German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas has spent two days in our country, visiting Moscow and Saint Petersburg. One can hardly recall someone from among the top leadership of Germany staying in Russia for so long over the past few years. In the present instance, the duration of the German Minister's trip can only be explained by numerous problems, both international and bilateral, that have accumulated during the now gradually flagging COVID-19 pandemic. It is no accident that before heading for Moscow, Heiko Maas stressed that "German-Russian relations are too important to let them run their course".
At the same time, one may note that Heiko Maas' visit pretty much coincided with the 50th anniversary of the 1970 Treaty of Moscow, which had marked the beginning of Ostpolitik (the "new eastern policy" of detente in Europe and economic cooperation) directly associated with activities of German Chancellor Willy Brandt. However, half a century ago, the matter at hand was a hopeful end to the Cold War through economic cooperation (in the energy sector, by the way), and present-day relations between Russia and Germany are more of a cold war nature. It is no accident that on certain bilateral issues the German Foreign Minister's language sounded like ill-disguised threats.
For instance, the German media told their Minister to press Russia with regard to the murder of Chechen militant Zelimkhan Khangoshvili in Berlin's Tiergarten district in last August. The German Prosecutor's office swiftly detained a Russian citizen suspected of the crime, accusing our country's special services of orchestrating the assassination. In this context, the German authorities snatched the opportunity to expel two Russian diplomats. Moreover, Berlin sent about 17 requests to Moscow asking for "legal assistance in the investigation", repeating that Russia "ignored" those.
During the current meeting with his Berlin counterpart, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov pointed out the following: "Our relevant departments have sent their German colleagues everything they have. But we would also like to receive some confirmation, some evidence regarding the statements of the German Federal Prosecutor’s Office that the Russian state is directly involved in this murder." As for Heiko Maas, he said Germany's reaction will be determined by the upcoming court's decision, and if it fixes the involvement of the Russian Federation, the German authorities will provide an appropriate response. The German Minister also "switched whip" when speaking about some 2015 hacker attacks by Russia against the German Bundestag.
The German authorities accuse Russian citizen Dmitry Badin, who, according to their data, works with the Fancy Bear group, of hacking the emails of not only several German MPs, but even Angela Merkel's. In May this year, the Prosecutor General's office of Germany launched an international manhunt for Badin. Moscow has repeatedly denied the accusations, and now Sergey Lavrov has told Heiko Maas that "we would also like our German colleagues to say something in response to the 75 requests regarding hacker attacks on Russian institutions, including government agencies, launched from the German segment of the internet."
In general, it is not by chance that the German Spiegel magazine was pointedly ironic when entitling one of its articles "Foreign Minister Maas in Russia: diplomatic ping-pong". It noted that the Russian delegation provided an adequate response to every claim from the German side. The only difference is that Maas, on behalf of the entire European Union, threatened Russia with cyber-sanctions for its "hacker attacks" on the Bundestag, while Lavrov fired no warning shots. Conceivably all for nothing.
Among the issues on which Russia and Germany are fighting for consensus, German observers particularly mention armed hostilities in Syria and Libya, as well as the situation in Eastern Ukraine. The Germans are obviously unsatisfied with Russia's support for Bashar al-Assad, General Haftar, and the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Lugansk People's Republics, respectively. The stances of Germany and Russia seem only congruent with one issue – the need to complete the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, which is purely economic and mutually beneficial. So it seems to have been the German Minister's "main course". Everything else is just a "side order" for the media.
Minister Maas along with German Chancellor Angela Merkel wanted to "look into the eyes" of their Russian partners to make certain of Moscow's inflexible determination to follow this project to its logical end. Another thing was to once again shake a finger at Washington, chastening it for the intention to impose sanctions against its European partners. Judging by Germany's backing of the previous EU sanctions against Russia, as well as its calls for new ones following some fabulous cyber-attacks, that country does not consider Russia a worthy partner. Draw your own conclusions, ladies and gentlemen.