Can Berlin and Washington Agree on Russia?
Both Russia and Germany are back on the U.S. agenda. Russia will be a key element of a wide array of policies to the Obama administration, including dealing with Iran and the construction of a broader nonproliferation regime, energy security, nuclear arms reductions, and Afghanistan. Russia policy will also be central to U.S. designs for NATO, including how to deal with Georgia and Ukraine, and the viability of a pan-European security structure.
Germany will be the key player in Europe on dealing with Russia. Given the lack of any consensus in Europe over Russia, Berlin plays a decisive role in shaping a coherent and successful Russia policy. Yet, while Germany is crucial to any Western policy consensus on Russia, there are real differences in interests, cultures, and approaches between Berlin and Washington, which could lead to dangerous divisions if not handled well. There is a real danger that without a common approach, Germany could increasingly play the role of a mediator between Russia and the United States.
Voices in the West are raising concerns about Germany’s reliability as a partner in dealing with Russia. The Weekly Standard warns ‘‘Berlin has entered a new era of shared interests with Moscow and divergence from Washington. Incoming administration officials would be wise to recognize that on issues ranging from the gas dispute to Eastern Europe to Afghanistan and Iran, theGermany of today is not the partner the United States once had.’’ Zbigniew Brzezinski believes, ‘‘If the romance between Russia and Germany goes too far, it could strike a blow against European integration,’’ and Edward Lucas, the author of a recent book on Russia titled The New Cold War, argues that the German-Russian relationship is ‘‘the most puzzling and troubling feature of modern European politics.’’