From the Guardian: Germany is Russia’s closest ally inside Europe. Berlin remains a pragmatic advocate for Russia within the EU and Nato – to the point of defending Moscow from attacks by the new EU members of eastern Europe.

There are, of course, sound reasons for this: Germany is Russia’s biggest export and trading partner. Germany is also the biggest EU customer for Russian oil and gas. Three million Russians, meanwhile, most of them of Jewish heritage, now live in Germany, forming the second largest non-German population after the Turks…

According to [Alexander] Rahr [programme director of the German Council on Foreign Relations], there is a historical explanation for Germany’s Sonderverhältnis, or special relationship, with Russia, which appears to have survived two devastating world wars. (Russia puts its dead from the last one at 27 million. The fact that Germany isn’t a geopolitical rival to Russia, like the US, may also help.)

“Germany has a special relationship with Russia over centuries, going back not just to Bismarck, but to the Russian kings. We have closer links than the French, the Swiss, or the Austrians, and the Poles and the Swedes,” Rahr says. “Education and German universities are less critical of Russian history, more interested in the allure of Russia, and more understanding of Russia’s role in Europe than in other countries,” he adds. (photo: Oliver Weiken/EPA)