• Germany's news in English
Is German diplomacy getting too chummy with Russia?
Russian President Vladimir Putin meeting German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier. Photo: DPA/AFP Pool.

Is German diplomacy getting too chummy with Russia?

DPA/The Local · 29 Aug 2016, 17:04

Published: 29 Aug 2016 17:04 GMT+02:00
Updated: 29 Aug 2016 17:04 GMT+02:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier continued to push his ideas for détente towards Russia on Monday, arguing for better relations between the two countries at a conference in Berlin.

"We cannot simply wish away a Russia that has become immensely more difficult," he said, calling for Germany and Russia to go from "a phase of confrontation and growing tensions, back to a reliable understanding of common security".

His comments followed an opinion piece he wrote for daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung last week where he called for a new arms control deal with Russia in order to ease tensions between Moscow and the West.

The foreign minister wrote that he wanted to avoid a “new and dangerous arms race” so as to ensure stability for Europe and that a new deal with Russia would be a “proven means for transparency, risk prevention and trust-building."

Still, he also noted that Russia had broken trust when it annexed Crimea in Ukraine in March of 2014.

“At the same time, we must all be united in the desire to avoid a further twist in the escalating spiral,” he wrote.

He went on to call for a “structured dialogue with all partners who carry responsibility for the security of our continent.”

But such comments have led critics to deride Steinmeier as a Russland-Versteher (Russia-sympathizer) due to his seemingly sympathetic stance, especially in comparison with his party’s conservative coalition partners in the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), like Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Germany has played a large role in trying to smooth over relations between Russia and Ukraine, and the Social Democrats (SPD) seem to prefer the so-called Ostpolitik approach used by their Cold War party leaders like former Chancellor Willy Brandt to normalize relations with Russia during that tense era.

While Merkel earlier this summer blamed Russia’s actions in Ukraine for a breakdown of trust with Nato, Steinmeier himself appeared to point a finger at Nato, warning it in June against “warmongering”.

And while Merkel has insisted that the sanctions against Russia for their inference in Ukraine hold, Steinmeier said in June that he was in favour of gradually lifting the sanctions if Russia showed it was making progress in the peace plan for Ukraine.

Under the headline “Steinmeier should not speak the language of the Kremlin,” a journalist for Bild tabloid criticized a recent speech by Steinmeier at Ural State University in which he questioned in cases such as the conflict in Crimea “when we should worry”.

“The fact that a German foreign minister asked before a Russian audience whether one should be worried when Russian tanks are rolling through a sovereign land mocks the consensus that Europe's borders should never again be pulled apart by force,” the Bild journalist wrote.

A comment piece in the conservative Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung was also critical of Steinmeier, accusing him of “fishing in troubled waters” and saying he risked losing a sense of professionalism.

But the Bavarian Augsburger Allgemeine argued that Steinmeier was "doing his job" by trying to maintain good contact with the Russians. 

"The consequences of further deterioration of the climate would hardly impact the USA, but would very much impact Europe - economically and politically," a journalist for the newspaper wrote.

Story continues below…

"Wresting concessions from Moscow through dialogue - that was the core of Willy Brandt's successful Ostpolitik. Although the Cold War is long over, that principle still has its validity."

Outside of Germany, its neighbours in Poland have expressed their own concerns about Germany’s relationship with Mother Russia.

Polish foreign minister Witold Waszczykowski criticized how Germany has been pushing ahead with plans for a gas pipeline from northern Russia through the Baltic Sea primarily for political reasons.

“That damages European solidarity,” he warned, adding that Germany should not put relations with Moscow above those with Warsaw.

And the Polish minister also went so far as to say that Steinmeier was showing “doubt about strengthening the eastern flank [of Nato]”.

For more news from Germany, join us on Facebook and Twitter.

DPA/The Local (news@thelocal.de)

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Student fined for spying on women via their webcams
Photo: DPA

Student from Munich fined €1,000 for spying on 32 different computers, using their webcams to take photographs, or record their keyboard history.

This is how much startup geeks earn in Germany
Photo: DPA

A comprehensive new survey of 143 startup founders shows how much you are likely to be earning at a German startup, from entry level all the way up to sitting on the board.

Man dies after beating for peeing near Freiburg church
The Johannes Church in Freiburg. Photo Jörgens Mi/Wikipedia

A middle-aged man from southern Germany has died after being attacked by a group of men who took umbrage with the fact he was urinating in the vicinity of a church.

The Local List
Seven German celebrities with uncanny doppelgängers
Former Berlin mayor Klaus Wowereit and actor Alec Baldwin. Photo: DPA; Gage Skidmore, Wikimedia Commons

Check out these seven look-a-likes of well known German figures - we admit that some are more tenuous than others...

Israel seeks to buy three new German submarines: report
A Dolphin class submarine. Photo: DPA

Israel is seeking to buy three more advanced submarines from Germany at a combined price of €1.2 billion, an Israeli newspaper reported Friday.

Here’s where people live the longest in Germany
Photo: DPA

Germans down south seem to know the secret to a long life.

More Germans identify as LGBT than in rest of Europe
Photo: DPA

The percentage of the German population which identifies as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender is higher than anywhere else in Europe, according to a new study.

'Reichsbürger' pair attack police in Saxony-Anhalt
File photo: DPA.

A "Reichsbürger" and his wife attacked police officers on Thursday, just a day after another Reichsbürger fatally shot an officer in Bavaria.

Five things not to miss at the Frankfurt Book Fair
Photo: DPA

From consulting a book doctor to immersing yourself in an author's world with the help of virtual reality, here are five things not to miss at this week's Frankfurt Book Fair, the world's largest publishing event.

Parents who don't get nursery spot for kid entitled to pay
Photo: DPA

The Federal Court of Justice (BGH) ruled on Thursday that parents whose children don't receive placements in nursery care are entitled to compensation.

Sponsored Article
How to vote absentee from abroad in the US elections
10 things you never knew about socialist East Germany
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
How Germans fell in love with America's favourite squash
How I ditched London for Berlin and became a published author
Sponsored Article
How to vote absentee from abroad in the US elections
12 clever German idioms that'll make you sound like a pro
23 fascinating facts you never knew about Berlin
9 unmissable events to check out in Germany this October
10 things you never knew about German reunification
10 things you're sure to notice after an Oktoberfest visit
Germany's 10 most Instagram-able places
15 pics that prove Germany is absolutely enchanting in autumn
10 German films you have to watch before you die
6 things about Munich that’ll stay with you forever
10 pieces of German slang you'll never learn in class
Ouch! Naked swimmer hospitalized after angler hooks his penis
Six reasons why Berlin is now known as 'the failed city'
15 tell-tale signs you’ll never quite master German
7 American habits that make Germans very, very uncomfortable
Story of a fugitive cow who outwitted police for weeks before capture
Eleven famous Germans with surnames that'll make your sides split
The best ways to get a visa as an American in Germany
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd