«Relationships destroyed, bond of trust severed»
A viewpoint of Thomas Röper.
German-Russian relations have been destroyed, the bond of trust has been severed, Germany has broken away from Willy Brandt’s Ostpolitik. This is how the Russian Foreign Ministry commented on the state of relations between Russia and Germany. Read the complete official statement of the Russian Foreign Ministry here.
Already on October 1, I interpreted Moscow’s reactions at that time as meaning that from the Russian point of view the German government was wilfully destroying relations with Russia, and I had explained this in detail. Unfortunately, on Tuesday it became clear that I was right. During a panel discussion at the Valdai Forum, Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov announced that Russia should stop talking to the EU (and thus also to Germany) in light of recent events.
For five years Russia has patiently endured sanctions and anti-Russian attacks by Western politicians without taking serious countermeasures. Especially with the EU, Russia has been lenient in the knowledge that much of what came from there came about under pressure from the USA. An important anchor for the Russian-European relationship was – despite everything – the good relationship between Putin and Merkel. I have often mentioned that Putin never speaks negatively about other politicians and that he rarely speaks positively about other politicians without being asked. Merkel was the big exception, he often mentioned her positively.
The reason might be – so my guess – that things were different behind closed doors than in front of the press. No matter how different Putin and Merkel may be and no matter how great the political differences were, the two obviously trusted each other. And especially for Putin, for which he is known among friends and enemies, personal trust is more important than anything else. And anyone who has betrayed his trust once, as many examples from the past show, has «died» for Putin, with all the consequences.
Merkel betrayed this trust in the Navalny case, and therefore it was foreseeable to me, who has dealt with Putin very intensively, that Merkel has crossed a red line here from Putin’s point of view, which could not remain without consequences.
Lawrow’s statements on Tuesday were subsequently confirmed by the Kremlin spokesman, and while the political epochal change that is currently taking place is completely ignored by the German media, there is speculation in the Russian media about how the new nonrelationship between Moscow and Brussels, or Moscow and Berlin, might now be affected. Russia has meanwhile announced that it is withdrawing from cooperation in the investigation of MH-17, because there only Russia is accused anyway, and any hint that does not point to Russia is ignored. But this is probably only the beginning of the reorientation of Russian foreign policy.
On Thursday, the weekly press conference of the Russian Foreign Ministry took place and spokeswoman Maria Sakharova spoke in detail about the new reality and the reasons for it. This became the subject of three successive thematic blocks (new EU sanctions, interview with Foreign Minister Maas and how the OPCW is dealing with the Navalny case) and I have translated it here in one piece.
Since the text has therefore become very long, I have considered splitting it into several articles. But I have decided against it, because the connections are blurred if the statements are split up. Since it has become a very long text, I have exceptionally marked the statements in bold print, which are decisive in my eyes. Above all, however, these are formulations such as have not been heard from Moscow towards the EU and especially towards Berlin since Adenauer’s times.
Start of the translation of the official Russian declaration:
In the last 24 hours the European Union has «born» a series of sanctions against Russian citizens and legal entities. In addition to the previously announced steps in connection with the so-called poisoning of Alexei Navalny, restrictions have been imposed on alleged participation in the destabilization of the situation in Libya, including violation of the UN arms embargo against the country.
The declarations of the European Union cited as justification for these decisions not only do not stand up to criticism, but are also on the verge of absurdity. Of course, no evidence has been presented. We consider the EU’s attempts to use the authority of the UN to cover up its harmful political objectives to be totally unacceptable.
We have repeatedly warned our colleagues in Brussels and other European capitals that the EU’s obsessive desire to attach the situation with Navalny to the Russian side will become a «litmus test» for our future relations with the EU. It is with regret that we note that our words have not been heeded. These steps will not remain without our appropriate response.
Once again we call on the European Union to return to international law and not to divide states into «worthy» and «unworthy» geopolitical partners, but to opt for stable and progressive cooperation instead of aggravating confrontations based on short-term political goals.
Interview with Federal Minister of Foreign Affairs Maas
On October 13, 2020, Federal Foreign Minister Maas described the situation surrounding the poisoning of Navalny in an interview with the Russian news agency RIA Novosti as «not an object of Russian-German relations. We regard such statements as a tactical diversionary maneuver that serves as a cover for Germany’s course to destroy bilateral relations. We recall that it was Berlin that openly shirked its own international legal obligations to provide Russia with practical assistance in investigating the incident involving the Russian citizen and used this story to make the well-known unfounded accusations, ultimatums and threats against our country, and that Germany once again took the initiative as the locomotive for new anti-Russian sanctions within the European Union and other multilateral structures.
We categorically reject the statements made by Mr. Maas, not for the first time in public, that representatives of the Russian government claim that Navalny poisoned himself. This is a pure lie. No one has ever made such statements. We consider these words of the German Foreign Minister as a provocation that has left every framework of ethics.
We cannot consider the statements of the German Foreign Minister that Berlin has an interest in maintaining good or at least reasonable relations between Russia and Germany as sincere. We would like to point out that the nature and significance of Russian-German relations in the public consciousness are determined not only by geography, as Mr. Maas stated in the interview, but also and especially by our shared history, in which alone in the 20th century such fateful events as the liberation of Germany and Europe from National Socialism by the Soviet Union, the unprecedented reconciliation of the peoples of our countries in the post-war period, and Moscow’s decisive contribution to the restoration of German unity are inscribed. The German government is undermining the trust built up over decades, which was the basis for the friendship between the USSR and the GDR and for Willy Brandt’s Ostpolitik. Today Berlin is breaking away from both the GDR and the political legacy of Willy Brandt.
