Support The Moscow Times!

Moscow Sends Mixed Signals on Berlin Wall

On the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, Moscow is sending a mixed message to the West by being overtly positive about the demise of the Iron Curtain, which led to the Soviet breakup, while at the same time harboring resentment about its current position in Europe.

President Dmitry Medvedev on Monday honored German Chancellor Angela Merkel by taking part in anniversary celebrations in Berlin. In an interview on the eve of his visit, he praised the events of November 1989 because the wall “was a symbol of the division of the continent.”

His words were echoed by Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, who said in a documentary on NTV television Sunday that the wall had been doomed to come down because it was impossible to hold back a nation in the modern world.

The positive reception even surprised some observers.

“I really did not expect such broad acclaim. I did not even discern any negative comments from nationalists or Communists,” a senior Western diplomat told The Moscow Times, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the subject.

Still Medvedev himself made it clear that there was considerable frustration in Russia 20 years on about the country’s role in Europe, from where it feels unfairly excluded.

“It is totally wrong to say, ‘Here is the united Europe where democracy has already been achieved, and there is dark, uneducated Russia that we cannot yet allow into Europe,’” he said in an interview with German magazine Der Spiegel.

“Our values are the same as yours,” he said, according to a transcript posted on the Kremlin’s web site.

Medvedev lashed out at Moscow’s critics in Eastern Europe, saying he saw no major differences in freedom and human rights between those countries and Russia, especially among new EU member states that are “not one iota better” in political culture and economic development.

Medvedev also complained that it has been impossible to redefine Russia’s place in Europe while NATO has continued to expand.

“After the disappearance of the Warsaw Pact, we were hoping for a higher degree of integration. But what have we received? None of the things that we were assured, namely that NATO would not expand endlessly eastward,” he said.

Medvedev referred to a long-standing Russian complaint that former U.S. Secretary of State James Baker had promised Gorbachev back in 1990 that NATO would not move “one inch eastward” as a precondition for Moscow’s support of the unification of West and East Germany.

Baker has denied this repeatedly, most recently in Moscow earlier this year when he told reporters that the Soviets not only had not insisted on that position at the time but had actually agreed to a written treaty that expanded NATO eastward to include all of East Germany.

Yet NATO’s decision to include former Soviet allies in Eastern Europe and the Baltic states has angered the Kremlin.

Discussions to extend the military alliance to Ukraine and Georgia have even been identified as a cause of Russia’s brief war over Georgia’s breakaway republic of South Ossetia in August 2008.

Sergei Markov, a State Duma deputy for the ruling United Russia party, said NATO’s expansion had erected a new wall further east.

“We tore down the Berlin Wall, but now the West has constructed a new one,” he said in an interview Monday, referring to former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev’s policies that led to the collapse of the East German regime.

After acceding to the presidency in 2008, Medvedev pledged to create a new European security pact to resolve those differences.

Medvedev’s comments to Der Spiegel are a sign of his anger that the West had failed to react to his plan, said Hans-Henning Schröder, an analyst with the German Institute for International and Security Affairs.

“Here is an offer for dialogue that is not being accepted,” he said by telephone from Berlin.

Western leaders have voiced concern that Medvedev’s offer would weaken NATO and sidestep the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, a 56-member body that includes Russia and all Western European countries and has a mandate to safeguard the continent’s security.

Medvedev has harshly criticized the OSCE by complaining that it deals with nonessential issues.

Schröder said the West should respond to Medvedev by offering its own vision for a future relationship with Russia.

He said the problem was that policymakers in Europe and the United States lacked decisiveness on what to do. “Russia is too big and too obstinate to be integrated into Western structures, but just to ignore it causes more trouble,” he said.

… we have a small favor to ask. As you may have heard, The Moscow Times, an independent news source for over 30 years, has been unjustly branded as a "foreign agent" by the Russian government. This blatant attempt to silence our voice is a direct assault on the integrity of journalism and the values we hold dear.

We, the journalists of The Moscow Times, refuse to be silenced. Our commitment to providing accurate and unbiased reporting on Russia remains unshaken. But we need your help to continue our critical mission.

Your support, no matter how small, makes a world of difference. If you can, please support us monthly starting from just $2. It's quick to set up, and you can be confident that you're making a significant impact every month by supporting open, independent journalism. Thank you.

paiment methods
Not ready to support today?
Remind me later.

Read more