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Exiting the "escalation spiral": The XXV Potsdam Meetings took place in Berlin

On the background of general tensions in Russian-German relations, the spirit for a constructive, mutually beneficial dialogue continues to exist – among those participants who can listen to and hear their partners in conversation. Discussions during the XXV Postdam Meetings, which have taken place in a hybrid format today, on May 18, in Berlin, have demonstrated that.

The topic of the Potsdam Meetings this year was a discussion of prospects of European cooperation between the pandemic and the new political landscape. During the forum, representatives of German and Russian governments, businesses, non-profit organizations and academia discussed the state of Russian-German bilateral relations  after the pandemic and prospects of economic cooperation. The event was once again held under the auspices of ministers of foreign affairs of Russia and Germany Sergey Lavrov and Heiko Maas.

"Moscow continues to consider Berlin an important international player and remains open to a dialogue, but the dialogue, which is honest and mutually respectful. We know that there are many people in Germany interested in promoting relations based on principles of equality and respect for each other’s interests. Many of them also agree with us that the policy of sanctions has been a complete fiasco; more than that, it is inflicting serious damage on its own creators. I hope that common sense will prevail and the forces that place national interests above ideological schemes and bloc discipline in the spirit of the Cold War will win", emphasized Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov during his address to the participants of the Potsdam Meetings.
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas called for cooperation:

"The bigger the challengers, the more there is a need for communication. German-Russian relations are experiencing the most difficult times in the past 30 years. None of the problems facing us can be resolved through silence, and the Potsdam Meetings serve as a bridge during these difficult times", concluded Heiko Maas.

Matthias Platzeck, Chairman of the Management Board of the German-Russian Forum, confirmed the statement made by the minister that relations between Russia and the West, Germany and Russia had been experiencing the most serious crisis since 1990, which was demonstrated by strong confrontation and the arms race. According to Platzeck, the countries are in the "escalation spiral", and mistrust on both sides is growing in the course of its development.

"Today's problems caused by the pandemic are obscuring a serious crisis, which has been raging in the world – believes Leonid Drachevsky, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Russia, Executive Director of the Gorchakov Fund. – Smaller countries, which can afford acts of provocation with the most unexpected consequences, started playing a big role today. Germany and Russia, as the largest European powers, should be cautious about those provocations in order to not allow crises."

During the Potsdam Meetings, the participants discussed a large number of issues related to prospects of cooperation after elections to the German Bundestag and the State Duma of Russia; security and potential consequences of Europe's separation from the Transatlantic system of security; the "green" agenda and the future of large energy projects; freedom of maneuver of the German policy within the framework of the common European policy; prospects of the German-Russian Council of Entrepreneurs established in December of 2020 and others.

In advance of the memorable date of June 22 – the day when 80 years ago the Third Reich attacked the USSR – the discussion focused on discrepancies in the historical narratives in the modern world. The attendees of the conference agreed that Russia and Germany, given their history, have special experience and responsibility for events taking place on the continent and in the world and emphasized importance of preserving correct assessments of the results of the Great Patriotic War and World War II. Experience of overcoming problems, accumulated in the 20th century by Russia and Germany, should be also used today.

According to Chairman of the Federation Council Konstantin Kosachev, in order to start exiting the relations crisis we should practice principles of peaceful co-existence:
"Now, we are at the point of utmost confrontation, which is similar to the early 1970s during the Cold War, i.e. before the START I Treaty, the Russian-US Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty and the Helsinki Accords. We should stop pretending the that truth is only on our side and start  moving towards each other. We should start our way to the new Helsinki Accords while acknowledging our differences. It means again applying principles of peaceful co-existence if it cannot be done any other way at this point. Red lines should be drawn and beyond them is violation of sovereignty and interference into the national affairs".

Participants of the Youth Forum of the Potsdam Meetings took part in the event. They presented a document developed based on results of the forum held on March 24, 2021.

As it was mentioned by Andrey Miller, Advisor for Business Development at Baltic Wind GmbH, resolutions developed based on results of every youth session of the bilateral forum represented practical proposals for normalization of the German-Russian relations. They include mutual liberalization of the visa regime for the Russian and German youth, media initiatives, sports partnerships, scientific research, and events targeting development of cooperation on municipal and regional levels. The attendees of the Youth Forum of the Postdam Meetings continue implementing initiatives together on a regular basis.

A recording of the XXV Potsdam Meetings is available on the YouTube channel of the German-Russian Forum.