"The collective Steinmeier": How the rift in Germany's foreign policy threatens Ukraine
Quite often the Foreign Minister has shown a little too straightforward lobbying of Russian interests, but he doesn’t recognize it
Sometimes even the long-term friends suddenly become the detached observers. And all the attempts to figure out what happened leading up to a complete break. Oddly enough, but once again we can include the foreign minister of Germany and the OSCE Chairman Frank-Walter Steinmeier to such "friends". One time captain of German foreign policy has laid the foundation of today's Ukraine-EU relations. But for now it becomes less and less clear – to what extend is this foundation reliable for us?
Quite often the Foreign Minister has shown a little too straightforward lobbying of Russian interests. Of course, he himself doesn’t recognize it. But over the years Steinmeier’s actions clearly outline his real position. "The second person in German politics Frank-Walter Steinmeier called for the actual reconciliation with Moscow. This statement means a split between the local leaders," - says Ukrainian MP Serhiy Leshchenko. In fact, the rift in German leadership occurred not today and even not yesterday.
How it all began
In March 2014 Russian "expulsion from paradise" because of the annexation of the Crimea really happened. And after six months in the club of leaders of the most developed countries G20 - in Australia - world leaders arranged an obstruction for Putin. Because of the cold reception he prematurely finished his visit and left this highest level meeting. In Sydney, Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel for the first time publicly and sharply condemned his actions. In her opinion, Putin wiped his boots with international law.
The greater surprise caused the next day meeting of Steinmeier and Putin in Moscow. The unexplained change of emphasis in the approach to Russian aggression remained mysterious. Thus, in the statement of the German Minister on following talks appeared the phrase: "It is time to think about what happens outside Ukraine, and to respond to other global threats ..." As noted with surprise the authoritative British magazine The Economist, “does this mean that Steinmeier’s position is different from Merkel’s one?” Foreign Office spokesman denied the obvious, but it all looked unconvincing.
Recently, German Foreign Minister reiterated the theoretical possibility of a return to the "Big Eight" (G8) format. He said it was the best format to communicate directly with Putin. Amazingly. Does Steinmeier see cooperation with the dictator more productive than isolation? The history of Germany already knew one such example ...
The disloyal behavior
In the governing tandem the Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel proved to be a supporter of stricter attitude to Russia. Meanwhile, the Foreign Minister, a famous lawyer of the “Ostpolitik” (German: “Eastern Policy”) continued to practice flexibility and tolerance. All this reminds an unknown earlier game of good and bad policemen. The foreign position of Steinmeier indeed quite often is at odds with the position of Merkel. And the chancellor can’t ignore the opinion of the Head of the Foreign Ministry in Germany’s foreign policy.
It means that Merkel is in a certain sense is a hostage of the diplomat. To the extent that after the G20 summit minister asked the audience in general to "choose words carefully." Acting from the heavyweight perspective, Steinmeier often is not so careful in choosing words, but on the contrary, is carefully avoiding unpleasant assessments. Somehow it frequently coincides with the expectations of the Kremlin.
In 2007, the commander of the Strategic Rocket Forces of Russia Yuri Solovtsov made a loud statement with threats against the Czech Republic and Poland. The General promised that both countries will find themselves at gunpoint, as soon as Americans will deploy missile defense system on their territories.
Americans were impressed even not less than countries’ authorities. Impressed with not only the Russian brutality, but the fact that Steinmeier did not react to the threats and did not express protest to Russians. It's hard to call this delicacy.
At the beginning of the war in Donbas Minister at every occasion spoke out against granting arms to Ukraine. Rather, the experienced diplomat knows perfectly well - what, to whom and why to say.
Nestling of Schroeder’s nest
Steinmeier’s biografy clarifies a lot of his actions. More than twenty years ago, Steinmeier ran the office of the future Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder. Former Chancellor and his former advisor still communicate. The world knows how Schroeder’s career came to an end. After retirement from the post of head of the Federal Government of Germany, he headed the Board of the Nord Stream AG. The Swiss company was created to manage the Russian-German gas pipeline "Nord Stream", 51% of stock shares of which belong to Russian "Gazprom".
Ex-Chancellor appointed Executive Director of the company Matthias Warnig - former member of the secret German police "Stasi" and Putin’s acquaintance. By the way, later working for Schroeder, Steinmeier also worked on security as responsible for coordinating the intelligence services in Germany.
Finally, Schroeder’s political career ended in ugly way: he laid the blame for the conflict in North Ossetia to Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili, and said on the provocative role of the United States, thus rejecting any insinuations against Russia. Human rights activist and manager of group "Memorial" Yuri Orlov pessimistically predicted that Steinmeier will continue Schroeder’s policy on Russia. Russian opposition worried that it will have negative consequences for civil society and democracy in Russia in general.
What we have now
Today Steinmeier advocates a gradual easing of sanctions against Russia. Although Merkel's position is unchanged: no reason for that yet. The Minister also proposes the strategy of small steps in solving the "frozen conflicts". In Chisinau, he offered to give special status to Transnistria in the framework of territorial integrity and sovereignty of Moldova. Just as Russians offered to use " Steinmeier’s formula" in the conflict in Donbas, Ukraine after so many protests.
Recently Steinmeier made the remark towards NATO, that Alliance conducts provocative military training near the borders with Russia. Like this is a step toward compromise.
Ukrainian authorities apparently understand the situation. But they feel uncomfortable talking aloud about insincerity, or pragmatic cynicism of friends, one of whom Steinmeier is. And suddenly shortly OSCE head can be elected President of Germany ...
Attention to his personality - not another attempt to shift responsibility on European allies. However, if the situation with the reaction of the world community to Russia's aggression in Ukraine may develop alternatively - not in both "pro-Russian" and "pro-Ukrainian" way – but objectively and independently of sympathies of one collective Steinmeier – Ukraine will receive the better result. And the war would have ended earlier.
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