Germany’s Russia problem

The struggle for balance in Europe

Author: John Lough

History overshadows Germany’s relations with Russia today, greatly complicating Berlin’s efforts to design effective policies to manage the challenge posed by Russia to Europe’s stability. This book examines the impact of Germans’ intense and dramatic relationship with Russia going back centuries to explain the failure of Berlin’s Russia policy after 1991. It focused heavily on ‘soft’ power by promoting people to people contacts and encouraging trade. Grateful for Moscow’s blessing of reunification and anxious to avoid confrontation, German policymakers ignored Russia’s drift to authoritarianism, its growing confidence fuelled by high commodity prices and its gradual alienation from Europe. Confrontation was inevitable once Russia no longer felt bound by the security principles that ended the Cold War. Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014 was a deep shock to the German elites. It caused a sharp shift in Russia policy as Chancellor Merkel led a European response to stabilise Ukraine, which included imposing economic sanctions on Russia. However, true to its old instincts, Germany continued to promote energy cooperation with Russia and even supported the expansion of a gas pipeline from Germany to Russia that was damaging to Ukraine. The book discusses these policies and their outcomes and argues that the economic relationship is overstated and camouflages the true state of overall relations. The analysis also considers the issue of Russian influence in Germany and the dangers it poses. The book concludes that Germany needs to think strategically about Russia and to define policy goals based on interests not emotions.

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