NATO, Germany, Russia, and the Future, Part 1

The next series of posts is a research paper which I recently completed. I will be posting the paper in five parts to make for easier reading. The first part is the abstract and introduction, which covers an outline of current Russo-German relations and an overview of the relevant issues which concern both states.


NATO and Russia share a unique situation in world politics, and Germany and Russia even more so. The first represents the foremost defense alliance in the world today, shaping policy and tactics and slowly increasing its scope and breadth. The second is the development of a new type of engagement – two former bitter foes, slowly integrating in areas of economic growth and limited military cooperation. Germany has been a prime engager of Russia on behalf of NATO, often working to advance the desires of NATO, but placing the Russian trust in German honesty and transparency.

Germany and Russia are heavily intertwined with each other economically, with Germany being Russia’s prime trading partner, and heavily reliant on Russia for fuel. This economic entanglement provides for understandably close political ties between the two states, with both Germany and Russia regularly engaging in bi-lateral talks, as well as multilateral meetings and integration in areas of defense coordination, resource management, human rights and democracy, and EU and NATO expansion. Germany does suffer from a dual role here, though. While engaging itself as the chief promoter of integration with Russia and expansion of ties on all fronts, Germany also acts as a main partner with NATO, which has political and military differences with Russia, as well as acting as the largest EU member-state, tasked with always promoting European values, which do not always lay in alignment with Russian policies.

These two different relationships create an interesting dynamic, on one side is the pro-Russian Germany – furthering integration and expansion, developing political, military, and social ties with the Russian government and people, and founding and developing international panels and councils of which both Russia and Germany are active members. On the other side is the Western European Germany – one that promotes the European interests in human rights and democracy, of which Russia often falls short, the leading EU economy focused on expansion of Europe and as one of the super-states in the world, and a leader in NATO, expanding European defense into previous Warsaw-pact zones, and focused on protecting Western interests abroad.

One specific point of conflict between Germany and Europe has been the implementation of the Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE). Russia has stated previously that it is not interested in implementing the CFE, but Russia’s position is often fluid, and has shifted on implementation several times. After Russia pulled out of the treaty in 2007 and invaded Georgia, relations between the EU, NATO, and Russia faltered. The states have begun to repair their relations, but the road is still rocky.

Other points of contention include the heavy reliance from Germany on oil and gas from Russia. While not an issue for the two states involved, others outside the bilateral agreement point to Russian fickleness and ebbing relations as providing a backdrop for future energy problems between Russia and Germany. Also included in the issues are the expansion of NATO defense installations in Europe – notably, the Polish missile base, the use of Russian military to support NATO operations, the expansion of the EU and NATO member states, and the promotion of human rights and democratic institutions across the world.

All of these issues provide for points of contention between NATO and Russia. And while the two may bicker about treaties and deployments, Germany has been steadily integrating itself with Russia, while trying to maintain the delicate balance of acting as an advocate of Europe and expanding as the partner of Russia.

Economic Integration
Germany and Russia are continuously evolving an ever-deepening economic relationship. A 2007 report found that Germany, which needs to import 97% of its oil and 80% of its gas, has found Russia a reliable major supplier”; also reported: “the close energy relations are seen as problematic by the German side” . Also, “20% of Russia’s natural-gas exports and 10% of its oil exports flow to German households and industrial centers … 37% of gas burned by German consumers is of Russian origin. ” However “German Chancellor Angela Merkel fully appreciates the opportunities … in the fast growing Russian economic market. She thus remains committed to the strategic partnership between Germany and Russia” . While some Western states tend to view Russia with distrust and caution, Germany has been pursuing a policy of deepening economic integration along all fronts, although economic integration does not mean total integration. “The German business lobby enthusiastically applauds the new opportunities in the Russian market. … Having conducted business … through the state apparatus since the 1970s, they welcome the strengthening role of the state in Russian domestic politics, which could lead to more law and order and less criminality and corruption.”

Germany views Russia as a regional partner rather than a competitor, and is actively seeking to engage Russia on economic matters. Since Russia has shown itself to be a reliable energy partner, Germany is eager to increase the energy relationship. Germany does plan on continuing the partnership with Russia to build the Nordic pipeline, a gas pipeline which will supplant the current pipeline running through the Ukraine. Germany has pursued this to reduce the threat of Russia cutting off gas supplies to Western Europe via the Ukrainian line, which periodically comes under shut-off threats from the Russian government. “The factor most commonly taken to be the driving force in contemporary German-Russian relations is energy, especially natural gas. Across the political spectrum, German politicians have two overriding fears when it comes to Russian gas: firstly, that Moscow will continue to threaten Ukraine’s gas supplies, and thereby the supplies of some members of the European Union; and secondly, that Russia may not be able to meet Europe’s demand for gas over the medium term. ”

“Most recently, there is the perception that, especially in the area of energy, Russia is instrumentalizing its economic leverage to exert political pressure on smaller third party states of Russia’s “Near Abroad”, as witnessed by its interruption of gas supplies to Ukraine in January 2006 and its economic boycott of Georgia.”