The bond of mutual trust has been torn apart. And this is not due to Russian actions, but to the politics of the West in recent years: the expansion of NATO despite guarantees to the contrary, the support of militants in the Russian Caucasus, the political cover for the revanchist military aggression of Georgia under the leadership of Saakashvili in 2008, the support of the anti-Russian motivated, westward directed coup in Ukraine in 2014 and much more.
As for Maas’s remarks on the current situation in Belarus, we call on the German Foreign Minister not to interfere in the internal affairs of the state with which Russia forms a union state. We are certain that the Belarusians do not need instructions from Berlin or other foreign capitals to reach agreement on socially important issues that concern only them. Aggressive interventions of the collective West in the domestic political processes of third countries inevitably lead to the emergence of new trouble spots on the world map.
The OPCW’s handling of the Navalny case
During the 95th session of the OPCW Executive Council in The Hague on October 9, a politicized discussion was held at the initiative of the USA on the incident involving the Russian blogger Navalny. The group of the Euro-Atlantic «Commonwealth» as well as its satellites attempted to attribute to Russia a gross violation of the Convention on the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.
This happened against the background of the OPCW’s non-transparent cooperation with Germany in taking and analyzing samples of the Russian citizen. Information about Berlin’s request to the OPCW was not made public until 10 days after Germany’s written request to the organization, when it became clear that the results of German military medical experts had been confirmed by two similar military laboratories in France and Sweden.
I would like to remind you that this is an incident that took place on Russian territory with a Russian citizen. It was in Russia, where everything possible was done to save Navalny’s life: the emergency landing of the plane in Omsk, the medical assistance provided immediately and competently by Russian doctors, which stabilized the patient’s condition within two days, the unbureaucratic and immediate permission to transport him to a German clinic for treatment, even though he was not actually allowed to leave the country in connection with a court case.
Against this backdrop, the Russian state’s interest in poisoning the blogger Navalny with chemical weapons is, to say the least, unconvincing. It is illogical that the Russian government, which is supposed to have poisoned him in an extremely dangerous and specific way, should then hand him over to the care of chemists in the German Armed Forces. That is absurd.
Another question is how the German side was able to identify the so-called «Novichok» in the samples from Navalny. According to Germany, such a class of substances was never synthesized there, but it was found «beyond doubt», we are told. The same question must be asked to the OPCW laboratories in France and Sweden.
The position of the official Berlin does not stand up to criticism. They have preferred a propagandistic campaign with sensationalist statements by high-ranking representatives to a civilized dialogue between the responsible authorities. If, as they say, they have «evidence of poisoning» in their hands, what is stopping them from presenting it to the Russian side? More than that, they do not even make it available to their allies. Germany’s allies say so themselves. They admit that they believe Berlin on their word. Apparently, this is a kind of block discipline: One person says «believe me» – and everyone believes him. But they have not been shown any evidence, they don’t even talk about it.
When Russian law enforcement agencies repeatedly turn to German partners for help, the German side remains silent instead, sticks to its line and says: «You poisoned Navalny, but we won’t give you anything and we won’t talk to you either.
This behavior contradicts the existing legal framework and the practice of Russian-German cooperation. The requests for legal assistance from Russia’s Prosecutor General’s Office – there have already been four to Germany and one each to France and Sweden – were submitted on the basis of the 1959 European Convention on Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters. But this time something went wrong.
Russia has never provided a reason to question its obligations under the Chemical Weapons Convention. In our country, all chemical weapons stockpiles have been completely destroyed before the agreed deadline, the relevant technological equipment has been dismantled, the verification system in chemical plants is functioning, and we are participating in international cooperation in the non-proliferation of chemical weapons.
In accordance with the working methods of the OPCW, to which the German partners have turned in this matter, they are obliged to cooperate with Russia within the framework of the Convention. We have sent them such a request. Instead of a reply, an excuse came.
We are waiting for replies to the requests for legal assistance from Sweden and France, which we sent to them because they allegedly found a texture indicating that the Russian citizen had been poisoned. We recall that according to the national criminal law of many countries, concealing evidence from law enforcement agencies conducting preliminary investigations or investigating a crime qualifies as complicity in the crime and is punishable by law.
The Technical Secretariat of the OPCW is also obliged to carry out its tasks and provide concrete explanations to the State Party, in this case Russia. Taking into account the situation surrounding the so-called «poisoning» of Navalnys announced by a number of countries, we sent a proposal to the leadership of the OPCW Technical Secretariat on October 1 this year to send experts to Russia to work with Russian experts on this matter. This is necessary in order to detect signs of possible crime on the territory of the Russian Federation. Currently, work is underway to prepare for the visit.
So far we do not see any willingness in the West to cooperate with the Russian side, it is limited to the rhetoric we hear. It is often simply unacceptable. The goal is obvious – once again, without evidence, they try to accuse Russia and create a pretext for imposing new sanctions on our country.
Thomas Röper, born in 1971, has held executive and supervisory board positions as an expert on Eastern Europe in financial services companies in Eastern Europe and Russia. Today, he lives in his adopted country St. Petersburg. He has lived in Russia for over 15 years and speaks fluent Russian. The focus of his media-critical work is the (media) image of Russia in Germany, criticism of Western media coverage in general and the topics of (geo)politics and economics.
Thanks to the author for the right to publish the article.
This article first appeared on 15. 10. 2020 at anti-spiegel.ru
Picture source: Golden Brown / shutterstock
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