Inaugural visit to Moscow: Baerbock’s difficult journey

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Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock is counting on a dialogue with Moscow. © -/Ukrainian Foreign Ministry Press Office/AP/dpa

Relations between Berlin and Moscow are at a low point. Now Foreign Minister Baerbock is meeting her crisis-tested colleague Lavrov in Moscow. The list of conflict issues is long.

Moscow – Despite serious conflicts with Russia, Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock is committed to dialogue with Moscow.

“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 in Moscow. But the list of conflict issues is long. The inaugural visit to the Russian capital should be a kind of test by fire for Baerbock. After taking office on December 8, she has probably never completed such a difficult journey. Lavrov (71) has been Russia’s chief diplomat for almost 18 years, making him the longest-serving foreign minister in Europe.

Moscow “disappointed” with Germany relationship

Before the new Foreign Minister’s visit, the Russian Foreign Ministry described Germany “as an influential player on the international stage”. But Moscow is “disappointed” with the current status of Russian-German relations. “The German side is trying to influence the domestic political processes in Russia, anti-Russian propaganda is being carried out in the German media,” it said.

On Monday, Baerbock was already in Ukraine for talks. 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. Röttgen told the editorial network Germany (RND) that Ukraine was just “an application” for Russian President Vladimir Putin’s efforts to revise the European order militarily if necessary. Now it comes down to strength. Left-wing foreign expert Sevim Dagdelen criticized the Funke media group: “Unfortunately, Ms. Baerbock has so far not relied on diplomacy, but on threatening gestures towards Russia.” The minister is helping to ensure that Germany and the EU in the negotiations on the guarantees demanded by Moscow stayed outside.

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.

These should be the central topics in Moscow:

The strained German-Russian relations

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.

conflict in eastern Ukraine

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 since been formed with the help of Moscow.

The controversial Baltic Sea pipeline Nord Stream 2

Shortly before Baerbock’s flight to Moscow, Russia’s Foreign Ministry warned against artificially prolonging the suspended certification. 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 and Petersburg dialogue

Human rights activists have long complained about increasing repression measures against those who think differently in Russia. 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. dpa

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