German President in Moscow: Cold Pragmatism in Action

The visit of German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier to Russia is a reflection of the foreign policy course based on a sober assessment of the existing and medium-term realities, as well as a mathematically accurate calculation of the efficiency of the bilateral dialogue, says Valdai Club expert Nikolai Pavlov.

"The working visit of German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier to Moscow is, in my opinion, a reminder to the Kremlin, that Germany has always been a "preferred partner" for Russia, regardless of the world political situation, but above all in the conditions of cooling relations with the West", Nikolai Pavlov,  Professor of Department of European and American Studies, MGIMO University, member of the Central Board, Russia-Germany Society, said in an interview with He stressed that the visit took place even before the formation of the new government coalition by Chancellor Merkel and was probably coordinated with the top political leadership of the FRG.

Nevertheless, according to Pavlov, in this case the primary role is played not by the Chancellor or by the President, but by the opinion of German citizens, who "in their overwhelming majority favor the resumption of mutually beneficial cooperation in politics, economy, culture, but primarily for the restoration of former trust and return to a stable and reliable partnership."

Pavlov stressed that at least since 2009 the German policy towards Russia, when the Christian-liberal coalition was formed, was determined by cold pragmatics. "The basis for building this kind of dialogue was not thinking in the desired categories, but a sober assessment of the existing and medium-term realities, as well as a mathematically accurate calculation of the efficiency of this dialogue," the expert noted. – Authorities in Berlin were convinced that in the foreseeable future Russia can not only be adapted, but even brought closer to the Euro-Atlantic coordination system. It was not possible to build a scale of joint values."

It would be wrong to say, that Steinmeier's visit to Moscow was a shift in Germany's foreign policy and its distance from the United States, Pavlov stressed. "Atlanticism continues to be the cornerstone of Berlin's foreign policy," the scientist said. "Germany is adapting to the changing conditions of the game in the international arena, when the positions of some countries are strengthening, and positions of the others are weakening."

Economy continues to be the basis of German-Russian relations, Pavlov recalled. "Economic ties between the two countries can be compared with the circulatory system, which, if blocked, will be followed by the physical destruction of a complex interstate organism, whose construction took many decades," he said. "And this will inevitably lead to the weakening of these countries and, in the long run, to the marginalization of their role in world politics."

Despite the general crisis of relations between Russia and the West, the investment of German businesses into Russia is growing. "It is important that the bulk of German companies remained on the Russian market, adjusting and adapting their projects to changing conditions," Pavlov said. "German and Russian business have largely adapted to the negative situation associated with sanctions."

Nevertheless, for an adequate assessment of the state of Russian-German economic relations, it is necessary to remember, that "the total amount invested in the Russian economy by German capital reached 1.95 billion euros in 2016. It is a drop in the ocean. Let me remind you, that the Federal Republic invests about 2.1 billion euros in China annually. For Russia it is a total indicator for all years," the expert concluded.

Views expressed are of individual Members and Contributors, rather than the Club's, unless explicitly stated otherwise.