A pledge from the German defense minister to only talk with Russia “from a position of strength” will fall flat as long as Berlin is dependent on the US for its security, Moscow said on Saturday.
Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova argued that Germany’s rhetoric failed to match the political and military reality. “There is strength there, but it isn’t yours, and you can’t control it”, she said, adding that Germany is “completely and utterly within the US’ military sphere.”
She went on to say that an example of the imbalance in the relationship between the US and Germany was a dispute over Washington’s plans to withdraw troops from the country and cautioned that Germany shouldn’t feel bullish because American nuclear warheads are warehoused there. “It might look like power, but it isn’t their own,” she added.
Her comments come in response to German Minister of Defense, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, who told local media that “the Russian side has invested heavily in modernizing its armed forces, they have new weapons, and the threat has become much more evident.” Where Germany needs to negotiate with Russia, such as around disarmament, it must do so “from a position of strength, and we will have to strengthen our position,” she said.
On Thursday, the Russian defense ministry also lashed out at Kramp-Karrenbauer’s remarks, with a spokesman telling journalists that her warning that Russia was a growing threat was “the attempts of a primary school student to compensate for the ignorance of the subject with the loudness of the uttered absurdity.”
While Germany and Russia have a number of major economic and political partnerships, enmity between the two countries is often driven by the presence of US military bases and installations in Germany.
Relations between Moscow and Berlin have frayed in recent months as Germany became the driving force behind new sanctions imposed on Russia over the alleged poisoning of Russian opposition figure Alexey Navalny. At the request of German ministers, the EU introduced measures against Russian officials, who it claims were accountable for targeting the political activist with a deadly nerve agent in August. Navalny was transferred to Berlin’s Charite hospital in a comatose state. He is now said to have recovered and has remained in the country.
At the same time, Berlin’s relations with the US have also been strained in recent weeks, over a joint pipeline project with Russia. On Thursday, at least one German firm involved in the construction of Nord Stream 2 pulled out of the scheme after being threatened with sanctions by Washington. Berlin has pushed forward with the project despite US objections.