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Friday, February 16, 2018

Carsten Vogt: Russia’s Neighbors are not forced to join NATO

“I imagine the situation in Europe, when Russia is strong and powerful, but none of Russia’s neighbors do not perceive its policies as a threat,” – said the newspaper VIEW, the former head of the NATO parliamentary Assembly, Carsten Vogt. He told about his participation in 1990 in negotiations with the Soviet leadership concerning including the prospects of NATO expansion to the East.

In the German ruling circles, the ongoing debate about the chances of reconciliation with Moscow in the near future. At the end of last week, foreign Minister social Democrat Frank-Walter Steinmeier stated that no later than September will be known, will there be a step-by-step lifting of sanctions against Russia as implementation of the Minsk agreements. “Everything is going in this direction,” the Minister told the newspaper Passauer Neue Presse.

“Sustainable security in Central and Eastern Europe arise only when they take into account not only the interests of Russia and Germany, but also the interests of other small and medium States”

At the same time then subsided, the weakening continues and the debate about how Europe is generally drawn into the conflict with Russia and what role was played by NATO expansion to the East, which was decided 20 years ago. When asked by Deutsche Welle to look back and assess whether it is contrary to the position of Moscow to accept the Alliance of Poland and other countries of the former Eastern bloc, the former Chairman of the NATO parliamentary Assembly, the German social Democrat Carsten Vogt replied that the decision was “reasonable”, it has strengthened the stability of the continent, but it is reasonable if at the same time are able to establish “cooperation with Russia”.

Vogt made back in January – right after it was mentioned in conversation with the Bild newspaper, the Russian leader Vladimir Putin. Revealing the German audience the roots of the current conflict, Putin reminded about the visit to Moscow of the father of the “new Eastern policy” of Germany Egon Bar far in February 1990, partly resecreted the contents of those negotiations. In these negotiations, together with late Bar participated and Carsten Vogt, at the moment, the main speaker of the social democratic fraction in the Bundestag on foreign Affairs. It was in those days and had solved the question of if it will include updated, but at the moment a weakened Russia into a common security system in Europe with its Western partners, or remain in isolation.

About what hoped then West German policy and what are the chances of reconciliation of Moscow and NATO, in an interview with the newspaper VIEW says Carsten Vogt is a former President of the parliamentary Assembly of the Alliance and former coordinator of the German government for German-American cooperation.

OPINION: Mr. Vogt, you still call the decision on admission of the countries of Central and Eastern Europe in NATO “reasonable”, however, provided that at the same time manages to establish “cooperation with Russia”. In Russia, many believe that there is no equal cooperation, NATO has not offered, but the Alliance has included in its membership of its neighbors, attacked Yugoslavia and so on. Why do you as the head of the NATO parliamentary Assembly in 1996 did not prevent the extension of NATO to the East?

Carsten Vogt: Today, Germany is surrounded by friends and partners, as it tries to take into account the interests and feelings of their neighbors. For your own interests, we limit our sovereignty. We have influence but we do not claim the right of veto in relation to the events across Europe.

The correlation of the military potentials of Russia and NATORussia wants to negotiate on equal terms with the United States and around the world, where one’s eye. It is her right, but because of the limited Russian capacity, it is realistic only in certain areas. However, identifying Russia today, and in recent years, its vision, its policies in Europe so that this role would be perceived as useful, especially its neighbours?

It still needs to be discussed. Russia’s neighbors, the United States was not forced to join NATO. On the contrary! The Western neighbours of Russia themselves knocking at NATO. And on the questions posed in this regard in Russia’s European policy can only answer in Moscow.

LOOK: You’ve admitted that, heading to Moscow in late February 1990, is expected to meet harsh opposition to the idea of membership of the new, United Germany in NATO. Only did that bother you, and Egon Bahr was expecting it with joy. However, in reality everything turned out differently – all sides, except the head of the international Department of the party Central Committee Valentin Falin, did not object. Let’s imagine that your expectations were met, and Moscow in February 1990 shows toughness, puts a strict condition: she agrees to the unification of Germany and undertakes to withdraw its troops from the GDR, but in return the West must conclude with Moscow oral, full written agreement on a new security system in Central Europe, where NATO expressly waive the extension to the East. What do you think, Chancellor Helmut Kohl would do this for the sake of unity of your country? How to behave other leaders of Western Europe?

