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Putin Visits Germany for Talks on Debt, Terrorism - 2002-04-09

Russian President Vladimir Putin is in Germany Tuesday to meet with German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder. The talks are expected to focus on Russia's Soviet-era debt to Germany as well as the American-led war against terrorism.

Russian President Vladimir Putin's visit to Weimar, in eastern Germany, is expected to help the two sides iron out an agreement on old debt.

In comments to reporters before leaving, Mr. Putin said the two sides are close to making a deal on Moscow's debt to the former East Germany. Russia owes Germany about 6.5 billion transferable rubles - a counting mechanism used by the Soviet Union in trade. So far, the two sides have not been able to agree on an exchange rate.

President Putin and Chancellor Schroeder are also expected to discuss the American-led war against terrorism and the upcoming summit next month in Moscow between presidents Bush and Putin.

Tuesday's visit reflects the good relations between the German and Russian leaders. Germany is usually considered Russia's strongest Western ally, as well as its largest trading partner.

President Putin and Chancellor Schroeder have met numerous times in the past and often speak in German without the aid of a translator.

The Russian president learned the language while serving in East Germany during the 1980s for the KGB. Last fall, in a visit to Berlin, President Putin impressed the German political establishment by addressing the parliament in fluent German.

The close relations with Germany also reflect Mr. Putin's desire to have a pro-Western foreign policy. As part of this policy, the Russian president offered his strong support to the United States after the terrorist attacks of September 11. He even went so far as to give his blessing to having U.S. troops in Central Asia, long considered Russia's backyard.

But in recent months, President Putin has come under criticism from opponents who say Russia is not getting enough in return for its western orientation.