“Zoom-diplomacy is our response to the pandemic”. Opinions and comments of the participants of the VI Youth Potsdam Meetings

16 July 2020

On July 16, on the eve of the 75th anniversary of the Potsdam Conference among the leaders of the USSR, Great Britain and the United States, the VI Youth Forum of the Potsdam Meetings took place. The event had been organized by the Alexander Gorchakov Public Diplomacy Fund and the German-Russian Forum.

When opening the conference, Executive Director of the Gorchakov Fund Leonid Drachevsky mentioned that communication between the Russian and German youth in such format had proved itself. Permanent participants of the dialogue have become respected experts in different areas.

According to the head of the Gorchakov Fund, exchange of opinions becomes especially important during the period of the pandemic. Problems in the fields of energy, security and cultural cooperation can be viewed differently in various parts of the planet.

Leonid Drachevsky told the audience that the discussions taking place as part of the Potsdam Meetings would serve as a foundation for developing recommendations to governmental authorities and they would illustrate what people in Russia and Germany think about possible solutions of the problems facing our countries.

Executive Director of the German-Russian Forum Martin Hoffman considered the fact that 60 delegates had taken part in the Potsdam Meetings a success. He believes that the dialogue of the youth would deliver results.

According to him, over the past month the Germans and the Russians have been meeting less often and this is where the danger of the pandemic is. Indeed, meetings in person, a dialogue emphasize special relations between the youth, representatives of the civil society, and businessmen from both countries.

Member of the German Bundestag, Coordinator of Intersocietal Cooperation with Russia, Central Asia and Countries of the Eastern Partnership Dirk Wiese suggested calling the current format of work Zoom-diplomacy. According to him, Zoom-diplomacy will become our response to the coronavirus. What is important is that we continue the dialogue. Despite the fact that we can have different views on certain problems, our dialogue has not stopped. Cooperation through civil society is crucial as it will help to cope with the difficult times. However, the pandemic should not result in limitation of civil rights and liberties.

Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Russia to Germany Sergey Nechayev mentioned that the Youth Potsdam Meetings continue developing, demonstrate positive dynamics and get more support from diplomats, politicians, businessmen and general public.

He acknowledged that he did not believe that the pandemic somehow had affected intensity of the bilateral dialogue. An active political dialogue between the heads of the countries, the ministers of foreign affairs and the parliamentarians continues. Many historical events are celebrated together.

Special Representative of the President of Russia for International Cultural Cooperation Mikhail Shvydkoy thinks that there are many extremely important events ahead us. He expressed hope that Zoom-diplomacy would be balanced with normal human relations. 

Chairman of the Committee for Foreign Affairs of the Federation Council of the Federal Assembly of Russia, member of the Management Board of the Gorchakov Fund Konstantin Kosachev did not agree with an opinion expressed during the discussion that the coronavirus pandemic in its consequences could be compared to the fall of the Berlin Wall. According to him, influence of the outbreak of the decease on the foreign policy will be minimal. It is doubtful that anyone would give up their national interests. Big actors used to get together in front of the threats like Nazism or world terrorism, but the pandemic allows behaving according to usual rules in the unbalanced system of international relations.

The Youth Potsdam Meetings ended with a serious discussion. Its first session was “Global Turning Points and Their Consequences: New Alliances or Succession in Foreign and Security Policies” and the second - “Society and Economy as an Opportunity: The German-Russian Cooperation during the Pandemic and the Global Economic Crisis”.