Publication: Monitor Volume: 3 Issue: 162

Russian and German leaders have used an official visit to Moscow by German president Roman Herzog as an occasion to restate their satisfaction with relations between the two countries. Herzog, who arrived in Russia on August 31 and will depart tomorrow, is the first president of a reunited Germany to visit Russia. In comments made following talks with President Boris Yeltsin on September 1, he thanked the Russian people for their contribution both to the ending of the Cold War and to the reunification of Germany. Yeltsin, for his part, emphasized the importance that Russia attaches to its relations with Germany, and called them a "priority among priorities." He also mentioned his friendship with German chancellor Helmut Kohl, and announced that he would invite Kohl to visit Russia informally sometime this autumn.

Prior to his departure for Russia Herzog had identified economics as the key area of interaction between not only between Germany and Russia, but between Russia and the West, a remark that signaled trade issues would occupy a prominent place in his talks with Russian leaders. In the security sphere, Herzog appeared to stress multilateralism, suggesting that Russian-German relations would develop under the aegis of the Russia-NATO Founding Act and through cooperation within the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).

The two sides downplayed two more ticklish problems — the status of the growing number of ethnic Germans living in Russia and the disposition of so-called "trophy art." The second issue, which involves Bonn’s demand for the return of artworks seized by Soviet soldiers at the close of World War II, has emerged as a serious irritant in relations between the two countries. Yeltsin has twice vetoed a bill passed by the Russian parliament that would prohibit the return of the artwork to Germany, and the issue seems likely to go to Russia’s Constitutional Court. In a conciliatory gesture aimed at breaking the impasse, Herzog said that Germany would return to Russia several recently discovered panels from the famed 18th century "Amber Room" if experts certified them as genuine.

In addition to his meeting with Yeltsin, Herzog’s itinerary also included talks with Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin and other members of the government, as well as with Federation Council chairman Yegor Stroyev and Duma chairman Gennady Seleznev, and representatives of Russia’s business, scientific, and cultural communities. (Russian and Western agencies, August 29-September 2)

Russia’s External Economic Position Continues to Strengthen.