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    German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier

    Moscow 'Shouldn't Get Carried Away Over Steinmeier's Presidential Candidacy'

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    Germany's grand coalition has agreed to back Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier for the presidency. Some Russian Germany watchers have welcomed the move, citing the Foreign Minister's opposition to many anti-Russian policies. However, according to Die Linke Party lawmaker Andrej Hunko, Moscow shouldn't get carried away with elation.

    On Wednesday, the leaders of Germany's grand coalition government, consisting of the Christian Democratic Union/Christian Social Union and the Social Democratic Party, officially agreed to nominate Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier as the coalition candidate for the February 2017 presidential election.

    Under German law, the president is selected by the country's Federal Assembly for a five year term. Wednesday's agreement is significant because none of Germany's major parliamentary parties has enough votes to push their favored candidate forward without the approval of others.

    Russian Germany watchers have generally seen in Steinmeier a pragmatist and realist, and as someone who can be worked with. The Foreign Minister has voiced opposition to anti-Russian sanctions over the situation in Syria, is a proponent of the Minsk agreements on peace in eastern Ukraine, and has stepped out publically against the NATO military buildup in Eastern Europe. He has also said that the European Union must focus more on its many internal problems, or face the prospect of collapse.

    Speaking to Sputnik Deutschland, Die Linke lawmaker Andrej Hunko said that in reality, Steinmeier is far from an ideal candidate for the presidency, even if he has "sent certain positive signals," for example, by promoting détente with Russia. "Speaking about NATO's Anaconda drills, he spoke of 'saber-rattling'," Hunko admitted. On the other hand, his role in the 2014 coup in Kiev, Ukraine, which started the East-West political crisis, should also be recalled, the politician stressed.

    "Steinmeier immediately endorsed the coup in Ukraine in February 2014, although shortly before these events he went to the country and signed a different sort of agreement with President Viktor Yanukovych, who was then in power," Hunko noted.

    Between late 2013 and early 2014, protesters occupied Kiev's central square, the Maidan Nezalezhnosti, to protest Yanukovych's decision to cancel EU Association and join the Russian-led Eurasian Economic Union project instead. In February 2014, protests culminated in a coup, forcing Yanukovych to flee the country in fear for his life. Just hours before, Foreign Minister Steinmeier, along with his counterparts from France and Poland, brokered a deal between Yanukovych and the opposition, promising early elections in exchange for the president's security and an end to riots in the streets.

    The European politicians effectively went back on their word, and Ukraine has faced political and economic turmoil, as well as civil war in its Donbass region, ever since.

    German Foreign Affairs minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier (C) and Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych (R) shake hands as head of Vitali Klitschko, one of Maidan's leaders, looks on after the signing of what was thought to be a compromise deal in Kiev on February 21, 2014
    German Foreign Affairs minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier (C) and Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych (R) shake hands as head of Vitali Klitschko, one of Maidan's leaders, looks on after the signing of what was thought to be a compromise deal in Kiev on February 21, 2014

    The Ukrainian debacle aside, Hunko also suggested that Steinmeier's image as a dove is somewhat overblown, something that has been demonstrated recently by Germany's vote against a UN resolution calling for the abolition of nuclear weapons. "This is the most important initiative in the history of the UN," the lawmaker explained. "Some European nations, including Austria and Ireland, supported it. Even NATO member the Netherlands abstained. So I don't see Steinmeier as the peace-loving foreign minister the media presents him as."

    Finally, the Die Linke politician noted that even in domestic policy, Steinmeier's role as one of the key architects of the SPD's Agenda 2010 and the resulting Hartz IV laws, a controversial series of economic reforms making major cuts into Germany's social security system, make his candidacy for the presidency a flawed one. So too was Steinmeier's apathy toward repatriating Murat Kurnaz, a German citizen held at Guantanamo Bay for over four years without any proof of any terrorist ties.

    "All this throws a very unpleasant light on Steinmeier," Hunko said. "Therefore I will not vote for him." In conclusion, the politician suggested that Die Linke should field its own candidate for the post.


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