Horst Seehofer, Bavarian CSU prime minister, paid a visit to Moscow at the invitation of Mayor Sergey Sobyanin, where he held talks with President Putin. Though the talks centered around fostering cultural and economic relations between Russia and Bavaria, (Bavaria accounts for 20 percent of all Russian-German economic ties with fifty percent of Germany’s investment projects in Russia being of Bavarian origin1) and building up mutual trust in solving the Ukrainian and Syrian conflicts2, Berlin did not seem to be pleased. CSU is a local variation of the national CDU, which has been headed by Angela Merkel for ten years now. The chancellor’s open-door policy towards migrants has been bringing about a mounting tension both within the party that is currently holding the reins of power as well as splitting German society. Horst Seehofer may be attempting to tout himself as a possible opponent of Angela Merkel. The Bavarian prime minister believes Europe and Russia ought to solve economic and political issues like the war in Syria in collaboration with Russia. As if to put Berlin’s fears to rest, Horst Seehofer reassured in the diplomatic, carefully balanced language, ‘We want to accomplish all this not against our federal government, but with it.3‘
It is not only Czech President Milos Zeman who followed in Victor Orban’s footsteps in challenging the EU anti-Russian policy. Now it is also the Bavarian PM. Mr Seehofer, though stressing his loyalty to the federal government in Berlin, actively opposes the sanctions against Russia over Moscow’s alleged role in the Ukrainian conflict4.
Some of the German press accuse him of making a political show for the media. It is neither economy nor politics, but a statement, they say. Mr Seehofer maintains he is a follower of Realpolitik, a policy that now and again has proved so successful in Germany’s recent history. And he concedes: without Russia one cannot hope to solve all the problems5.
1 Germany & West need Russia to settle Syria and refugee crises – Bavarian leader, Source: RT 2016-02-04
2 In Moskau wird Seehofer zum Putin-Versteher, Source: Die Welt 2016-02-03
3 Germany & West need Russia to settle Syria and refugee crises – Bavarian leader, Source: RT 2016-02-04
4 Anti-sanction, Merkel-critic Bavarian leader to meet Putin in Moscow, Source: RT 2016-02-01
5 In Moskau wird Seehofer zum Putin-Versteher, Source: Die Welt 2016-02-03