentrop and Comrade Molotov ended there was a crazy little thing called WWII !!!
In Response

by: Jack from: US
November 12, 2012 18:11
Camel barks: "Last time the special relationships between Herr Ribbentrop and Comrade Molotov ended there was a crazy little thing called WWII !!! "

right, Camel - Herr Ribbentrop ended up being hanged like Saddam Hussein, while Comrade Molotov lived long and happy live until he died at the age of 96.
Hopefully all NATO minions, Frau Merkel and others, end up like Herr Ribbentrop, for the good of humanity
In Response

by: Camel Anaturk from: Kurdistan
November 12, 2012 21:41
Dearest are so right as always and we are all very happy that the red nazis won the battle with the brown communists,although they finally lost the war.Tovarish Bunich and tovarish Suvorov wrote afew books on the subject and you`d better read them before you write red crap on RFE/RL posts.And tovarish Molotov lived a long and happy life indeed,he was most happiest when his and your fuhrer Koba sent his wife to sunny Siberia for a well deserved holiday and free re education.When he asked the Georgian fuhrer why ,the Iron man replied:If you want to know why I`ll send you there too to ask her and make her company.The Hammer man decided to stay and live long and happy in the city of Vakhtang.And he is not dead ,he lives in our hearts and minds Lenin,Koba,Berya,etc,etc.They will live forever in the fiery furnace.And if frau Merkel and the germans end the way kgb gulag orderlies like your highness wish,who is going to feed all Europe and the` winners `of WWII.Bright minds like you and Eugenio I guess!!!
In Response

by: Eugenio from: Vienna
November 13, 2012 09:33
:-))))))))))) Excellent, Jack, yours is the best response ever given to the tons of empty talk that Camel produces on this forum :-)))!!
That's true, Comrade Molotov had a destiny VERY DIFFERENT from that that of Ribbentrop (and that of quite a few other guys that thought that they ABSOLUTELY NEEDED to mess with Russia).
And I think that Frau Merkel - who, by the way, used to be a model East-German Thälmann Pioneer AND a winner of the East-German Russian Language School Olympics - is quite aware of this sad destiny of Ribbentrop and his friends.
Ok, maybe during her visit she will mumble a couple of words about Pussy Riot - and in the next moment will be happy to sign a few more deals on buying even more Russian gas and selling Russia some of this German "high" technology stuff that the Germans have increasing difficulty selling to their ever more bankrupt EU "parners". So, all this "discourse" on the German "tough line" will remain what it is - cheap and delusional Economist-style propaganda.
In Response

by: saucymugwump from: USA
November 14, 2012 02:12
Jack, the spawn of Russian soldier and Chechen wench, wrote "Herr Ribbentrop ended up being hanged like Saddam Hussein, while Comrade Molotov lived long and happy live until he died at the age of 96"

Gee, Jack, that's what happens when one side loses and the other side wins. No one was able to force the Sovs to prosecute Molotov, Beria, Koba, or any other Red psychopath. Beria, the NKVD chief, kidnapped girls -- and I do mean girls -- off the streets of Moscow and raped them; he was never prosecuted either, though he was shot in the back of the head by Zhukov and the boys six months after Koba finally kicked the Russian bucket.

And you seemed to have missed Camel's point about Molotov's wife, Polina, who was imprisoned in the gulag by Koba, while Molotov had to just keep on kissing Koba's rear to avoid joining her. He lived 96 years, but was it really happy?

by: Tony from: Canada
November 12, 2012 14:45
All of Europe should join together in confronting Putin the dictator. Hopefully Obama will now change tack as well.
In Response

by: Mamuka
November 12, 2012 18:02
I don't think that is how he intends to utilize his greater "flexibility."
In Response

by: Sey from: World
November 13, 2012 02:02
When all of Europe finds another way to keep their homes warm and their energy flowing, they can do whatever they like.
In Response

