Cultural exchange with Russia is to be broken off

ZDF asks whether “because of Navalny” the cultural exchange with Russia should be ended. Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Maas is boycotting a german-Russian science project. After sport (“state doping”) other areas of german-Russian understanding are to be “politicized” and dialogue impossible.

The conclusion of the “German-Russian Year of University Cooperation and Science” has just taken place in Berlin. In fact, it was long planned that Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov would meet his German counterpart Heiko Maas here: on the one hand, to pay tribute to the promising and inter-ethnic german-Russian science project. On the other hand, however, in order to take advantage of what international cultural, sporting and scientific projects make possible “by the way”: a political exchange even in times marked by poisonous propaganda. A meeting between Maas and Lavrov at the conclusion of the “German-Russian Year of University Cooperation and Science” on 15 September could therefore have been an important opportunity: for a level of exchange and reason to be resumed in the german-Russian relationship, in the midst of the sharp and irrational anti-Russian media campaign on the Navalny case.

Culture, science and sport to be ‘politicised’

Culture and science are obviously to be politicized as well as sport, which has already been propagandistically charged by the campaigns for the 2018 World Cup or “Russian state doping” – also in order to prevent the dialogues made possible by the “innocuous” events. Incidentally, doping by Russian athletes is not to be denied in principle, but the instrumentalisation of this sports issue for geopolitics is reprehensible. In addition to the political level, the peaceful and “apolitical” encounter of the populations in sport or culture is to be torpedoed – a reprehensible attack on international understanding. Another recent example of these tendencies is attacks on the german-Russian cultural exchange, which is reported by ZDF’s “Aspekte” programme.

The current behaviour, especially of large German media, but also of large parts of the policy towards Russia, is hypocritical, destructive and risky in the long term: how many harsh and arrogant rejections are the Russians likely to tolerate? How will this affect an alliance between Germany and Russia that might once be considered possible or necessary? In any case, it is better not to misunderstand the apparent patience of the Russians with the marottens of a radical German media landscape as weakness.

“Lavrov rejects Maas offer of talks”

According to the Russian side, the German Foreign Minister has already prevented the recent chance of sensible dialogue in a time irrationally charged by campaigns: on 3 September, he not only cancelled his participation in the ceremony for the “German-Russian Year of University Cooperation and Science”, but also greatly reduced the time for talks with the Russian side, as the Russian Foreign Ministry has announced. In the German media, the exact course of the cancellation is presented as ambiguous, the “Spiegel” writes under the misleading headline “Lavrov rejects maas' offer of talks”, the reason for the cancellation is “allegedly” a change in the “schedule of the German side”. Unlike Maas, Lavrov sent a greeting message to the science project.

Whatever the description of Lavrov’s visit, there is no doubt that Heiko Maas' refusal to participate in the ceremony of an important german-Russian project has already left one of the few remaining rooms of the german-Russian dialogue unused, thus further damaging this dialogue in the long term. This is a very bad testament to a diplomat.

Heiko Maas: The Anti-Diplomat

More recently, Maas has been destructive in blocking Russia’s return to the G7. In the article “Heiko Maas: The Anti-Russian Gatekeeper”, the post-thinkers complained that With Maas, of all people, a “social democrat acts as a diligent spearhead of anti-Russian mood-mongering”. The article continues, and this statement can also be applied to the very current events surrounding the “German-Russian Year of University Cooperation and Science”:

“How to sabotage international conversation formats in the form that Maas and other Western politicians and media practice in response to international conflicts is hard to justify. Moreover, the “punitive” attitude of Western politicians towards Russia, derived from an alleged moral advantage, is not justified by the political-military actions of that “West”. Certainly not the highest diplomat of a country should lean out of the window in this destructive way for international dialogue.”

“End cultural exchange with Russia?”

On the subject of the german-Russian cultural exchange, ZDF has just produced a report by the magazine “Aspects”: “End cultural exchange with Russia? The Navalny assassination and its aftermath”. Here, the demand to be rejected and in every respect destructive demand for an end to cultural exchanges with Russia is still marked with a question mark.

One wonders, however, how a “cultural magazine” can present such a thesis, which contradicts international understanding and the unifying power of culture, in the first place. The report itself also asks questions above all, but with a clear ‘Russia-critical’ thrust.

Seriousness leaves the show in the moments when she introduces Marieluise Beck as a leniency witness. However, a Belarusian “oppositionist” opposes the slaying of cultural ties between “hostile” states. The position of Hermann Parzinger, the president of the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation, which conducts the “german-Russian Museum Dialogue” with Russian cultural institutions, is weak. Instead of defending this dialogue (and especially!) in times of unbridled anti-Russian propaganda without ifs and buts, he leaves his position – in addition to general correct sentences on the unifying power of culture – questionable in the vague.

Building bridges with culture, sport, science

The desire, especially of the USA, to drive a wedge between Germany and Russia is well known, this attitude is bluntly articulated in this well-known lecture by the head of the US think tank STRATFOR, George Friedman. This effort should be opposed, including through culture, sport and science. Therefore, we must not allow these connecting elements to be defamed in order to break down these bridges as well.