Saturday, May 25, 2024

‘Warned us’: Germany’s foreign minister speaks of deep Russia trade regret

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German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock says her country has overhauled its strategic approach to China to avoid a repeat of the past when, she says, the NATO member failed to realise the extent of its economic dependence on Russia.

“You shouldn’t repeat mistakes twice,” Ms Baerbock told 7.30, during her first visit to Australia.

“We Germans were so dependent on Russia for gas and oil [that] Russia calculated in the case of invasion, we couldn’t react,” she said.

The foreign minister said the previous German government had underestimated Russian President Vladimir Putin’s threats to Ukraine.

“Our friends and partners, especially in Eastern Europe, they warned us, saying … this is a strategic instrument of dependency, and then also a preparation for the invasion of the war in Ukraine,” she said.

Ms Baerbock, who is a Greens politician within Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s coalition, says Germany has now developed a comprehensive China policy to diversify its supply chains, while maintaining a strong trade relationship with Beijing.

“[Germany’s] China strategy is especially based on diversification,” she said.

“We are not looking for decoupling, but we do not want to repeat our mistake twice that we are so dependent, that we cannot do our foreign policy.”

A lithium trade deal?

The comments come at a time where Germany says Beijing is “striving for hegemony” in the Asia Pacific region and “calling principles of international law into question”.

Under Xi Jinping China has become more aggressive on trade and expansion.(Reuters: Florence Lo)

“They [have] made it very clear in their speeches, and then their foreign policy, that they are also challenging democracies worldwide,” Ms Baerbock said.

To counter Chinese influence on trade and any over-dependence on them from Germany, the foreign minister said she would look to trade on critical minerals directly with Australia.

“Lithium comes from Australia then it’s being exported to China, processed there, and then we import it again,” she said.

“The smartest thing not only for diversification, but also strengthening ties between democracies, and free markets, would be if we could import the lithium directly from Australia.”

Israel’s security is Germany’s raison d’état

While Ms Baerbock travelled to Australia to return cultural heritage items to the Kaurna people, she also met with Foreign Affairs Minister Penny Wong in Adelaide, where the two briefly discussed the situation in the Middle East.

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock and Australian Foreign Affairs Minister Penny Wong.

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock met with Australian Foreign Affairs Minister Penny Wong in Adelaide.(ABC News: Shari Hams)

Germany is one of Israel’s staunchest allies, and its arms trade with Tel Aviv is second only to the US.

Ms Baerbock told 7.30 that Israel’s security remains Germany’s “raison d’êtat.”

“The security of the state of Israel and the future generation is our raison d’êtat. We have committed the worst crimes, the genocide, the Shoah to 6 million Jews,” she said, making reference to the Holocaust.

Germany’s foreign minister says that dark history compels them to uphold international law.

“This is why I’ve engaged so heavily as the German foreign minister, not only to call on Hamas to lay down its weapons to guarantee Israel’s security, but also calling on the Israeli government that humanitarian aid has to come into Gaza.

“They are fighting the Hamas terrorists and not the civilian population.”

Diplomatic efforts to reach a deal between Benjamin Netanyahu’s government and Hamas leadership are ongoing.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during a press conference.

Germany has called on Israel PM Benjamin Netanyahu to show restraint in Rafah.(Reuters: Abir Sultan)

The Israeli prime minister maintains his planned invasion of the city of Rafah – where hundreds of thousands of civilians have sought shelters – remains on the cards.

Ms Baerbock says she has warned Israel of the consequences of invading Rafah.

“I made also very clear that an offensive full invasion of Rafah is impossible because of 1 million people who are currently in Rafah, they cannot just disappear in the air.”

Watch 7.30, Mondays to Thursdays 7:30pm on ABC iview and ABC TV

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