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  Elections in Germany: a new coalition but the old rules of the game with Russia

Jurgita Laurinënaitë
2009 10 26

Elections to the German parliament were successful for the Christian Democrats with the chancellor A.Merkel ahead, and for their allies - the Christian Social Union. Although the Christians collected slightly fewer votes than four years ago, the free democrats were so successful in the elections that the right-center wing parties could form the ruling coalition.

Expulsion of the Social Democratic party into the opposition should mean reforms in Germany. Most often they are mentioned concerning the domestic policy, whereas no major changes are envisaged in the sphere of foreign policy.

Lithuania is mostly concerned about the further Germany‘s relations with Russia and Eastern European states. The victory of Christians and Liberals should mean that Germany would be more strict in evaluating democracy processes, freedom of media and protection of human rights in Russia. According to G.Westerwelle, the candidate of Liberals to the ministers of foreign affairs, Russia’s problems would be in the focus of attention, but he’d probably take the same position as A.Merkel. She has always been a pragmatic personality and realized that it was better to retain friendly relations with Russia.

Germany and Russia need each other. It’s enough to mention two names: Nord Stream and Opel.

For Germany the Nord Stream is useful for several reasons. Germany imports from Russia about 30 percent of the natural gas; the gas pipeline constructed under the Baltic Sea would supply gas to Germany and would bypass transit countries. Besides, after constructing the Nord StreamGermany will become the largest distributor of energy resources in Europe, since branches to other European States would extend from the gas pipeline in its territory.

Another contact point with Russia is the purchase of a 55 percent stake in Opel from the General Motors which is currently under bankruptcy. The Russian capital also contributed to saving the auto industry and German workplaces, since the Canadian concern Magna purchased the block of shares of Opel together with Russian Sberbank. The shipbuilding industry is also waiting for a similar rescue campaign. Although Russia‘s investment was not considered by the German authorities as the best alternative, the future transactions force German authorities to be in good relationship with the Kremlin.

It is obvious that Germany’s friendly relations with Russia would continue without Social Democrats in the ruling coalition or with liberals in the coalition. Germany is not going to bring the non-democracy aspects in Russia to the fore, especially when there is a possibility to benefit from profitable business projects. It‘ll have to make friends with the Russian politicians.

It seems that this will not be a problem. Moreover that the United States and Russia have already become friends. When welcoming the U.S.decision not to deploy the anti-missile defense shield in the Czech Republic and Poland, the same G. Westerwelle was at the same time pro-American and pro-Russian. He did not manage to please the Central and Eastern Europe. But that was a trivial loss.

The future head of the German diplomacy should not face major problems in executing the policy based on the national interests. G.Westerwelle could learn Realpolitik tricks during the meeting of A.Merkel and the Russian president D.Medvedev in Sochi (August 2009). The Russian leader did not spare the reproach toward the Ukrainian authorities and said that it was impossible to maintain normal relations, but A.Merkel did not seem to hear D.Medvedev.

We‘ll have to get used to such a pragmatic behavior of the chancellor in the coming four years.

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