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15 Oct, 2007 02:22

Russia-Germany summit to discuss Iran and Kosovo

Iran's nuclear plans and the future of Kosovo are to be aired at inter-governmental talks between Russia and Germany on the second day of a two-day summit in Germany. On Sunday, the Russian President and the German Chancellor met for face-to-face talks.

A German city with a Russian past
Dialogue is the key
Business is business

The ninth annual Russo-German bilateral forum, known as the ‘Petersburg Dialogue’, got under way in Wiesbaden, central Germany, on Sunday.  It will last for two days and will give government ministers on both sides a chance to hold face-to-face talks on a range of topics of mutual interest.
President Vladimir Putin and Chancellor Angela Merkel will hold informal one-to-one talks and take part in ministerial meetings and media conferences.   
U.S. plans to deploy an anti-missile defence shield in Europe and Russia's threat to leave the Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty will be discussed at the summit.
In terms of the summit’s agenda, RT’s political commentator, Peter Lavelle, believes the Kosovo and Iran issues are also likely to be raised by the leaders.
“There’s still deadlock there and with the deadline approaching, both the Russian president and the German chancellor, will be talking about this. President Putin is going to Iran after this visit. This is something the whole world is going to be following. Not very many world leaders go to Iran,” Mr Lavelle said.
Meanwhile, a number of Russian experts are in Wiesbaden, some of whom point out certain stumbling blocks that are likely to get in the way of negotiations.
“On the agenda of the last Russia-EU summit there were only two topics discussed. First, the meat imported to Russia via Poland. Second, the sovereign right of the Estonian government, which is somewhat sympathetic to Nazis, to dig up the graves of WW2 heroes. We can now get further on that agenda. The German position, to my mind, is somewhat predetermined by that of the EU, which is getting less co-operative towards Russia,” says Vyacheslav Nikonov, head of the Politics fund.
“In Germany people are not interested in asking questions, they are just willing to tell us how to behave. They are just all in old times’ clichés and they were so happy with them. So we force them to listen. The major problem with the old-type mentality is that they consider freedom of speech as  permission to talk. Freedom of speech is something completely different, it’s a function of economic development. When the economy is growing, freedom of speech will flourish, there’s no other choice. And in Russia we are facing this stage,” believes TV anchor Vladimir Solovyev.
German experts, for their part, say that the main stumbling blocks in the Russia-Germany relations are related to the overall Russia-EU relations, which Germany should take into account.
“There’s still a strong belief that Russia is somehow moving away from democracy and building its own European civilisation, which some people may argue is somehow against the kind of values built up in Europe after the Second World War The second stumbling block is energy. There’s also some kind of belief in the EU that Russia might use its new powers of control of the resources necessary for Europe in order to dictate some polices to the European Union. Many people in Germany think that this is nonsense, but  it is still a stumbling block and we are discussing it in a very open way,” says Aleksandr Rahr from the German Council on Foreign Policy.

A German city with a Russian past

Weisbaden, sometimes called the ‘Northern Nice’, is one of the oldest cities in Europe and is famous for its thermal springs and spa.
Dzhamilya Engels, who runs a tourist agency, is a Russian immigrant who moved here in 1989. He says, “In the 19th century many rich Russian aristocrats considered it a proper thing to come here, to Wiesbaden, and to other nearby spa towns”.
The city is flooded with  legends of times gone by, many of which tell of the Russian writer Fyodor Dostoevsky. 
“He was desperate to sort out his financial situation, so he decided to gamble all he had left.  He was so sure he was going to win that he lost everything.  And according to legend, he was unable to pay for his hotel.  One of the grand halls of one of today’s Wiesbaden casinos is named after Dostoevsky,” says Engels. 

The city today boasts a lot of sites that are linked to Dostoevsky. For example, the hotel Nassauer Hof, where, rumour has it, they still keep his unpaid bill.  Indeed, the writer spent a lot of time in the casino, gambling away his fortune. 
It has been suggested that a Wiesbaden casino inspired Dostoevsky to write “The Gambler”. He made the first drafts hoping to pay off debts. Dostoevsky’s favourite game was roulette.
Today Russians are still regular visitors here. 

Dialogue is the key

These days the new Russian elite are here to play political games and experts are placing their bets on the future of Russo-German relations. This future is the focus of the Petersburg Dialogue, the forum aimed at social and public co-operation between Germany and Russia.
The Chairman on the Russian side is the first and the only Soviet President, Mikhail Gorbachev, who once tried to promote the idea of “a common European home”. 
“Our dialogue needs a second wind. Politics alone cannot assure success. To achieve it dialogue and communication should be developed among ordinary people,” Mr Gorbachev believes.

Business is business

After Angela Merkel came to power in Germany, many predicted the relationship between the countries would deteriorate. Merkel’s foreign policy priorities are oriented more to the West than to the East.
Vladimir Putin and former German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder are close friends. Many believe it is this friendship that facilitated their successful co-operation. Germany remains one of Russia's biggest and most important trading partners. Together they are working on a number of business projects, such as the construction of a gas pipeline through the Baltic Sea. 
At the same time, Angela Merkel is critical of the way Russia  uses its energy resources.  She's also unhappy with the state of democracy in Russia.  These differences are making many analysts sceptical about the future of Russian-German relations.
Klaus Mangold, Chairman of the German Committee on Eastern European Economic Relations says:
“Let them be sceptical, and even if they are more pessimistic, I am very much convinced that there is no alternative to having outstanding strategic relations between Russia and Germany. We should integrate more. Russia and Germany should not make the same mistake.  We should look forward so that Russia will not be in a kind of isolation. This will lead nowhere.”
Today Russia is redefining both itself and its relations with other countries. Its ties with Germany might lack warmth at the moment, but they are based on pragmatism and business ties.