German Ambassador to Russian: Trust Lost between Berlin and Moscow

German Ambassador to Russian: Trust Lost between Berlin and Moscow

German Ambassador is 60 years old, he is married and has five children. Baron Rüdiger von Fritsch comes from an old aristocratic family. Has worked in diplomacy since 1984. In course of his career he was a Deputy Head of the FRG Intelligence Service (BND). The last post before appointment for Russia – German Ambassador to Poland. He is a football fan.


Ambassador of the Federal Republic of Germany to Russian Rüdiger von FRITSCH in course of the exclusive interview for NG observer Yevgeniy Grigoriyev presented his evaluation of the damage made by Ukrainian crisis to the relations between the both countries and gave his idea about the ways of their regulation.  According to the Ambassador during this period Berlin and Moscow has been maintaining opened the channel of bilateral communication and know each other better than anyone else.


– Mr. Ambassador, you have taken over the watch in Moscow relatively recently. Naturally NG’s readers are extremely interested your opinion about the relations between our countries. Moreover that now it is covered with the context of Ukrainian situation, sanctions, etc.


– Yes, I have been in Russia not for long. Allow me to start with my personal impressions. They have two angles. One part proves the fact that between our countries the relations are good which reveals in plenty of spheres. I see it quite specifically meeting everywhere people with great interest to Germany or entrepreneurs striving for further development of economic cooperation. The issue of interconnection of cultures is simply out of the question. That is to say this is  reach comprehensive relations with a long-lasting stage of formation and historic routes.


But there is another aspect, connected with the current events, with the most severe crisis of our relations for the last decades. We have lost mutual trust which is the most precious in international affairs. It has become the victim of Russia’s actions: the annexation of Crimea, assistance to the events happening in the east of Ukraine. We should overcome this situation when it is unclear how to communicate, whom we can rely on. We should get back to new normality, but this demands hard work and won’t happen easily.


– But in Germany as known many people do not share such evaluations of Russia’s policy, the matter of Crimea and understand its actions. Can you comment on this?


– There is a difference between an attempt to clarify the motives of actions and their justification. In this case there is no justification. I do not consider different points of view as equal. In reality the responsibility rests upon Russia. Just see how the matter on Scotland referendum is being solved in Great Britain.  It is held with the consent of London. I can’t recollect for the Government of Russia to discuss the matter of Crimea with the Government of Ukraine. They simply annexed it.


– Mr. Ambassador, still I think that trouble-free Great Britain and the February Kyiv with the revolution and chaos can’t be compared. But it is already past, and now, as you said, the case is about overcoming of the established complicated situation. How does the German “player” observe it?


– First of all I think it is extremely important to reach general agreement that Ukraine as any other state has the right to choose it own way freely and independently. What’s next? The offers targeted to overcome the unbearable situation of countless people suffering in terms of humanitarian disaster, have been put on the table. First it is guaranteed cut of permanent flow of Russian armaments, materials and people through the border of Ukraine. These are the main terms for armistice.


The next step should be accomplishment of the constitutional process provided by the Government of Ukraine. By this it is important for the representatives of all country’s regions to participate, but not those self-appointed, but freely elected and recognized by people.


Our policy grounds on three clear principles. First, we do not accept the annexation of Crimea. Second, we decisively react on Russian policy warning about what shall be undertake if Moscow does not influence the separatists. The sanctions adopted are not a punishment but the instrument of encouraging policy. Third, and especially significant – we remain open for dialogue. Exactly German political leaders proved to be greatly loyal to the policy of dialogue and proved how strongly it values dialogue. Anyway there is no other way, we still shall be neighbors, we should and wish to live together, we depend on each other.


– But could Berlin impose pressure towards Kyiv for it to stop its war mission?


– I’ll note two things. First, each government not only has a right but must assure order and safety in its country. Ukrainian Government only accomplishes its duty to restore peace. As far as the Government of Germany is concerned, it called Ukrainian authorities to observe adequate balance when using force. I would like for Moscow to call openly the separatists to stop their actions.


– Mr. Ambassador armistice has been repeatedly supported by the common point of view primarily during phone conversations between President Putin and Chancellor Merkel. By the way how do people in Germany estimate such exchange of opinions?


– Let me underline the importance of these talks. We also value that in comparison with the initial stage Russia observes itself as a partner in the matter of regulation. In a complicated situation we should use any available option to find the way out of the dead-end. Naturally that by this we act not only as the Federal Government, but also as the EU and NATO member-state. We have already tried two-, three- and four-party talks. If the format of Putin-Merkel opens the prospect of moving forward, it’s even better.


I think that now there is a hope that we have chosen the right way. We are serious about the concerns expressed by Russian President in Crimea and closely consider whether there is an opportunity to move together to the bright future. President Putin said in Crimea the thing we have been talking about for a long time. We do not want contradictions, we are for cooperation, for the dialogue and joint decisions.


– Mr. Ambassador, please allow me getting back to the relations of our countries. Which is their current status? Are there problems between Berlin and Moscow other than Ukraine?


– It is necessary to distinguish between international matters and bilateral relations directly. For sure the cooperation goes on also on other issues where we have common interests. As positive noted may be that often estimations of problems and the view on their solutions are close or the same. Russia for example is a good partner-consultant on the subject-matter of the negotiations on nuclear issue of Iran. Or let’s note elimination of chemical weapons of Syria, which was the initiative of Russia supported by us.


These are just some international matters, which we cooperate on despite the contradictions we have. We always ground on that Russia, being so significant country within the international arena, remains to be an important partner without which it is impossible to solve many issues.


Within our bilateral relations we are happy about the oncoming September 13th when Moscow shall welcome the opening of the Year of German language and literature in Russia. The same Year of Russian language and literature we are having now in Germany. We have different contacts in science and traditional cooperation in research.


A solid bridge connected our countries is economic relations. To my mind they are of special importance as connect the interests of the parties closely. Successful economic relations assist safety. And vice versa it may be damaged if someone intends to shake those.


After the end of the Cold war our economic partnership experiences unbelievable raise. At the moment we are going through the phase when the most important things should be saved. Weakening of our economic relations has been observed since the last year. It is reflected in specific numbers. Trade turnover is reducing. The  number of German Companies operating in Russia has reduced from 6500 to 6100. The level of investments has frozen. The reasons are various but obviously Ukrainian crises and the loss of trust have their effect.


– Do you observe the influence of sanction on Russia?


– The sanctions are not the target and we shall gladly refuse of them if the situation changes to better. It is yet early to judge on their action. I think that today policy and the press are more involved in the influence of Russian restrictions on food supplies import from European countries. They say that 90% of population does not eat parmigiano cheese and oysters. I agree. But what about apples, dairy products and fish? Totally up to 30% of food supplies are imported, and most likely this number is even bigger. This is a problem of own origin.


– And the last question Mr. Ambassador. Do you enjoy living in Moscow?


– Yes, greatly. Me and my wife are pleased to keep on discovering this great city. As the Ambassador I already have plenty of various contracts, conversations. I and the whole big Embassy are willing to understand this county, to get an independent image of what is happening here and to inform our Government. Everywhere I was, including regions, people express their high interest in Germany. I think it corresponds to very generally positive attitude to Russia in Germany. This is connected with history, and the wide scale of our relations. May we know each other even more and better than anyone else, and even are alike in something.



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