The German political mantra with regard to Russia is “stay in dialogue, don't let the thread of the conversation break”, as if nothing less than the fate of Germany hung on this thread. If it tears, the Federal Republic would be gone. How else could one explain the lax or even lack of reactions to all Russian audacity, be it wars, murders or attacks on unpleasant characters, be it the oppression of one's own citizens or the support of dictatorships, be it hacker attacks on the Bundestag and the CDU - Party headquarters, disinformation campaigns or other interference in our democratic processes? Even the further construction of the Nord Stream-2 pipeline was justified with the need for dialogue.

The Russian public prosecutor's office has now declared three German NGOs to be “undesirable organizations”. These include the ThinkTank Center for Liberal Modernism (LibMod), headed by former Green politicians Ralf Fücks and Marieluise Beck, and the German-Russian Exchange (DRA) founded in 1992. In addition, the “European Platform for Democratic Elections” (EPDE) run by the German NGO European Exchange has been “undesirable” in Russia for three years now. This status is not only equivalent to a ban on activities, it also endangers the Russian partners of the “undesirable organizations”, who face high fines and up to six years in prison for their work. Whether and how these are actually imposed is left to the arbitrariness of the directed Russian judiciary; there have already been two convictions of this kind.

About the instrumentalization of the Russian-speaking diaspora

When the "dialogue" between Germany and Russia is mentioned, the first thing that comes to mind is the Petersburg Dialogue, the structure founded in 2001 by the then Federal Chancellor Gerhard Schröder and Russian President Vladimir Putin, which promotes understanding and networking between the states Societies should promote.

How this “dialogue” should proceed is now completely unclear: With LibMod, DRA and EPDE, Russia has criminalized three German organizations involved in the work of the forum.

Marieluise Beck and the head of European exchange, Stefanie Schiffer, are even members of the board, although Schiffer has not received a Russian visa since 2018.

The latest personnel changes on the Russian side of the forum show what kind of conversation the Russian rulers are actually interested in. Recently, the head of the RT Margarita Simonjan propaganda agency and Evgenij Primakov, the head of the agency for "Cooperation and Citizens' Questions", Rossotrudnitschestvo, were appointed to the committee, which is already largely made up of falcons Diaspora is known for Kremlin politics. At the same time, Russia is trying to pit the German participants in the dialogue against one another and to completely eliminate the critical members. For the DRA, the declaration of unwanted organization is even an existential threat: Cooperation with Russian partners is the core business of the publicly funded NGO.The Kremlin not only wants to determine what to talk about, but also with whom. So when someone in Germany today talks about having to remain in dialogue with Russia, the main thing is: submit, do not contradict, be good. The only thread of conversation the Kremlin wants is a short leash.

The author

heads the “Initiative Quorum” project of the European exchange.