Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 214

German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder held talks in the Kremlin yesterday with ailing Russian President Boris Yeltsin. Afterward, the German leader said that he wanted to maintain strong ties between Russia and Germany and suggested that East Germany’s experience in moving from a planned to a market economy might be of use to Russia. He also said that Bonn would act as an advocate for Russia in the international financial institutions from which Moscow is seeking aid. For his part, Yeltsin reportedly underscored the Kremlin’s pleasure over the fact that “relations between Germany and Russia are and will be the same as they were in recent years” (International, Russian agencies, November 17). Following Schroeder’s election victory, some in Moscow feared that Bonn would downgrade the importance of its ties to Russia.

But Schroeder made several other points yesterday which were probably less pleasing to Moscow. On the economic front, Schroeder made clear that Russia would receive no additional financial assistance from Bonn beyond the money it is providing through international lenders. And, while offering some praise for the Russian government’s recently unveiled economic anticrisis plan, Schroeder stopped short of saying that Germany would recommend to the IMF that it pay out the next US$4.3 billion tranche of a loan package agreed upon with Russia this past summer. Germany is a member of the IMF, the World Bank and the European Union, all of which have provided Russia with aid. Germany is also Russia’s largest trading partner and its leading lender (Reuters, AP, November 17).

Schroeder also reiterated yesterday that, while Bonn intends to maintain its good relations with Russia, those ties will not be based on personal friendships between the two countries’ leaders. “I don’t think I like the sauna very much,” Schroeder said in a reference to the way Yeltsin and former German Chancellor Helmut Kohl used to meet informally in bathhouses. “Russia and Germany will continue to maintain special relations, [but] the style of these relations will change,” the German leader said in remarks to students at Russia’s International Relations Institute (AP, November 17). Schroeder, who concluded his visit to Moscow yesterday, had met a day earlier with Russian Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov and with a number of other top-ranking Russian government officials and regional leaders (see the Monitor, November 17).