by: Eugenio from: Vienna
November 13, 2012 09:42
Ah, Tony from Canada, apparently you are unaware of the fact that "all of Europe" right now has SO MANY PROBLEMS OF ITS OWN that confronting anyone at all is definitely not a part of the European political agenda.
It's a pity that the RFE/RL abstained from covering the visit that Frau Merkel has just paid to Portugal - an EU member state which is in its fourth consecutive year of recession and where a group of intellectuals PUBLISHED A PROTEST LETTER on the eve of her visit to the country explicitely saying that FRAU MERKEL WAS NOT WELCOME in Portugal.
And about a month ago - during the last visit of Frau Merkel to Greece - another EU member state stuck in a recession since 2008 - Greek protesters were BURNING GERMAN NAZI FLAGS in front of the embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany in Athens - apparently in order to express their appreciation for Frau Merkel and for the entire German nation.
So, dear Tony from Canada, I am afraid your wish for a Europe "confronting Putin" in a united manner will remain unfulfilled in the foreseeable future. Tut mir Leid, Tony :-).
Cheers from Vienna!

by: William from: Aragon
November 12, 2012 22:50
If Putin has chosen to own a black Labrador, then he is OK in my book.

by: Vakhtang from: Moscow
November 13, 2012 15:21
We know that the Germans are pedants and pragmatics, we know that they are very greedy people but the worst thing that Putin bought Germans for a cheap russian gas...

Today, when Putin try to kill girls from Pussy Riot,supplies weapons to terrorists around the world, helping to create nuclear weapons to Iranian fanatics....Frau Merkekl moves to Moscow..
Rather than go to Georgia, and drink wine with hospitable and kind people she preferred to go to a meeting with a maniac loner, who moves the world to nuclear war.
The next stop seems to be-"Caves of Kurdistan", where she will try with a camel wait out the nuclear winter.
In Response

by: Camel Anaturk from: Kurdistan
November 13, 2012 15:46
Aah,sham Vahtanganaika djan, the pigswill they serve for wine in Georgia may be good enough for vahtangs ,but if you wanna taste the real thing you should go to the free parts of Georgia-that is Abkhasia and South Ossetia.And now send in the clowns:Your turn,Constanteen!!!

by: Eugenio from: Vienna
November 16, 2012 09:52
By the way, German media is taking a somewhat more realistic vision of the intensions of Frau Merkel in Moskau. Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, for example, published an article entitled "Berlin is sticking to its partnership with Moskau" in which it point out that "the German Chancellor does NOT intend to "work through" the critical points of the recent resolution of the Budestag during her meeting with President Putin this Friday in Moskau... The major topics that will be discussed during the meeting are Syria, Afghanistan, Middle East - and also those related to the EURO- and European Politics (aha, that is to say, the German Chancellor feels like she can not take decisions related to European politics without first consulting the Russian President :-))), ENERGY and TRADE policy (those two will - as usual - apparently be the ones that Frau Merkel is REALLY interested in), as well as those related to "civil society" (so, during this last part of the talks Frau Merkel MIGHT mumble something about the Pussy Riot :-)))".
In Response

by: William from: Aragon
November 16, 2012 21:15
Hey Eugenio. Once Angela has asked Vladamir about human rights in Russia and he replies by asking how are the human rights of Afghan civilians killed by the "Luftwaffe" wing attached to ISAF going, they can then dismiss with the formalities and get down to what is really important - how much energy is available for sale to Germany and at what price for Russia. Then Angela, Vlad and Koni can get stuck into the macaroons and tea.
In Response

by: Eugenio from: Vienna
November 17, 2012 08:14
:-))))) Exactly, William, I also think that that's pretty much how this meeting went :-)).

by: Ben
November 16, 2012 15:32
This museum of displaced persons is the audience of the great RFERL:Eugenio from ? Vienna!
Vakhtang from? Moscow!
William from? Aragon!
Sey from? World!
Jack from ?USA (not Vitebsk )
All these curious people have alot to comment of the German-Russian relations! Ha. Ha .
In Response

by: Eugenio from: Vienna
November 17, 2012 08:19
I mean, Ben, it's at any rate better than commenting on the sorry fate of belugas who live in the Black Sea (this was one of the topics with which the RFE/RL tried to galvinize us all a couple of weeks ago :-))).
In Response

by: William from: Aragon
November 17, 2012 20:46
There are two types of people who frequent this site - those from around the world who share ideas and those located in North America who like to criticise them for doing so, but really have nothing to contribute. You will have to form your own opinion as to which group you fall into.

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