Perizat RISBEK KIZI
On January 3, 2022, the Bild news agency reported that this month the head of the German government expects to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin. The agency claims that Chancellor’s foreign policy adviser Jan Plettner “has been preparing a meeting” for two weeks now “between the head of the FRG government and the Russian leader in January”. However, German government and Moscow have not yet commented on the information about a possible meeting between Putin and Scholz.
It is worth emphasizing that earlier, on December 21, 2021, Russian President Vladimir Putin and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz held telephone conversations, in which, according to the Kremlin, Moscow informed about Russian proposals for long-term, legally enshrined security guarantees, excluding any further NATO advance to the East, as well as the deployment of strike weapons systems in countries adjacent to Russia.
Moreover, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s foreign policy adviser Jan Plettner and Deputy Head of the Presidential Administration of the Russian Federation Dmitry Kozak agreed to hold a meeting in January, during which, in particular, they will discuss the situation around Ukraine. Also, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, in his first New Year’s address to citizens as head of government, touched upon the situation around Ukraine and stressed that the inviolability of borders cannot be a subject of negotiations.
Development of Russian-German relations
Today there are several main versions of the future of Russian-German relations. One of them was recently presented by the German news agency Bild. It argues that the social democrat Olaf Scholz, who has become the chancellor of Germany, will not establish “special relations” with Russia. According to Welt correspondent Christoph Wanner, the latest diplomatic crisis, or rather the expulsion of two German diplomats by Russia in response to a similar step in Berlin, is an expected step, since such a measure is an established practice and meets the principle of reciprocity. According to him, Russian-German relations are currently “developing in a downward spiral” and are in a state of decline. The situation, Wanner notes, is also exacerbated by the “Ukrainian crisis”.
Alexander Kamkin, a researcher at the Center for German Studies at the Institute of RAN, noted that Scholz belongs to the generation of German politicians for whom a special regime of relations with the United States is “a categorical imperative”. According to the expert, in the East, the new chancellor will build balanced relations with Moscow, however one should not expect a breakthrough in the Russian-German dialogue. At the same time, as Kamkin explains, gas will remain in demand in Germany even with Germany’s full transition to a green economy, since the chemical industry will need raw materials. Rolf Nickel, former German ambassador to Poland, spoke about Nord Stream -2. He stressed that the freezing of the certification of Nord Stream – 2 by the German government is absolutely necessary and any speculation about who has what differences in the government, between the Greens and the Social Democrats, is currently irrelevant. Because this is all connected with the pulling together of Russian military forces to the Ukrainian border. It is worth emphasizing that during his visit to Poland, The new Chancellor Olaf Scholz expressed the view that the pipeline was a tool to deter Russia from taking aggressive actions against Ukraine. The leaders of the German regulator stated that the application for an operating permit would not be processed before the second half of 2022.
According to the research center Riddle, Scholz had only minimal influence on foreign policy during his career, especially in relation to Eastern Europe. Therefore, to reinforce this political line, the new chancellor invited Jan Plettner to join his office as chief adviser on foreign and security policy. By the way, as the center notes, the appointment of Plettner to a key post in the ministry is largely commented on as a sign of a change in Germany’s eastern policy not in favour of Russia. It is worth noting that in 2014, Plettner served as head of the administration of President Steinmeier and was directly involved in the formation of Germany’s position during the events in Kiev, and then in Eastern Ukraine. In addition, the Defence Committee was chaired by Marie-Agnes Strack-Zimmermann, who, on the one hand, criticized Moscow for deploying a large contingent on the border with Ukraine, but, on the other hand, stressed the importance of good relations with Russia, including in connection with the events in Afghanistan. Thus, it can be stated that Germany’s foreign policy strategy towards Russia is mainly based on maintaining the status quo and de-escalation of situation in Ukraine.