C. F.: I don’t know what would Helmut Kohl. The question is easier to answer in relation to other European politicians. Mitterrand, Thatcher and other European leaders skeptical attitude to the idea of German unity. And certainly they were against rapid unification. Therefore, these demands of the Soviet leadership, they would be used as a pretext to slow down the merger of the GDR and the FRG. However, they are not wanted and creating a new security system in Central Europe. In particular, they firmly held on to NATO.

I strongly advocated the unification of Germany, but had then experienced difficulties with the arguments as I’d like – for the sake of German unity to find a compromise between Soviet and American ideas. For this reason I was very happy after our talks in Moscow, because that was bothering me problems were taken into account due to the flexibility of the Soviet interlocutors.

GLANCE: a month after Putin’s interview with you published in the newspaper Das Blättchen very detailed story about this visit in 1990. You wrote that a month before the trip to Moscow was sympathetic to the ideas of the Bar, but at the end of January, you went to Washington, where assistant to President George H. W. Bush for national security Robert Blackwill managed to convince you. You’ve decided that it is necessary to get consent to membership of Germany in NATO. Plans for the creation of a new security system Blackwill called unrealistic. Why is it, that you then flew to Moscow together with Egon Bar?

K. F.: We were sent to Moscow, the then leadership of the SPD, because everyone knew that we had different approaches to integrating security policies of the United Germany.

OPINION: Still, the Bar gave Falino that Chancellor Kohl and foreign Minister Genscher, West Germany actually don’t want any NATO expansion on the Oder. Why did you not say it out loud?

C. F.: Since January 1990, I actively advocated the reunification of Germany and that country stayed in NATO. About security policy Eastern neighbours Germany, I specially did not speak: if the negotiations about the unification of Germany would affect the status of security German neighbors, these States too would have to sit down at the negotiating table. It is extremely complicate the negotiations. So I deliberately stayed silent.

OPINION: As expressed by Putin, in an interview with Bild, Egon Bahr suggested “specific things”. He talked about the need to create in Central Europe a new Union. It should not move to join NATO. The whole of Central Europe, including East Germany or without, would have to join a separate Union with the participation of the Soviet Union, and the United States. “And we did nothing,” lamented the Russian President. And in your opinion, to what extent at the time of the idea of the Bar can be realized?

C. F.: the Aim of Egon Bar ultimately was a system of collective security in Europe. I thought that the idea to create such system with the approval of all other European countries was an illusion, 1990, which arose for a short time during the unification of Germany. However, to agree on elements of a common security could then and still can be in the future.

Offers Egon Bar, in my opinion, had one, but a crucial weakness: they do not take into account the interests, feelings and historical memory of the States situated between Germany and Russia. But I stand by my opinion: sustainable security in Central and Eastern Europe arise only when they take into account not only the interests of Russia and Germany, but also the interests of Poland, the Baltic States, Hungary, Romania and other small and medium States.

The LOOK: a Bar, probably, in their hearts, even threatened her too docile to Soviet interlocutors: “If you disagree with that and agree, on the contrary, with the spread of NATO, and the Soviet Union agree with this, I’m more in Moscow will not come at all”. However, did not keep his word then he even came to Russia. Why Moscow is so easy to go on about Bonn? Your partners in Moscow, was a member of the Politburo, Alexander Yakovlev, and Marshal Sergei Akhromeyev and Minister of foreign Affairs Eduard Shevardnadze. What you found then the atmosphere in the corridors of power? That is, all sides except falina looked demoralized? For example, fully immersed in the problems of the Union?

