Interview: German ties with Russia on the upswing as Medvedev visits

By Mark Caldwell

Alexander Rahr

Deutsche Welle spoke with Alexander Rahr, a Russia expert at the German Council on Foreign Relations, about the state of Russo-German relations.
DW: Germany has joined permanent members of the UN security council, which include Russia, in calling for sanctions against Iran. What aspects of the dispute with Iran will the two leaders be discussing.

Alexander Rahr: Angela Merkel stands clearly on the US position that sanctions against Iran are necessary. We have seen that Russia has slightly changed its previously stubborn position on this issue, it is now moving toward Western positions. And the meeting with Merkel will probably demonstrate that Russia is indeed willing to support more sanctions as it was ready to do a couple of weeks ago.
What has prompted this change on Russia's part?

Russia came to the conclusion that what the West has always said is true that Iran is indeed building a nuclear bomb, and that this nuclear bomb will indeed threaten Russia. I think that Obama could do more to convince Medvedev to join the Western anti-Iranian coalition, and he did it also by changing his policy on central-eastern Europe.

We remember, the United States wanted to install anti-missile defense infrastructure in Poland and the Czech Republic, but Russia feels threatened by that. And out of this threat and out of this conflict which arose with the United States, Russia somehow felt sympathetic in a way toward Iran.

Now the Iranian leadership itself has accused Russia of being an enemy of Iran. The bridges between Tehran and Moscow seem to have burned, and that will help Russia to make the right decisions, and Mrs. Merkel will try to move Medvedev closer to Western positions.
Both Russia and Germany are going to be attending the G-20 meeting in Toronto this month, at which financial market regulation will be a key issue. Is there much common ground between Berlin and Moscow on this issue?

There is no real common ground because Russia is not yet a part of the global financial system as Germany and the United States and many other of the G-20 states are. But Russia is very much interested not to go to the summit of the G-20 with an individual position. It wants to join the position of other states. It wants to be part of states who could maybe propose certain agendas.

And Russia is very much interested in negotiating with Germany a kind of pre-position before going to this summit, to have Germany on its side when decisions will be taken about the future financial system of the world, about what the probable change of the WTO rules, about the world economic system. It is very important for Russia.