Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock (Greens) and her Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov appear together before the press after their hour-long talk.
Before the meeting, Baerbock emphasized the importance of the relationship between the two countries. “With my trip, I want to make it clear that relations with Russia are very important to the new German government and to me personally,” said Baerbock in the guest house of the Moscow Foreign Ministry. “There is no alternative to stable relations between Moscow and Berlin.” But there are also different views, said the minister, apparently also referring to the Ukraine crisis. She is looking forward to “an honest and open exchange”. (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 to solve the crisis with Russia. Germany is ready for dialogue. 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.
At a meeting in Kiev on Monday, Baerbock and Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba stressed that they wanted to revive the so-called Normandy format consisting of Germany, France, Russia and Ukraine. This is intended to defuse the heated conflict with the government in Moscow through diplomatic channels.
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. 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 Ukraine will not be included in the transatlantic military alliance. Allianz categorically rejects this. Despite these tensions, Baerbock emphasized before leaving Berlin: “As the new federal government, we want substantial and stable relations with Russia.”
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
In addition to the Ukraine crisis, other issues are 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. In contrast, 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 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 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)