Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 179

German Chancellor-to-be Gerhard Schroeder agreed in a telephone conversation with President Boris Yeltsin yesterday to visit Moscow as soon as he is confirmed in office. In separate remarks to the German newspaper Bild, Schroeder also said that his Social Democratic Party stands for–among other things–continuity in the area of foreign policy (Reuters, Itar-Tass, September 29). Schroeder’s willingness to travel so soon to Moscow, together with his talk of continuity in German foreign policy, will probably reassure Russian leaders that the special relationship between Germany and Russia fashioned by Schroeder’s predecessor–Helmut Kohl–will be maintained under the new German chancellor. During the recent German election campaign, and then again on September 29, Schroeder criticized Kohl for his overly personalized friendship with Yeltsin.

The Russian newspaper Izvestia yesterday summed up what many Russian leaders probably see as the likely course of German-Russian relations in the immediate post-Kohl era: The relationship between Schroeder and Yeltsin will not be as close as that between Kohl and Yeltsin. The paper also suggested that Schroeder is unlikely to forget any time soon that the Russian president clearly favored Kohl during a visit to Bonn in June. For all that, Germany remains Russia’s “leading trade and economic partner, and German capital is active in our investment market.” While the “honeymoon” in relations between the two countries may therefore now be at an end, according to the newspaper, “both sides have retained their serious intentions” (Itar-Tass, September 29).

Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Vladimir Rakhmanin yesterday spoke positively of the “expanded format” under which the last Russian-German summit was held in June of this year. That event saw meetings and agreements not only between the Russian and German leaders, but also between a large number of government ministers from each side. In remarks to reporters, Rakhmanin characterized the wide-ranging nature of the last summit as emblematic of closer Russian-German relations in general. He said Moscow hopes that this and other forms of close cooperation between Russia and Germany would be continued in the future (Russian agencies, September 29).

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Yakushin said that Yeltsin had also spoken yesterday by phone with out-going German Chancellor Helmut Kohl. Yeltsin reportedly thanked Kohl for his contributions to the strengthening of Russian-German relations. In what Yakushin said was a “warm and sincere” conversation, Kohl was reported to have thanked the Russian president as well and also to have voiced his hope that the new German leadership would continue to develop friendly relations with Moscow (Russian agencies, September 29).