Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock (Greens) and her Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov held their joint press conference with a long delay – apparently they spoke to each other much longer than planned.
Lavrov said the talks were “interested and constructive,” based on the mutual respect of both countries. Many topics were addressed, such as the joint exchange of goods, renewable energies and the North Stream 2 gas pipeline. Russia pointed out that this project would be “politicized”, Lavrov said. He also expressed his concerns about NATO’s course. They also exchanged views on the situation on the Belarusian-Polish border, the stabilization of the situation in Kazakhstan and the Ukraine crisis.
Baerbock emphasized that she came to Moscow “with a thick discussion folder”. There are “many points on which we have differences of opinion”. But the portfolio is so thick because we see great potential for cooperation on many issues,” said Baerbock. Russia and Germany “both play a major role in the European house. For example, it would be impossible to tackle the climate crisis without the largest country in the world. Baerbock clearly addressed the conflict with Russia, saying it was difficult not to see the troop deployment on the Russian-Ukrainian border as a threat. The conflict between Russia and Ukraine is a security challenge. “We didn’t choose this situation, but we won’t avoid it either,” said Baerbock. We are ready to work on solutions that will bring more security to everyone in the region.
Baerbock spoke out for a speedy resumption of peace negotiations in the Ukraine conflict. To this end, a next meeting should be held in the Normandy format – i.e. mediated by Germany and France with Ukraine and Russia. It is important to breathe new life into the Normandy process and it is good that everyone has committed to the Minsk peace plan. The peace plan agreed in the Belarusian capital for the conflict in eastern Ukraine has not yet been implemented. Ukraine and Russia accuse each other of violating the agreement.
In the press conference with Baerbock, several Russian journalists also asked about the Russian state broadcaster RT. So far, he has not had a television license in Germany and has therefore broadcast his program via YouTube. But the platform blocked RT in the fall. The accusation: The broadcaster spread false information about the pandemic. Russian authorities accuse Germany of obstructing the work of RT journalists. Baerbock rejected this and emphasized that the constitutionally protected freedom of the press prohibits the state from having a direct influence on the content of media providers. (18.01.2022)
Baerbock on inaugural visit to Moscow
Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock 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 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 the meeting with her Russian colleague Sergey Lavrov.
Lavrov, 71, has been Russia’s chief diplomat for almost 18 years, making him the longest-serving foreign minister in Europe. Before Baerbock’s visit, the Russian Foreign Ministry described Germany “as an influential player on the international stage”. However, Moscow is “disappointed” with the 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.
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. Subsequently, Baerbock meets with Lavrov. After that, the two want to give a joint press conference. Baerbock’s return flight to Berlin is scheduled for the evening. (18.01.2022)
The Ukraine crisis overshadows the meeting
Before her first visit to Moscow, Baerbock made a stop in Kiev on Monday. The 41-year-old Kiev pledged diplomatic support in the crisis with Russia. Germany is ready for dialogue. However, Baerbock again rejected 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.
At a meeting, Baerbock and Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba emphasized that they are aiming to revive the so-called Normandy format in order to defuse the conflict through diplomatic channels. These are talks between Germany, France, Russia and Ukraine.
Baerbock announced that this goal is also the subject of her talks with Lavrov. Russia has massed around 100,000 soldiers on the border with Ukraine, and the West fears an invasion. The government in Moscow denies such plans, instead it is about security guarantees. Among other things, Russia is demanding a commitment from NATO that it does not want to take in Ukraine. The transatlantic military alliance categorically rejects this.
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. (18.01.2022)
German-Russian relations are currently considered strained
The Ukraine crisis is not the only issue weighing on German-Russian relations. Most recently, the verdict in the trial of the Berlin Tiergarten murder led to diplomatic tensions. After the murder of a Georgian 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 of the project. On the other hand, the Kremlin and Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) describe the management 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 in Germany caused criticism. Last spring, Moscow also declared three German non-governmental organizations undesirable. The German side has therefore frozen its work in the Petersburg Dialogue, which began 20 years ago. Putin had launched the communication platform for civil society in both countries with the then Chancellor Gerhard Schröder. (18.01.2022)
Britain supplies anti-tank weapons to Ukraine
Amid fears of a Russian invasion of Ukraine, Britain wants to supply the former Soviet republic with light anti-tank weapons. The aim is to improve Ukraine’s defense capabilities, said British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace in Parliament. “These are not strategic weapons and they do not pose a threat to Russia. They are intended to be used in self-defense,” he stressed.
A small number of British army personnel are to train the Ukrainian military there for a short time on how to use the weapons, the minister added. He did not say exactly which defensive anti-tank weapons are involved. “Ukraine has every right to defend its borders,” Wallace continued. But Wallace also said he didn’t want to raise false hopes. British soldiers would not be deployed on Ukrainian soil in the event of a war with Russia.
Ukrainian Ambassador to Britain Vadim Pristaiko welcomed the arms shipments. Whether that will make a difference on the battlefield remains to be seen, he told the BBC. There is also still no solution as to how the weapons should get into Ukraine. “We are faced with the largest army in Europe and we are on our own,” Pristaiko told the BBC. While there is outside assistance, such as additional missiles and training, the superiority of the Russians and their allies is overwhelming. His country is surrounded by troops on the Russian border, in Crimea annexed by Russia, in the breakaway Moldovan region of Transnistria, and Belarus also poses a threat, the ambassador said. (18.01.2022)