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September 11, 2020

Russia's extremely hostile threat to Germany

German diplomacy used to be boring, a slumber interrupted only briefly during the years of unification. Germany has since become a reluctant, hamstrung and inconsistent diplomatic actor, ultimately constrained by a general unwillingness to use force under almost any conceivable circumstances.

Yesterday saw an extraordinary statement by the Russian foreign minister, which could easily be interpreted as a military threat. The Russians told the German ambassador in Moscow that they consider Germany's refusal to hand over the test results of Alexei Navalny a hostile provocation against Russia. This will have a negative impact on the Russian-German relationship, and could have grave geopolitical consequences. This is clearly all about Nordstream 2. Russia is using maximum force to safeguard the project. We think this strategy will succeed.

Germany is also not expected to get any relief from the US elections. Defence News reported that German defence officials have warned their government not to expect any change in US policy towards Europe if Joe Biden were to win the presidency. We agree with that assessment. There is no consensus in Germany for an increase in military spending, and we see no change on the political horizon. While we expect the outwards appearance of transatlantic relations to improve under Biden, we don't think the US will constructively re-engage with Europe.

In other words, Germany and the EU are on their own in managing relations with Russia. We note that this realisation is slowly setting in, but also that they are not prepared for it.

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