Russia Policy Scenarios

BERLIN/MOSCOW | | russische-foederation

BERLIN/MOSCOW (Own report) - Hefty debates have ignited around Germany's policy toward Russia. On the heels of an incident between two high-ranking personalities in the foreign policy establishment over Germany's strategy toward Moscow, the tension has been heightened by last weekend's official snub of the Russian government by the German Chancellor. Immediately afterwards, she expressed her support for expanding economic cooperation. To try to resolve the differences within Berlin's establishment, the SPD-affiliated Friedrich Ebert Foundation has just published a paper with four scenarios for future policy toward Russia, intended to make it easier to explore the various options and their potentials. The scenarios range from intensive cooperation, in the aftermath of regime change in Moscow; to a simple hegemonic motivated cooperation in the aftermath of a partial collapse of the Euro zone; to German-Russian arrangements on the mutual control of Central Asia and Southeast Europe in the aftermath of the USA's "transfer of its focus to the Pacific." A readjustment of the German policy toward Russia is not out of the question in the aftermath of the upcoming German parliamentary elections.

Dissention in the Establishment

Dissention over German policy toward Russia has again become accentuated in Berlin, due to dissention revolving around the question of whether relations with Moscow should be more cooperative or more confrontational. Business circles and proponents of establishing a Euro-Asian block have always called for close cooperation. As a matter of fact, it is the economic cooperation that has come to represent a stable basis of German-Russian relations. (german-foreign-policy.com reported.[1]) On the other hand, because of massive differences on numerous global policy questions - the best known example being currently the difference of approach to the war on Syria - transatlantic forces are calling for the transatlantic block to close ranks, to do everything possible to repel Moscow in this global power struggle. Recently, the disagreement escalated into an incident, when, in an open letter, the chairperson of the German-Russian Forum, the diplomat Ernst-Jörg von Studnitz, declined his participation in a conference organized by the German government's Russia policy coordinator, Andreas Schockenhoff. At the end of last week, the conflicting interests finally became evident even at government level. Chancellor Merkel snubbed the Russian government in St. Petersburg with an official declaration of wanting to repatriate works of art taken by Moscow as reparation payments in the aftermath of World War II. Immediately afterwards, the chancellor held talks on expanding economic cooperation with her Russian counterparts.

Disguised as Humanitarian Human Rights

Because of accentuation of dissention, the SPD-affiliated Friedrich Ebert Foundation has now published a paper on the development of Germany's policy toward Russia, examining four different scenarios. The foundation insists that these are not predictions but merely food for thought, which could point to possible consequences of current policies and provide ideas.[2] Normative elements are embedded in these scenarios, hinged on the arguments from both camps of the German policy toward Russia. Both camps drape a humanitarian human rights cloak around their interest impelled policies. Whereas transatlanticists regularly explain that Russia's new authoritarian tendencies must be openly opposed, proponents of German-Russian cooperation are contending that, with closer cooperation, one will be able to change conditions in Moscow.

Alliance based on Shared Principles

The first scenario described by the Friedrich Ebert Foundation boils down to the creation of an "alliance based on shared principles." It parts from the premise that the shale oil and gas boom, particularly in the USA,[3] will provoke a drastic reduction in Russia's intake from its natural resource exports. This, in turn, will inevitably result in a cutback on social benefits, which in turn would lead to mass protests and eventually to the government's demise and replacement by pro-Western forces. This scenario is clearly focusing on the young, urban middle strata, which is gaining strength and, for years, has repeatedly been demonstrating against the Russian government. Their often pro-western orientation has been treated with sympathy, also in the German media.[4] Following their takeover of the government, Berlin could enter a very close cooperation "based on shared principles," according to this first scenario in the Ebert Foundation paper. This would include economic as well as so-called security policies. German industry would, according to this scenario, overhaul Russia's dilapidated enterprises - a step, Moscow has sought to achieve with an official "German-Russian Modernization Partnership" accord, some time ago,[5] but which the German side has persistently refused to honor. The Ebert Foundation speculates, in conclusion, that perhaps, in the wake of the USA's "transfer of its focus to the Pacific," it may even be possible to initiate a regular cooperation between Russia and NATO.

Pragmatic Partnership

The second scenario ("Pragmatic Partnership") is very different from the first. It parts from the premise that the EU will not survive the Euro crisis unscathed. Following the withdrawals of Greece, Italy and other southern member states from the Euro zone, only a "core Europe" under German leadership will remain. In the domain of foreign policy, a pragmatic political policy takes hold in Berlin, even in relations with Russia. Moscow would be affected by the crisis-ridden collapse of the EU, in the sense that there will be a clear reduction in trade with the EU's faltering economies. It will react with a reorientation, focusing particularly on China and an expansion of the "Eurasian Union,"[6] in which it is assured a predominating role in Central Asia. Germany would probably be successful in maintaining its privileged relations with Russia. This would prove strategically advantageous. Because the USA is orienting its activities to a growing extent toward Asia and must reduce its activities in other regions of the world, the previous Western predominance in regions, such as Central Asia and parts of Southeast Europe, could be endangered. In this scenario, the Ebert Foundation supposes that, since Russia has consolidated its political power, it may be possible to stabilize predominance in these regions - in consultations with Moscow.

New Ice Age

The third scenario anticipates a "new ice age" in German-Russian relations. This scenario parts from the assumption that, under pressure in its domestic and foreign policies, the Russian establishment will take recourse to harsh domestic repression and blatant anti-democratic measures. In that case, Western investors would withdraw from Russia and it can be expected that tensions would rise between Western countries and Russia. In this scenario, Russia would then orient itself more toward the East, strengthen its hegemony over as many countries as possible of the former Soviet Union and, from time to time, conclude tactical agreements with China. For its industries, which can be expected to pull out of the increasingly risky businesses in Russia, Germany would have to find new markets, for example, in Latin America and Eastern Asia, while distancing itself from Moscow. Tensions between the West and Russia could become similar to those of the Cold War. The fourth scenario ("business as usual") would resemble Germany's policy toward Russia as it has been over the past few years: lucrative business deals, occasional tension and everything held together by a pragmatic realpolitik.

Serve Both Camps

Given the current fierce debate between the pro-Russian and the transatlanticist camps, some observers expect a readjustment of Germany's policy toward Russia following September's parliamentary elections. Independent of the outcome, a readjustment would have to take the interests of the energy and export industries into account, as well as those of the transatlanticist global strategists. The Ebert Foundation's scenarios offer suggestions.

More texts on German policy toward Russia can be found here: Energy Realignment toward Russia, German-Russian Contradictions, Europe and Eurasia (II), Fostering Relationships, Partner Nation Russia and Struggle for the Ukraine.

[1] see also Partner Nation Russia
[2] Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung: Germany and Russia in 2030. Scenarios for a Bilateral Relationship, Berlin 2013. Diesem Papier sind die folgenden Zitate entnommen.
[3] see also Die Geopolitik der Energie and Die Geopolitik der Energie (II)
[4] see also Risiken und Nebenwirkungen
[5] see also Natürliche Modernisierungspartner, The Berlin-Moscow Economic Axis (III) and Europa und Eurasien
[6] see also Europas Werte and Struggle for the Ukraine