Baerbock’s hard edge against Putin and Russia

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From: Bedrettin Bölükbaşı

Since the beginning of her term of office, Federal Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock (Greens) has been primarily concerned with Russia. © Thomas Koehler/Imago Images

The tough Russia policy of the Green Foreign Minister Baerbock is already a central feature of her work. She regularly emphasizes a “clear stance” against Moscow.

Munich – When the first distribution of ministerial posts as part of the traffic light coalition negotiations leaked out, many looked curiously at the finance and economics ministries, because after all the struggle between Christian Lindner (FDP) and Robert Habeck (Greens) for the finance ministry in the negotiations for caused a lot of excitement.

Another, highly central department was also eagerly awaited: the Foreign Office. The name Annalena Baerbock (Greens) was on the leaked lists. That’s how it actually happened and the important post finally went to the Greens politician. She took the helm of German foreign policy and has since repeatedly steered a sharp course against Moscow. In a topic that is very preoccupying in the West, she draws attention to herself with clear words.

Ukraine conflict: main reason for Baerbock’s tough stance on Russia – warning of consequences

The conflict in eastern Ukraine and Crimea has recently occupied the West increasingly with new tensions. There is great concern about a new Russian attack on Ukraine. Moscow is massing troops on the border with Ukraine as US intelligence agencies warn of Kremlin plans to invade. Although Russia denies the allegations, military movements continue to point to an escalation.

The new German Foreign Minister, Annalena Baerbock, actively intervened against Russia. Their tough stance on several issues ultimately stems from aggression against Ukraine. For them, the settlement of the conflict is a prerequisite for a new and different attitude towards Russia. Freshly sworn in, she often addressed Moscow very clearly shortly after taking office – with warnings and threats, but also with calls for dialogue. After all, you can’t pursue foreign policy without dialogue, she emphasized to the Spiegel. At the same time, however, one should not allow oneself to be blackmailed by dictators.

The Greens politician said this in connection with the refugee crisis on the Polish border and the statements were addressed to the Belarusian ruler Alexander Lukashenko, but her general attitude was also reflected accordingly against Russia and Vladimir Putin. In consultations with EU foreign ministers, she emphasized that Russia’s actions against Ukraine would have “harsh diplomatic and economic consequences”. The Foreign Minister stressed that Ukraine’s sovereignty was beyond question. “Another violation of Ukrainian sovereignty by Russia would have serious consequences,” she warned again at a press conference with her Italian counterpart Di Maio.

Nord Stream 2: Baerbock sees political project – approval dependent on Ukraine and EU law

The controversial pipeline project no doubt occupies an important place in Baerbock’s hard edge against Russia. The new German foreign minister does not want to give up here because, unlike Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD), she does not see this as a simple and purely commercial or private-sector project, but definitely a political issue. Earlier, she stressed the geopolitical role of the pipeline.

“The last few years have made it clear, also with a view to the different perceptions in Europe, which geostrategic role Nord Stream 2 plays,” said the Green politician in December in an interview with the German press agency. According to Baerbock, Russia under the ruler Vladimir Putin clearly uses energy as a weapon. The old federal government, together with the US government, had already made it clear “that energy must not be used as a weapon and that this would have serious consequences,” emphasized Baerbock. And that also applies to the new government. Russia firmly denies this accusation.

Baerbock ties the approval of the project to the situation in Ukraine and an end to Russian aggression. Just a few days after taking office, she made this clear and again referred to the collusion between the US and the old administration. It was agreed “that in the event of further escalations, this pipeline could no longer go online”. She sees another problem at this point in compatibility with European law. The pipeline cannot be approved “just like that” because, in addition to the safety issues in the room, there are also provisions of European energy law, she said on ZDF. Nord Stream 2 does not meet these regulations.

Should the Nord Stream 2 project actually be buried by Baerbock efforts, Russia would suffer a major political defeat. The steps and statements made by German foreign policy under the new foreign minister are not welcome in Russian politics. “The situation surrounding Nord Stream 2 shows that Germany no longer has the freedom to pursue its own economic interests,” said Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov provocatively, questioning Germany’s independence.

Tiergarten murder: Baerbock took action immediately after the verdict – expulsion of Russian diplomats

The judgment of the Federal Public Prosecutor’s Office on the so-called Tiergarten murder offered Baerbock another chance to crack down on Russia. It was about the murder of a Chechen-born Georgian in the Kleiner Tiergarten in the Moabit district of Berlin in August 2019. The man was shot by a Russian citizen. After investigations, the Federal Prosecutor’s Office came to the conclusion that the murder had been carried out on behalf of Russia.

The murder represents a “serious violation of German law and the sovereignty of the Federal Republic of Germany,” said Foreign Minister Baerbock on the case and also took direct action. She summoned the Russian ambassador to the Foreign Office, and the Greens politician also had two Russian diplomats expelled and declared undesirable. Russia described the action as an “unfriendly act” and responded by expelling two German diplomats.

Baerbock’s trip to Ukraine: message of solidarity – trip also planned to the contact line in the east

The Foreign Minister is now embarking on a diplomatic offensive into the region itself. In a two-day trip, she is visiting both Ukraine and Russia. In Ukraine, she reiterated Germany’s support to her counterpart Dimitro Kuleba and Ukrainian President Zelenskiy. “We, as Germany, have caused so much suffering to your country on your territory and are therefore bound together in friendship and solidarity forever,” said Federal Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock at the start of her speech at the press conference with her Ukrainian counterpart.

In Kiev, too, she addressed Vladimir Putin with a clear message. “Any renewed aggression would – we have emphasized this again – have a high price,” emphasized the Foreign Minister with regard to the Russian troop deployment on the Ukrainian border. Now she even wants to travel to this area. Baerbock announced that she would go to the people at the contact line together with French Foreign Minister Le Drian – another expression of the clear support for Ukraine against Russia.

Baerbock’s trip to Russia: focus is on dialogue and diplomacy – no weapons to Ukraine

However, Baerbock’s tough edge against Russia is not always necessarily characterized by toughness. There is also at least a somewhat weakening element in their attitude: their belief in dialogue. With her visit to Moscow, she wants to illustrate and present this in concrete terms. In order to defuse the current “highly dangerous situation”, diplomacy is “the only viable way”, which is why one is ready for a “serious dialogue” with Russia, said the Green politician in Kiev.

In the meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, Baerbock wants to encourage Russia to continue to participate in efforts to resolve the crisis. “I want to find out on site whether there is a willingness to find solutions through diplomatic channels – above all, to breathe life into the Normandy process again and finally make progress in implementing the Minsk agreements,” emphasized Baerbock before leaving for the Ukraine.

In addition, the German government strictly refuses to supply arms to Ukraine, which could prevent additional tensions with Russia and counteract an escalation of bilateral relations. At the press conference with her Ukrainian counterpart Kuleba, Foreign Minister Baerbock emphasized that deliveries to Ukraine are currently not an issue. “We have a clear position and we will not change it, depending on which country I travel to,” said the Foreign Minister. (bb)

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