K. F.: I can only guess about the thoughts, concepts of the Soviet leadership. At that time, during the talks with Yakovlev and Shevardnadze, I have formed the impression that they primarily were interested in quite different problems than the question of integrating the United Germany into the system of common security. In addition, after our then negotiations, I was by no means certain that these two do have a distinct and more or less realistic vision of the issues discussed security.

OPINION: So to what extent do you blame for the fact that the cooperation was never established in Moscow and in some Western countries?

K. F.: Germany always tried to cooperate with Russia after 1990. This does not apply equally to other Western countries. There are a lot of missed opportunities. I wanted immediately after 1990 to seek stronger contractual relations between Russia and the EU and NATO.

Currently our relationship is in crisis. But this crisis is not the end of the story. We must try to overcome it. It will take time, however, we must not lose sight of the prospect of closer cooperation. Russia extends into Asia and Europe, that is, its power extends beyond Europe. But she remains an integral part of European culture.

We have in recent decades reached a state in which none of Germany’s neighbors do not feel threatened by her. I dream of such a situation in Europe when Russia is strong and powerful, but none of Russia’s neighbors do not perceive its policies as a threat.

For Germany, Russia was and remains the biggest challenge, and in the future, I hope, will once again be potentially the most important partner to the East from the borders of the EU and NATO.

OPINION: Barack Obama is imposing sanctions on Russia, called it a “regional power” whose power extends not beyond its immediate borders. However, a month ago the Vice-Chancellor, Sigmar Gabriel, by the way, your party member, called for a return to Russia in the G7, that is, to restore the G8 format.

K. F.: Russia remains in the G20. The expansion of the “big seven” at the expense of Russia depends on how the “big seven” and Russia themselves determine. Unlike the “big twenty”, “seven” includes only democratic States. If Russia wants to be a state of law and pluralist democracy, it must also have the prospect of membership in the G7.

OPINION: How much do you agree with the French Senate, which in June called for a step-by-step lifting of the sanctions against Russia? In the Bundestag and the German foreign Ministry does not rule out such measures.

K. F.: Generally speaking, the EU sanctions against Russia should be lifted only when the cause of the sanctions – Russian policy towards Eastern Ukraine, namely Donetsk and Luhansk – will change. Such changes in the policy of Russia, unfortunately, I do not see. Another thing – the sanctions against parliamentarians. Parliamentarians in difficult situations have to deal. Therefore, I do not support sanctions against deputies.

The Minsk agreement include the items that I do not consider satisfactory. But a better deal could not be agreed due to different views at the time. So we have on the basis of this agreement to do everything the best possible. Russia and Ukraine can do a lot more. But even if we gradually succeed in the implementation of the agreement, the conflict will long continue to burden relations between Russia and the EU.

OPINION: do You agree with the fact that in Syria, Russia is playing a positive role?

K. F.: Russia plays an important role in Syria. This important role is positive if it focuses its influence and military potential in the fight against ISIL*. We know that Assad will not soon leave his post. But long-term peaceful solution for Syria could not be reached with Assad.

OPINION: NATO Secretary General Stoltenberg called after the attempted coup, the Turkish President Erdogan. The Secretary General stated that such events as a military coup, has no place in the member States of the Alliance. Do you agree with him? As you know, before the NATO countries repeatedly been military coups. Seized power by a coup EN masse, imprisoned and even mass executed their political opponents, as in Greece. In Turkey the coup was hanged the Prime Minister, who came to power on the results of democratic elections. However, none of these countries out of NATO was not excluded. The governments of other NATO countries have recognized the rebels as the new legitimate government.

C. F.: you are absolutely right: during the cold war, NATO suffered such members of the Alliance, as Portugal, at a certain stage, Greece and Turkey, which were dictatorships. I have always criticized this, but could not change. This policy changed with the end of the cold war. I hope, therefore, that not only the EU but also NATO will be hard to criticize the movement of Turkey towards authoritarian politics.

* Organization in respect of which the court accepted entered into legal force decision on liquidation or ban the activities on the grounds stipulated by the Federal law “On countering extremist activity”

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