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Russian-German relations face uneasy time

September 11, 2014, 16:30 UTC+3 Alexandrova Lyudmila

MOSCOW, September 11. /ITAR-TASS/. German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s harsh stance in support of wider sanctions against Russia, of which her Wednesday statement is fresh evidence, should be attributed to Atlantic solidarity and specifically to pressures from the United States, Russian experts believe. As for business interests, they have been pushed into the background.

Ordinary Russians not very familiar with the twists and turns of big politics feel offended over Merkel’s attitude, because Russia’s public mind had regarded Germany as Moscow’s “great friend” until just recently. My 85-year-old mother-in-law, who is still in good shape for a full-time job and for attending social events, is telling me she feels greatly worried “why that Merkel woman is so hostile to us.”

Generally speaking, many in Russia until just recently had hoped that in Germany, which is Russia’s biggest trading partner, local businesses would manage to force the government to respect their interests. Some also point out that Berlin’s attitude to the problem of anti-Russian sanctions has been inconsistent all the way to have changed several times this year alone.

The chief of the European Union information centre EU-i at the Europe Studies Institute under the Russian Academy of Sciences, Yuri Borko, sees several reasons that may explain the federal chancellor’s stance. “Firstly, Merkel has long dragged her feet on the issue of sanctions, for which she has repeatedly come under the fire of criticism from the United States, as well as from Britain and other European countries. Possibly, she has decided to change her attitude now somewhat. Secondly, last Wednesday’s statement may have been addressed to the domestic audience. Thirdly, after we imposed the food import embargo, which has hit the Germans, too, she may have decided to take a harder line towards Russia, Borko told the ITAR-TASS Political Analysis Centre.

The expert agrees that this looks like an attempt to sit on two chairs - to avoid harming relations with Russia beyond repair and at the same time to act in concert with the rest of the West. “Merkel hopes she will manage to keep the door open either way.”

“These days Russian-German relations are surely not in their prime. Under colossal pressures from the United States Berlin has had to push its business interests into the background,” the director of European and international studies centre at the World Economy and World Politics department of the Higher School of Economics, Timofei Bordachyov, has told ITAR-TASS in an interview.

As the political scientist remarked, up to the middle of July Germany had tried to follow a moderate line, but after the Malaysian Boeing disaster and the active media campaign in the US and British media it had to change its mind. German businesses opposed sanctions, but German politicians could not but display solidarity with the United States and also with the other EU countries.

“The situation is so complex that Merkel simply had no other option. But the pressure of business interests is so great that as soon as the tensions are defused, Germany will promptly turn the situation to its own advantage,” Bordachyov said.

The board chairman of the Political Technologies Centre, Boris Makarenko, has said that in a situation like this NATO cannot but present a common front.

“NATO is a mechanism that makes collective decisions only and the alliance’s common position at the moment is pressure on Russia is necessary,” he told ITAR-TASS.

Also, in his opinion one should not idealize Germany’s role in international conflicts. For instance, Berlin was one of the main engines of NATO’s policy during the war in Yugoslavia.

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