Steinmeier's Visit to Moscow Can Help Normalize Russian-German Relations

The visit of German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier to Moscow was not really landmark. It was not an official state visit. Germany refused to give it such a status, because it decided that the official decor is not yet timely, Alexander Rahr, the scientific director of the German-Russian forum, said in an interview with

Steinmeier arrived in Moscow on a working visit at the invitation of the head of the Russian state. Negotiations of Vladimir Putin with the Federal President of Germany took place in the Kremlin on October 25. During the meeting, prospects for the development of relations between the two countries were discussed. According to Alexander Rahr, it is impossible to talk about the full normalization of relations, because the situation in Ukraine remains quite tense. However, the visit of the German president, even at the working level, can already be considered a great success.

"It is good that the visit took place, after it the process of normalizing Russian-German relations can go easier than before," Rahr said.

The expert noted, that Steinmeier as president is not a politician responsible for the work of the government, he remains outside the executive branch and performs ceremonial functions - foreign and domestic policies of Germany are determined by the chancellor. "But Frank-Walter Steinmeier's personality is very distinctive. He remains one of the leaders of that Social Democracy, which still follows the spirit of Willy Brandt," Rahr said. Moreover, Steinmeier remains the ideologue of the Social Democratic Party of Germany, which historically has been in favor of a strong strategic relationship with Russia.

As to possible differences between the President and Chancellor Merkel regarding Russia, both German politicians primarily support the implementation of the Minsk agreements, without it the normalization of relations is impossible.

"Not all European countries think so. In their opinion, the Minsk agreements cannot be fulfilled, and Russia has nothing to do in Europe. These are primarily the United States, Poland and Ukraine," Alexander Rahr said.

According to the expert, Steinmeier is more than Merkel committed to the principle that "Europe should be together with Russia, not separately." The President of Germany decided that it was time to come to Russia. His predecessor, Joachim Gauck, for a long time refused to come to Moscow, Rahr recalled, thereby creating a vacuum in the relations that must be filled, even in the framework of a working visit, not a state visit. "It's good that there was a beautiful historical pretext for Steinmeier's visit - the transfer of the Lutheran Cathedral building in Moscow to the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Russia. This is considered in Germany as a good gift for the Reformation of Luther anniversary celebration," Rahr said.

During the visit Steinmeier also made it clear that Vladimir Putin's proposal regarding the UN troops in Ukraine should be supported. "And this happened at a time when any proposals made by Russia on the settlement in Ukraine are usually rejected. When the German president said that it is necessary to move forward, it would be strange to hear again such statements, that Putin's proposals are worthless. We can say that in this respect the visit succeeded," Alexander Rahr stressed.

He also recalled, that in early October Vladimir Putin met with high-ranking representatives of the German business circles, and by the end of 2017 there will be several important events in bilateral relations: the Petersburg Dialogue, the German-Russian Raw materials Forum, etc.

"This shows that the German-Russian dialogue is moving again. And Steinmeier gave a new impulse to the Russian-German cooperation. The most important now is to make full use of the positive results of the visit," the expert concluded.

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