Baerbock in Russia and Ukraine: subtleties not to be expected – Politics

Inaugural visits are generally courtesy meetings and are used to get to know each other and discuss “all bilateral issues”. But if Federal Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock travels first to Ukraine on Monday and then from Kiev to Moscow in the evening, there will be no room for niceties – especially since the Russian Foreign Minister Foreigners Sergey Lavrov is not known to always treat his guests with care.

The Green politician arrives amid the worst crisis between the two successor states to the Soviet Union since Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014. With Russian calls for an end to all NATO expansion and withdrawal of the Eastern European alliance, the security order in Europe is at stake.

Meanwhile, Kiev fears another invasion, this time possibly much larger. President Volodymyr Zelensky’s government clearly expects Berlin to do more to protect Ukraine’s territorial integrity and sovereignty. Deliveries of arms and new sanctions against Moscow are among the demands.

Above all, mistrust is fueled by the German government’s adherence to the controversial Russian gas pipeline Nord Stream 2. Kiev is a purely geopolitical project by the Kremlin to avoid transit through Ukraine – and thus have a free hand in the neighboring country. Comments by Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) that it was a “private sector project” sparked irritation.

They refer to statements by ex-Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU), who at least admitted that “political factors” had to be taken into account. Kyiv is happy to accept promises from Berlin to help Ukraine develop green hydrogen production. Politically, however, they are seen as a consolation or a tranquilizer.

Baerbock is expected to receive more encouragement during the meeting with Selensky and Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba for Germany and France’s efforts to revive the so-called Norman format, in which the Minsk agreements between Kyiv and Moscow were negotiated in 2015 with the mediation of Paris. and Berlin. They are considering a ceasefire in eastern Ukraine and paving the way for a political solution to the conflict. However, both sides accuse each other of failing to meet their obligations.

Zelensky, it is said, is very interested in a summit meeting with Putin. However, he also referred to a three-way meeting with US President Joe Biden. From the perspective of France and Germany, substantial progress would be a prerequisite for a Normandy summit. Jens Plötner, Foreign and Security Policy Advisor to Chancellor Scholz, and his French colleague Emmanuel Bonne held preparatory talks in Kiev and Moscow. There is “cautious optimism” that a four-person meeting may soon be possible at consultant level, deputy government spokeswoman Christiane Hoffmann said on Friday in Berlin.

Lavrov was already an ambassador to the UN when Baerbock was still in school

Baerbock will have to advertise mainly in Moscow. In Berlin, after the marathon of talks last week, there is at least a general willingness on the part of the Russian side to talk, even if the march to the border with Ukraine continues and members of the government publicly doubt the value of further encounters with the west. They are counting on Putin to keep his options open and that nothing has been decided yet.

However, the latest attempt by France and Germany to revive the Norman format resulted in Foreign Minister Lavrov publishing confidential diplomatic correspondence on the subject on the internet – a flagrant violation of diplomatic conventions. . Today, after six weeks in office, Baerbock meets one of the oldest and most accomplished diplomats in the world. Lavrov was already a UN ambassador when she was still in school. It is the baptism of fire for the Minister of Foreign Affairs.

Age and government experience, however, do not guarantee that Mr. Njet will not show it. For example, when EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell appeared on cameras with Lavrov last year, the Kremlin had just made public the expulsion of three diplomats from EU countries. During the press conference, the offended Spaniard failed to decisively counter Lavrov’s allegations.

Baerbock’s predecessor Heiko Maas also tackled Lavrov, who however was against. In Moscow, it was noticed that Maas adopted a more critical position than one would have expected from a social democrat. There is no doubt that Baerbock’s statements about how to deal with authoritarian states like Russia, his formula of “dialogue and harshness”, have also been recorded. The latter is a discipline that Lavrov masters like no other.

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