This is how to strengthen mutual trust.

Worries about the return of history’s ghosts so far have been unfounded, at least as far as Germany is concerned. Nevertheless, we’ve seen that even in Europe there are still forces which refuse to accept the concept of mutual respect or the settlement of conflicts using democratic and rule-of-law means, which believe in the supposed law of the strong and disregard the strength of the law. That’s exactly what happened when Russia flouted international law and annexed Crimea at the start of the year

Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, an entirely new architecture was envisaged to incorporate Russia into Western institutions, form the Council of Europe to the World Trade Organization, from the High Courts of London to the New York Stock Exchange. Russian capitalism and Russian oligarchs consume the public goods produced in the West including the rule of law and a reliable investment climate. Russia´s membership in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) and the Council of Europe, which Russia joined in 1996, committing it to a democratic path bought the regime time to parade as a country upholding European values, until its voting rights were suspended after the annexation of Crimea.

Many Russians dream of Europe and embrace its values, but sadly they can not enjoy these values any longer in todays Russia.No one wants to build new barriers between Russia and Europe. But membership in European institutions was intended to shape russian institutions in European directions and if these institutions instead risk being undermined by Russian actions that threaten to overwhelm them, then russia should be excluded.

Russia’s return to militarism in Europe’s east now seems to be bringing about a gradual shift. Suddenly, the security of Germany’s own territory is at stake again. Indeed, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s policies imply a direct threat to the EU’s most fundamental principles, which have defined German foreign policy for decades. It is no coincidence that one of Putin’s central aims is to disengage Germany from the West or at least to neutralize it. But German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, has undergone a remarkable transformation. This was clear in her recent speech in Sydney, in which she broke with the “policy of small steps” that had guided her in the post-2008 euro crisis. She clearly named the threat that Putin poses to Europe – precisely because the threat is not confined to Ukraine.

“We have put our faith in the cohesive effect of a community of shared values. We have put our faith in institutions which are committed to the common European good. The Heads of State and Government of the 28 member states, as well as their Ministers, have regular exchanges on topical issues. We meet, we talk, we know one another. This is how to strengthen mutual trust. And trust, I think we would all agree, is the most important prerequisite for flourishing political cooperation. Russia is now seeking to exert influence in order to destabilise eastern Ukraine in Donetsk and Luhansk”. After the horrors of two world wars and the end of the Cold War, this calls the entire European peaceful order into question.”

Angela Merkel´s remarkable speech in Sydney provides room for hope. On December 8, the Center on the United States and Europe (CUSE) at Brookings, in collaboration with the Robert Bosch Stiftung, will host a discussion exploring U.S.-German relations, Germany’s leadership and the transatlantic alliance’s capacity to engage a world marked increasingly by upheaval and chaos. The event will also introduce Constanze Stelzenmüller as the inaugural Robert Bosch Senior Fellow at Brookings. The position has been established to explore a broad range of issues shaping Germany and the critical role it plays in Europe’s economic, political and security future.

 

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