German Minister Seeks To Rebuild Trust with Russia Following Spy Standoff

Sandro Halank, Wikimedia Commons, CC-BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

On Sunday, Heiko Maas, the German Foreign Minister, said that he wants to continue a dialogue with Russia and gradually improve the ties of the two countries following diplomatic expulsions over a nerve agent attack on a former spy of Russia in England that the United Kingdom had blamed on Russia.

Maas and Angela Merkel, the Conservative German Chancellor have joined the United States and other countries in Europe in standing with the United Kingdom in a major standoff due to the attack on Sergei Skripal, a former double agent, and his daughter.

Maas is a member of the Social Democrats (SPD) who are divided regarding how tough the country needs to act on Moscow. He informed Bild am Sonntag that too much trust had been lost in the last few years because of the behaviour of Russia.

In the paper, he was quoted as saying: “At the same time, we need Russia as a partner to settle regional conflicts, for disarmament and as an important pillar of multilateralism.

“We are therefore open for dialogue and are trying to rebuild trust bit by bit if Russia is ready.”

However, he also defended the decision to expel the diplomats. He said that it is aimed “to show solidarity with Britain but also as a signal of unity.”

During the past week, Germany expelled four Russian diplomats as part of mass expulsions on both sides, and Moscow has reciprocated with the same number, urging a discussion of a crisis in the relations between the West and Russia.

Social Democrats have called on the ‘grand coalition’ of their party and the conservatives of Merkel to make sure that a new Cold War does not begin, and business groups are also concerned.

Germany depends on Russia for approximately a third of the gas that it uses, and before Western states imposed the sanctions on Russia because of its role in the crisis in Ukraine, the biggest economy in Europe exported around 38 billion euros of goods to Russia.

London blames Moscow for being involved for the first known use of a military-grade nerve agent on European soil since the World War II. Germany has called on Moscow repeatedly to cooperate more with the investigations.