Russia’s relations with its key ally in the EU – Germany – are worsening, the Kommersant daily writes. The Petersburg Dialogue forum of the RF and German civil societies will open in Moscow on Wednesday, and on Thursday - consultations with the participation of Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chancellor of Germany Angela Merkel. The talks, believes the publication, will not be easy: while the economy relations between the two countries are developing successfully, there is an acute crisis in the political sphere.
The main reason for the differences is Berlin’s dramatically intensified criticism of the political situation in Russia. First, the German authorities criticised the parliamentary and presidential elections in Russia, then started to regularly give negative assessments of the changes taking place in the country.
The coordinator of the German government on cooperation with the Russian Federation, Deputy Chairman of the ruling Christian Democratic Union in the Bundestag, Andreas Schockenhoff, became the mouthpiece of this trend. He made some harsh statements about the actions of the Russian authorities, criticising the new law on rallies and NGOs, the return of the defamation article to the RF Criminal Code, as well as the trial of Pussy Riot.
This has caused irritation in Moscow. A source in the Russian Foreign Ministry described the position of the coordinator of the German government as a “reflection of foreign policy arrogance” and promised that the Petersburg Dialogue forum will work - regardless of the participation in it of Schockenhoff himself.
In October, the conflict around Andreas Schockenhoff escalated into a diplomatic scandal. In response to the politician’s statement that “Russia is facing the loss of influence in global affairs,” the RF Foreign Ministry questioned “his capacity to act” and accused him of using “smear tactics.”
German chancellor’s press secretary Steffen Seibert responded to the Russian Foreign Ministry: “Not every frank statement or substantive criticism is denigration. The coordinators of the German government are appointed in Berlin and not abroad.”
Having received such a clear support, Andreas Schockenhoff introduced in the Bundestag in late October the harshest in recent years resolution on the situation in the Russian Federation. “With great concern the Bundestag states that after the return Vladimir Putin to Russia’s presidency, the legislative measures aimed at increasing control over active citizens and testifying to the course for confrontation with the critics of the authorities have been adopted in the country,” it is said in the document approved by the Bundestag last Friday. The resolution urges Merkel to raise these issues at the talks in Moscow, as well as to strengthen contacts with the “liberal elites and opposition” of the Russian Federation.
The German government has taken into account the opinion of the legislators. An article by Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle was published on Monday in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung newspaper that said that Berlin would be “very closely” monitoring the actions of the Russian authorities in the field of human rights. “The partnership relations do not imply the rejection of criticism,” warned the author.
Moscow has flatly rejected Berlin’s criticism. “The Bundestag views have no relation to reality. This is a clearly exaggerated reaction, typical of modern German ruling class,” first deputy head of the Duma Committee on Foreign Affairs Vyacheslav Nikonov told the Kommersant daily. “Not a single legal action, which would be absent in German law, has been taken in Russia.”