Russia’s use of its energy sector is and should be worrying to the Germans. As long as Russia remains stable, the Germans will continue to receive supplies of gas, however, should Russia or its immediate regional partners destabilize, the reliability of Russian energy sources for German interests would be thrown into question. Because Germany maintains such a high interest in maintain the flow of natural gas, it is intimately tied with developments in and around Russia, as well as highly interested in Russia’s future development. In fact, “Germany’s Russia policy from 1991 to 2005 was designed to incorporate Russia into the larger European architecture.” Even with the optimism about Russian integration in play, there are distinct differences between how Germany views economic development of integration and how Russia views economic development and integration. “German chancellor Angela Merkel fully appreciates the opportunities … in the fast growing Russian economic market. She thus remains committed to the strategic partnership between Germany and Russia, particularly on energy issues. … She is skeptical about Russia’s democratic prospects as well as their human rights record and seems to share many of the post-Soviet states anti-Russian sentiments. ” Germany sees the opportunities in Russia and is deeply involved in opening up the Russian economy, however, Germany looks at the whole picture of the target state when engaging in such integration and development work, this includes such areas, as stated above, as human rights and development of democratic institutions, which Merkel and many Germany elites have displayed skepticism about. “The EU is growing increasingly suspicious about the role that Russia plays in post-Soviet territory. Even in traditionally Russophile countries such as Germany, concerns over authoritarian developments in Russia now outweigh optimists’ arguments to strengthen the strategic partnership with Russia.”

According to an article in the New York Times, Russia is on the path to modernization, but “Russia will need at least €1 billion until 2012 to upgrade its infrastructure as part of its modernization program, but also substantial technological assistance and investments from abroad. ” The Times article also points to several other problems, “an internal E.U.-Russian report issued this week concludes that the Europeans, including Germans, and the Russians have very different notions of modernization. ”; “the E.U. assumes the concept of modernization that incorporates the economy as well as politics and society … the Russian leadership applies a selective approach, limiting itself to a modernization of the economy in which knowledge, technology, and investments are welcome. ”

Based on this image, the Germans are receptive to the opportunities in Russia, and the German government is willing to pursue building closer and stronger ties to Russia, but several key differences and problem areas remain. The German government is understandably concerned for the future of its energy sources, and concerned about the Russian ability to deliver those supplies in the midterm. German energy demands are expected to grow by the double-digit percentages in the near future, but Russian development is stagnated and in dire need to investment and modernization. Germany is engaging in the investment, but along with the investment is coming the German expectations of whole state development, including social democratization and respect for human rights, two issue areas where the Russian government may not ready or willing to engage the rest of Europe in yet.

Regardless of whether Russia modernizes to European standards in the near future or not, German and Russian security cooperation is deepening along with economic integration, and while Germany and Russia maintain good relations, Germany’s security obligations in the E.U. and NATO provide a much more problematic, though not unsolvable, situation in furthering development and integration between the two states.

Further Reading:

Roland Götz. Germany and Russia – Strategic Partners?. Geoploitical Affairs 4/2007. Article

Christopher S Chivvis, Thomas Rid. The Roots of Germany’s Russia Policy. Survival. April – May 2009 Vol. 51 Num. 2 pg. 110

Alexander Rahr. Germany and Russia: A Special Relationship. By The Center for Strategic and International Studies and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The Washington Quarterly. 30:2 pp 142. Spring 2007. © 2007.

Jörg Himmelreich. Germany’s Russia Policy Following the Murder of Anna Politkovskaya. GMF: The German Marshall Fund of the United States. Dziennik (Poland). 10/16/2006. Article

Judy Dempsey. Russia Seeks Tighter Ties With Germany. New York Times. June 4, 2010. Article

This entry was posted in EU, Global Security, Policy Analysis, Politics and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to NATO, Germany, Russia, and the Future, Part 1

  1. GMF says:

    The Himmelreich article address changed when we updated our website in June. Here is the new link:

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s