Experts differ on the future of Russian-German relations under new chancellor

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MOSCOW, October 10 (RIA Novosti) - A senior member of the Russian parliament said Monday that the appointment of Christian Democrat leader Angela Merkel as the new German chancellor would not have any negative affect on bilateral relations, but an expert with a leading political think tank said the two countries might be in for a cool period.

"A high level of Russian-German relations meets Germany's strategic interests," Konstantin Kosachev, the chairman of the lower chamber's foreign affairs committee said, adding that the format of bilateral relations might change, however.

Merkel was appointed Federal Chancellor after lengthy talks between the Christian Democrats and the Social Democrats, led by outgoing Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, about a "grand coalition," which resulted in an agreement to share key posts in the new government.

Kosachev said coalition was the only way to form a stable government in Germany, after parliamentary polls produced no clear leader.

Kosachev said the appointment of a Social Democrat as foreign minister would indicate the successive character of Germany's foreign policy.

Kosachev also said both parties stood together on most foreign policy issues, including Germany's decision not to participate in the Iraq war and the construction of the North European pipeline project that would link Russian pipelines directly to West European consumers.

However, Christian Democrats accuse the previous government of pursuing an excessively independent foreign policy, disregarding the EU and United States, Kosachev said.

He said the Christian Democrats, however, pledged that German-American relations would not be improved at Russia's expense.

But Vyacheslav Nikonov, the head of the Politika think tank, argued the new German government would pay less attention to Russia in its foreign policy and give preference to its relations with the United States.

"Merkel has repeatedly said closer ties with the United States will be her priority," Nikonov said, adding that a cooling period could therefore be in store for Russia-Germany relations.

He also said that despite possible political differences, Russian and Germany were closely linked economically.

Nikonov said it would be difficult for a coalition government to operate unless it managed to reach compromise solutions.

"They [the two parties] follow different social and political guidelines and have different programs and electorates," Nikonov said.

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