German-Russian Relations: Change of Paradigm versus ‘Business as Usual’

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Series Details Number 120
Publication Date February 2015
ISBN 78-2-36567-352-5
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In 2014, Germany’s relations with Russia markedly deteriorated. The decline was precipitous but it did not occur suddenly. It began some time before Moscow’s annexation of Crimea in March 2014 and the Kremlin’s support for separatism and thinly concealed military intervention in eastern Ukraine. In the period from the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1992 through Gerhard Schröder’s chancellorship (1998–2005), Germany was Russia’s privileged partner in Europe. In that sense, Berlin had a ‘special relationship’ with Moscow, officially labelled ‘strategic partnership’. Such patterns of the past raise the question whether the current crisis in German-Russian relations is merely a temporary phenomenon, a downturn that will again be replaced almost literally by ‘business as usual’, or if the present deterioration of relations is to be regarded as a change of paradigm that encompasses all dimensions of policy and is likely to persist for the foreseeable future?

This Note du Cerfa attempts to answer this question. In doing so, it will first focus on changes of perception and paradigm on six different levels, that are decisive for the formulation of Germany’s policy vis-à-vis Russia. These include: (1) the effects of Putin’s new domestic and foreign course; (2) the position of the German Green party on the government’s Russia policy; (3) shifts in SPD perceptions of Russia; (4) the consensus of the CDU/CSU-SPD coalition government vis-à-vis Russia; (5) the importance of Russia for German industry and commerce and Germany’s dependency on Russian gas; (6) the public opinion vis-à-vis Russia.

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