German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier called for ending the demonization of Russia and its people on Sunday. He added that Germany should do more to help de-escalate tensions, given his country's unique history with Russia.
Steinmeier warned that the US-led airstrikes in Syria in the early hours of Saturday morning raised the risk of direct confrontation between US and Russian forces operating in the Syrian theater. Relations between the US and Russia have hit a post-Cold War low after the attack, which followed the alleged chemical weapons attack in Douma, Syria, last week. The Syrian regime has denied allegations that it gassed its own people, particularly in an area where, and a time when, its forces were on the brink of total victory.
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“We are at the next step of escalation in the Russian-American relationship,” Steinmeier told Bild. “Regardless of (Russian President Vladimir) Putin, we cannot declare Russia as a whole, the country and its people, to be an enemy,” he said. “Our history speaks against it, and there is too much at stake.”
Even before the alleged Douma gas attack, Russo-Western relations were tense in the aftermath of the poisoning of Sergei and Yulia Skripal in Salisbury, England, on March 4. The UK prime minister declared it was “highly likely” that Russia was behind the poisoning, citing a lack of “plausible alternative explanation” and the purported Soviet origin of the chemical agent used. For its part, Moscow has vehemently denied any involvement in the poisoning and decried the total lack of transparency in the case. Russian Ambassador to the UK Alexander Yakovenko said it was possible that London was destroying evidence that could exonerate Russia.
Steinmeier described the Skripal row as "a very serious incident.”'
Read more: ‘We cannot declare Russia, the country and its people, to be an enemy’ – German president