The Evolution of Germany’s Eastern Policy – Challenges and Perspectives (report)

Germany has been classified by Zbigniew Brzezinski as so called “active players” at the grand chessboard. Those states pursue engaged policy and are able to influence the current geopolitical landscape. It is Germany who is the leader in the EU Eastern Policy, being at the same time a concrete partner for Russia – the natural opponent. Is the German Eastern Policy reflecting common interests of EU countries? What are the current challenges for the German diplomacy and which role shall play Ukraine in the region? 

Arseni Sivitskyi, Director, Center for Strategic and Foreign Policy Studies, Belarus, Borys Tarasyuk, Deputy Chairman of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, Supreme Council, Ukraine, Dietmar Stüdemann, Ambassador (2000-2006), Member of Supervisory Board, German Foreign Ministry, Deutsche Bank, Germany, Piotr Madajczyk, Head of Department for German Studies, Institute of Political Studies, Polish Academy of Sciences, Poland, Christoph von Marschall, Diplomatic Correspondent, Der Tagesspiegel, Germany, Jan Rokita, Publicist, Poland and Ireneusz Bil, Director of the Office, Amicus Europae Foundation, Poland took part in the discussion.

Ireneusz Bil, the panel moderator, asked Christoph von Marschall about the place of Minsk and Kiev in the German foreign affairs policy. Mr von Marschall stressed that geography can determine the perception of some of international issues. He asked rhetorical questions about whether other countries should be interested in Kiev’s problems instead of their own ones and invest significant political capital in relations with Ukraine. He said that relations between Germany and Poland weren’t as simple as it used to be. Poland is seen as a difficult partner, because, among other things, it wants to do their own businesses during the negotiations of the Three Seas Program.

Poland’s ambition is to become a leader of the region. Germany wants to maintain good relations with all of the countries, therefore we will not accept Poland as a representative of the region.

Mr Von Marshall referred to the Nord Stream 2 and the controversy aroused by the construction. According to him the construction process will be completed because there is no legal way to stop it.

Do not expect that the Nord Stream 2 project will be put on hold, we should ask if this project will be either good or bad for companies. We shall not forget about German consumers, said Mr von Marshall.

Borys Tarasiuk emphasised  that it is important to recognize that Germany has an exceptional role in the European and global politics.

In my opinion, it is important to maintain good relations with Germany, which is an engine of European Union, besides, together with France, they carry this heavy burden of resolving the conflict in Ukraine. We must recognize Germany’s leading role in the transformation of Ukraine.

He also said that if all the efforts to bring peace to Ukraine has failed so far and there is no effective counterbalance for Russian aggression, they should look for another solution involving the United States.

The moderator said that German international policy has always been focused on building a sustainable and effective policy in the East. He describes German policy as a policy of transport stability, contact with contact with business, scientific and cultural environments. In this context he asked Arsenyi Sivitskyi to describe the German policy towards Belarus. The representative of the Center for Strategic and Foreign Policy Studies stressed that in his opinion nowadays German policy follows the European trends. Germany used to pursue a policy of isolation and perceived Belarus as Russian sphere of influence. The situation changed in 2014 when Belarus gave the Ukraine and neighbour countries security guarantees. He also mentioned recent tense bilateral relations between Germany and Belarus.

How would Germany react if Russia decided do the same in Minsk as they did in Crimea? Germany does not transmit messages to Moscow properly, that’s why Lukashenka says that they should invite the US to attend negotiations.

Ireneusz Bil reminded that German Chancellor Angela Merkel made the decision to keep sanctions on Moscow even though it was against German economic interests. The moderator asked Jan Rokita about the partnership between Russia and Ukraine. Mr Rokita responded that after 2015 there is no such a thing  as a partnership between this two countries.  The idea that the Eastern Partnership could build peace and liberalism met with brutal war reality. Mr Rokita said that the change of optics in Ukraine would be crucial for the most important Polish strategic interests in the East, because Ukraine had become an independent state with an anti-Russian identity.