_ Vladislav Belov, head of the Center for German Studies at the Institute of Europe of the Russian Academy of Sciences. Moscow, May 4th 2017.
The visit of German Chancellor Angela Merkel to Russia confirmed the good state of Russian-German relations. Results of the visit draw quite an acceptable picture, which until recently was denied by most experts: we constantly hear about the crisis, but it turned out that not everything is so bad.
The idea imposed by German journalists, that Angela Merkel came to Russia solely within the framework of the election campaign, is erroneous. Also wrong is the point of view of the Russian media, which emphasize the image part of the visit in the context of the pre-election race.
In mid-February, at the Munich Security Conference, Merkel said in her speech, that we should concentrate not on existing problems, but on finding a common ground. Probably, Merkel understands the futility of constant criticism, mutual claims and pinpricks toward Russia.
Vladimir Putin heard Merkel’s message. It was not by chance that in March it was decided to invite the German Chancellor to Russia. It is also not accidental that Merkel agreed – contrary to her statements that she will not come to Russia until there is progress on Syria and Ukraine. She understands that without meeting with Putin this progress will not be achieved (or will be, but in some remote perspective), and her preparation work for the G20 summit will not be so effective.
Judging by the so-called “body language”, the way the leaders of the two countries behaved at the press conference, we can say that they were satisfied with the results of the talks.
It was initially clear that the positions of both sides will be tough, but the conversation will be constructive. The parties’ stiffness was, in particular, expressed regarding the situation in Ukraine. The interpretations are radically different: if the February 2014 events for Russia are a coup d’état, in the opinion of Angela Merkel this is a democratic process. But it is important, that when these differences were identified, there was a definite move forward, when both sides said that neither Russia nor Germany would undertake drastic movements on the main crisis problems. The “Normandy format”, the Minsk Agreements, are preserved. Putin outlined the minimum – that Kiev and unrecognized republics should sit down at the negotiating table. And this is the most important result that has been achieved.
Many noticed Vladimir Putin’s support for the upcoming July G-20 summit in Hamburg with Angela Merkel’s chairmanship. We can say, that it was revealed who Vladimir Putin supports in this pre-election race. This was an indirect response to the standard question of the DPA correspondent regarding possible Russian intervention in the election campaign.
Finally, it is important to note the good state of Russian-German relations in all spheres, despite the understanding of the frozen political dialogue at the highest level. Vladimir Putin took over the economic and political sphere, Angela Merkel – science, culture, humanitarian sphere, civil society; she underlined the difficult decision for Berlin to prolong the St. Petersburg Dialogue. If we put it all together, we see a pretty good picture, which until recently was rejected by most experts. We constantly hear about the crisis, but it turned out that not everything is so bad.