On November 10, 2014, Stephen F. Szabo, executive director of the Transatlantic Academy, presented his new book on Germany’s policy toward Russia, Germany, Russia, and the Rise of Geo-Economics, to an invited group of 15 experts on Russia from different think tanks, foundations and business. He set out how Germany operates especially as a geo-economic power, and one of the most important ones in the world. Because it defines its national interest in geo-economic terms, its Russia policy has been mainly driven by commercial interests. He argued that, since Germany is highly dependent on exports and supplies from abroad, it is very vulnerable to political and security crises such as the one in Ukraine. However, despite a diminishing security dependence on the United States, it contributes little to geo-strategic security in the region. Szabo concluded that a successful German foreign policy toward Russia has to combine engagement and containment.
After the book presentation, Stefan Meister, head of the Eastern Europe and Central Asia Program at the German Council on Foreign Relations, commented on Szabo’s analysis. He argued that Germany’s Russia policy should not be seen as completely dominated by business relations. Due to strong historical links between the two countries there is also a large involvement of German civil society with Russia, which has a certain impact on German foreign policy. Meister predicted that Germany’s foreign and security policy is going to change further toward more active engagement in the medium-term. He reasoned that Germany could already be characterized as the key player in Europe with regard to the imposition of sanctions on Russia.
GMF's Joerg Forbrig moderated the discussion. After the initial statements, the participants in the event engaged in a lively discussion on the current situation as well as the future of German–Russian relations along economic and political dimensions, also taking into consideration the impact of the EU and the US on Germany’s foreign policy toward Russia.