Thursday, December 24, 2009

Window on Eurasia: ‘GeRussia’—the New Strategic Partnership between Berlin and Moscow

Paul Goble

Vienna, December4 24 – A new term is circulating in European capitals – “GeRussia” – to designate the rapidly expanding strategic partnership between Berlin and Moscow, an alliance that one Moscow commentator says will conform to German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle’s call for ties between the two powers “without any ‘ifs’ or ‘buts.’”
Westerwelle’s statement, made during his recent visit to Moscow, Moscow commentator
Viktor Krestyaninov argues in today’s “Argumenty nedeli,” represents an effort to restore the close ties that Russia and Germany had until the early years of the last century, ties that some are now calling “a Moscow-Berlin axis” (
Indeed, the “Argumenty nedeli” political commentator says, “many analysts are even beginning to speak” not simply about the appearance of such “an axis” but about a new political formation – “GeRussia,” that is “Germany plus Russia,” in which the economic power of the one and the political weight of the other will complement one another.
The 20th century provided an object lesson of what could happen to both countries if they are at odds, Krestyaninov argues, and the conflicts of that period – both world wars and the Cold War – provide support for those in both capitals who have concluded that they could profit from cooperation.
Analysts and officials in Moscow are especially interested in such an alliance, he continues, because it would help Russia cope with what Krestyanninov says are “three serious challenges:” American interest in “the economic weakening of Moscow,” the growing power of China especially in the Far East, and expanding Islamist activism in the south.
Although many Russians even now like to cite Alexander III’s observation that “Russia has only two allies, its army and its fleet,” most recognize that to stand up to and then repel “all threats by itself is difficult,” Krestyaninov says. “The country [also and especially now] needs strong allies.”
“Of the comparatively large and significant neighbor-states,” he continues, “the most suitable candidate [for that role] is Germany.” Its economic strength has not yet been translated into political power, and thus Berlin has an interest in forming ties with Russia, whose political weight exceeds its economic strength, in order to stand up to the US, the UK and France.
Despite the events of the last 100 years, the “Argumenty nedeli” writer continues, Germany and Russia have had a long history of cooperation, especially in late tsarist times when the Imperial Family was vastly more German ethnically than Russian and when Bismarck said that Berlin had “no enemies to the East.”
In order to prevent Germany and Russia from coming together at that time, “the leaders of England and France” sought to cultivate the latter as “an ally in the east,” a counterweight to German power, but a policy that led Berlin to develop its policy of “Drang nach Osten” that led to the century-long “Russian-German conflict.”
In the course of those conflicts, Krestyaninov writes, “both Russia and Germany” had “significantly less territory than either did at the beginning” of the century.
Germany has real interests in the restoration of such an alliance, he argues, because despite its growing economic power, Berlin still finds itself in a situation in which others – the US in the case of NATO and France and Britain in the case of the European Union – have a greater say.
Germany remains a member of the Western alliance, “where the Americans make all the decisions,” Krestyaninov says, “but that is not the most frightening thing.” In the European Union, Germany is providing the financing for the “European integration” of Eastern Europe, even though that is becoming an ever greater burden at a time of economic crisis.
“How long Berlin will be able to finance” these countries given its own problems, the Moscow analyst says, “no one knows.” But the presence of “a German in the Kremlin” – as Alexander Rahr called Vladimir Putin already in 2001 – is very much “a long term” phenomenon.
Indeed, Krestyaninov says, “Putin is now realizing an old German dream.” Russia’s drive for modernization is allowing German “to include it in its own sphere of influence.” “The ‘Drang nach Osten’ of the German economy is permitting Germany to increase its geopolitical influence, and Russia will be able to escape its humiliating raw materials dependence.”
These geopolitical arrangements are supported by what Krestyaninov calls “Russian Germany,” which consists of East Germans like the current chancellor Angela Merkel who know Russian, more than two million ethnic Germans who have returned to their homeland from Russia, and some 5,000 German companies now working in Russia.
These trends in turn have led to the emergence of what the Moscow commentator calls “GeRussian” language, a product of “the mixing of Russian and German words” that is increasingly widespread and understood on both sides of that historical linguistic divide and that has the effect of tying the two countries closer together.
Symbolic of the new German-Russian relationship is the role of former chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, who is leading the drive for the Northern Flow gas pipeline under the Baltic
Sea. American and British commentators have criticized this because “such an alliance of Moscow and Berlin was not needed by London and is not needed by Washington.”
“Now as at the end of the 19th century,” Krestyaninov continues, “the Anglo-Saxons are not interested in the formation of strong competitors on the world arena.” And thus again as in the past, they are “thinking about” the creation of a “cordon sanitaire” around Russia consisting of the countries in between Berlin and Moscow.
Not surprisingly, Krestyaninov says, “Poland, the Czech Republic and the Baltic countries are the greatest opponents of the Moscow-Berlin axis.” As a result, he argues, “they act strictly in correspondence with the interests of Washington which opposes the construction of Russian gas pipeline bypassing the buffer states.”
And the “Argumenty nedeli” author concludes by suggesting that the political and economic nature of ties between Berlin and Moscow are acquiring a military dimension as well, with Germany providing modernized military technology and arms for Russia, even though Berlin is part of the Western alliance.

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