Russia’s resistance over Ukraine’s Western orientation and the absorption of Crimea unleashed the most critical disruption in East-West relations since the collapse of the Soviet Union. Germany and Russia have had a special relationship for centuries and strong economic and political ties since the end of the Cold War. The conflicts over Ukraine and the Crimea crisis have been a major accelerant, but not the main reason for Germany´s adjustment of its Russia policy. Various hot and frozen conflicts in the post-Soviet space, Russia’s failed political and economic modernization, the absorption of Crimea, and Russia’s support for Russian separatists in the Ukrainian civil war in 2014 accelerated a changed perception within the German foreign policy elite on its Russia policy.
This article explores the current EU-Russia crisis through the prism of overall and long-term German- Russian bilateral and institutionalized relations in their political, security, and economic dimensions of the European Union, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. Germany’s changing Russia policy is significant, since it marks a shift from decades long politics of soft power projection towards Russia to an emphasis on defensive realism following Russia’s failed political and economic modernization. It is marked by the belief that a stronger institutional embeddedness of Germany’s Russia policy will change or at least limit Russia’s ambitions and strategies in the post-Soviet space, while an escalation of conflicts needs to be avoided.
Germany’s indispensable leadership role in the European Union has to rebalance the geopolitical and geo-economic space between Germany and Russia to achieve compatibility between the European Union’s Eastern Partnership and the Russian-led Eurasian Customs Union. Regarding the puzzling question of the offense-defense balance of defensive realism, the conclusion suggests special relations of the EU with Russia, including the creation of a restricted compatibility of the EU and Eurasian Union in the post-Soviet space, while making the Ukrainea bridge between East and West.
Tamkang journal of international affairs 18(4), p.41-98