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What made Germany and Austria start a diplomatic game with Russia

What made Germany and Austria start a diplomatic game with Russia

August 17 2018
Tags: Russia, Europe, Politics, Analytics, Germany, Austria, USA, Economics, EU

Putin's visit to Germany and Austria looks good in comparison with the new, tough format of relations between the US and its allies in the EU. Berlin is not the easiest partner, given the inability of the Germans to admit mistakes: even if it is not right, fight to the last, right up to the Reichstag. Return to the old system of relations with them is no longer possible. But he is not needed.

The visit of the Russian president to Germany and Austria is a manifestation of normal foreign policy and international communication at a time when it seems to be irreversibly becoming part of the past. Until recently it seemed that such a dialogue was either impossible, or for a long time everything would be reduced to a conversation between the deaf. However, time makes its own adjustments.

Emotions and conflicts come and go, but interests remain. And these interests make Germany, not to mention Austria, start a diplomatic game with Russia.

First of all, the reason, of course, is the changes that have occurred in the last year in the relations between Europe and America. These changes have successfully laid down the favorable ground for Russia's resilience to external pressure and the apparent failure of all attempts to achieve the international isolation of Moscow, which the West has been taking for the past four years.

The new format of relations between the US and its European allies is no longer equal, even if only formal, but unconditional submission. The American president in July, after a noisy visit to Europe, could significantly break the will of Europeans to fight. The European Commission's head Jean-Claude Juncker sent a signatory to surrender to Washington. Trump's refusal of the trade war cost the Europeans promises to increase purchases of American liquefied gas and a number of categories of agricultural products.

However, the leading European states do not intend to fully merge. And they can hardly afford it.

It is fundamentally important for Germany to do anything, but to bring to a successful end the construction of a new branch of the Baltic Nord Stream gas pipeline. For the sake of this, Berlin will bargain with the Americans, make private concessions, but it will not give up its strategic task - to establish almost monopoly control over the supply of Russian gas to the European market. Like 50 years ago, when the Americans also tried to force the Germans to abandon energy cooperation with the USSR. But even then, German politicians and business leaders were able to implement their plans.

The political outcome of the deal was the new East policy of Willy Brandt and the Moscow Treaty of 1970, which finally ended the post-war period of relations. Germany needed gas, and the USSR had equal relations with the leading capitalist power.

So, in essence, it continued until the military-diplomatic crisis of 2014, which followed the armed coup in Kiev. Only after the collapse of the USSR did the new Russia begin to need Germany as its main European partner even more, and Berlin's tone became more instructive at times. Special relations met the views of Vladimir Putin and remained mutually convenient until recently.

By its actions in 2014-2015 years, Chancellor Angela Merkel, of course, turned this page of special relations between Moscow and Berlin. Although this was inevitable. After Germany and Merkel personally had to take on the main responsibility for squeezing unpopular measures during the fight against the euro zone crisis in 2009-2013, the federal republic became the undisputed leader of the European Union.

This leadership needed to be confirmed when Europe faced the most serious political crisis in history since the end of the Cold War. And for this it was necessary to achieve the political unity of the EU countries around the solution proposed precisely from Berlin. Given the circumstances, such a single position could only be anti-Russian. And Merkel has poured out her vision of what should be a collective response to the real or fictitious actions of Moscow by European propaganda.

The truth is that Germany stood politically behind the bloody Maidan. The decision of Viktor Yanukovych to postpone the signing of the agreement with the European Union literally disgorged the German leadership.

The fact is that of all the states that had proposed such an agreement, only Ukraine and Azerbaijan had any sense for the EU. But Azerbaijan, due to its geographical distance and the specifics of the political regime, could not be considered an object of pressure. But Ukraine, whose policies for the years of independence are completely entangled in words, connections and desires, simply asked for the role of the object of expansion.

Ukraine for Germany, as, by and large, the entire space in the East, is the territory of resource development. One of the few diversified economies of a global scale needs and will need resources. And so could not resist - risked strategic relations for the sake of even relative control over the space, where for the last 100 years the Germans tried to come twice - in 1918 and 1941. Partly - because of the lack of a clear position of Russia, explaining what such adventures can end. Last, by the way, it is important not to forget, taking into account the views that are of interest, which from Warsaw and Berlin are often thrown at Byelorussia. It turned out that it turned out. The reaction of Russia was more serious than the German and European politicians had expected.

Does the relationship have a chance of recovering in the same volume of trust and depth? Hardly.

Germany, like all of Europe, is unlikely to become a constructive partner of Russia in the next 10-15 years. The huge number of internal problems, the inertia of the launched sanctions policy, the constant pressure of the US - all this will not allow the Germans and Europeans to change their attitude to Russia and the projects that it supports. For example, to the Eurasian economic integration, not officially recognized by the European Union. And the inability to recognize one's own mistakes is in general the most important feature of the German national character. Even if it's not right, fight to the last, right up to the Reichstag.

But this does not mean that normal traditional diplomacy is impossible between us. And in this sense, the visit of Vladimir Putin to Austria and the nature of relations between Moscow and Vienna in recent times are important. The position of Austria and its interests in relations with Russia are fundamentally different from that of Germany. Although Austria is also our major partner in the field of energy and invests in Russia. Here the role is played by pure politics and diplomacy.

After accession to the European Union, Austria faced the risk of a gradual decline in its visibility in international affairs. For the former great European empire, this would inevitably turn out to be a psychological trauma. Despite the fact that nowadays Austria is a strong small country with high incomes, only 100 years ago it was at the head of a multinational empire.

The young and bright Chancellor Sebastian Kurtz, who came to power in the spring, understands perfectly well that one of the few foreign policy resources in his hands is Austrian neutrality. This neutrality, of course, limited participation in the European Union. Austria was to join the measures of economic war, which in 2014 started its partners against Russia, but nevertheless retained unique opportunities to pursue a more independent policy.

Austria is not a member of NATO and is not connected with the bloc by the political obligations of unconditional solidarity. In other words,

Vienna is the ideal partner for a fine diplomatic game. And she is ready for such a game.

Which of the following is the conclusion?

Everything is quite simple - four years of confrontation around Ukraine and an increasingly tough position of the US led to a paradoxical result. In Europe, among continental leaders, the understanding is growing that in relations with Russia a return to the 90-x model is no longer possible. We will add - and it is not necessary.

Like it or not, the Ukrainian crisis closed this page of our shared history with Europe. At the same time, what is critically lacking in it after the end of the Cold War returns to international politics, including in Europe. This is pluralistic diplomacy, when states understand that they can not merge into the ecstasy of common values ​​and interests. But at the same time they can not pretend that the partner's policy is a private deviation, which must be endured.

Timofei Bordachev
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