Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock (Greens) is traveling to Moscow for her inaugural visit. German-Russian relations are currently burdened by many issues, including the Ukraine crisis, Nord Stream 2 and the verdict on the Tiergarten murder. Nevertheless, Baerbock relies on dialogue: “As the new federal government, we want substantial and stable relations with Russia,” said the Green politician before her meeting with her Russian colleague Sergey Lavrov.
After visiting the “Diversity United” exhibition at the Tretyakov Gallery, the new foreign minister will lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Baerbock then meets with her Russian counterpart Lavrov. After the meeting, the two will hold a joint press conference. Baerbock’s return flight to Berlin is scheduled for the evening.
Lavrov (71) has been Russia’s chief diplomat for almost 18 years, making him the longest-serving foreign minister in Europe. Before the new Foreign Minister’s visit, the Russian Foreign Ministry described Germany “as an influential player on the international stage”. However, Moscow is “disappointed” with the current status of Russian-German relations. “The German side is trying to influence the domestic political processes in Russia, and anti-Russian propaganda is being carried out in the German media,” it said.
First Kiev, then Moscow
The Green politician had previously made a stop in Kiev. The 41-year-old Kiev pledged diplomatic support to solve the crisis with Russia. Germany is ready for a dialogue with Russia. However, she again refused arms deliveries to Kiev. For the CDU foreign politician Norbert Röttgen, the minister sent “an important sign of solidarity with Ukraine” by traveling first to Kiev and then to Moscow. A spokesman for the Federal Foreign Office said that Baerbock’s talks in Moscow were not the continuation of the de-escalation of the crisis with Russia, which had been held in other formats.
Parts of the eastern Ukrainian regions of Luhansk and Donetsk have been controlled by pro-Russian separatists since 2014. Despite a peace plan negotiated in Minsk (Belarus) with Franco-German mediation, the conflict does not come to an end. The German Foreign Minister now wants to get the negotiations going again. According to UN estimates, more than 14,000 people have been killed in the area so far. Russia and Ukraine repeatedly accuse each other of violating the peace plan. In the self-proclaimed People’s Republics of Luhansk and Donetsk, structures of their own have long been formed with the help of Moscow.
The issues that weigh on German-Russian relations are diverse
The verdict in the Tiergarten murder trial recently led to further tensions between Russia and Germany. After the murder of a Georgian in Berlin’s Tiergarten in August 2019, a month ago a court convicted a Russian and accused Moscow of “state terrorism”. Both countries expelled each other’s diplomats.
Germany also holds Russia responsible for hacker attacks on the Bundestag in 2015 and for the attack on Kremlin opponent Alexei Navalny with the internationally banned chemical warfare agent Novichok. In addition, Moscow is angry about the broadcast stop for the German program of its state broadcaster RT.
Shortly before Baerbock’s flight to Moscow, Russia’s Foreign Ministry warned against artificially prolonging the suspended certification of the controversial Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline. The Green politician is considered a skeptic. In contrast, the Kremlin, like Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD), sees the line as a private-sector project. The finished pipeline, which has not yet been released for operation, is to pump gas from Russia to Germany in the future – bypassing the Ukraine. President Vladimir Putin said that Nord Stream 2 would make gas in Europe cheaper again.
Human rights activists have also been complaining about the increasing repression of those who think differently in Russia for a long time. Several independent media and organizations have already had to shut down their work. Most recently, the court-ordered dissolution of the internationally well-known human rights organization Memorial also caused criticism in Germany. Last spring, Moscow also declared three German non-governmental organizations undesirable. The German side has therefore frozen its work in the Petersburg Dialogue, which was founded 20 years ago. Putin had launched the communication platform for civil society in both countries with the then Chancellor Gerhard Schröder.