WASHINGTON - German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble on Friday portrayed the Ukraine crisis as an opportunity for the European Union and the United States to revamp their relationship after the fallout of the NSA spying scandal.
"I am confident that the Ukraine crisis will help us to strengthen transatlantic ties and rediscover our common interests," Schaeuble said in a speech on the sidelines of the annual IMF/World Bank spring meetings.
Moscow's "backslide into patterns from the previous century" has caused both sides of the Atlantic to move closer together, he said.
"Like no two actors on the global stage, the United States and Europe share common values, common strengths and common interests when it comes to shaping the global order of the 21st century." Schaeuble contrasted the Western embrace for a globalised world based on cooperation and equal partnership with the "hegemonic" attitude on display during Russia's annexation of Crimea.
"Globalization and empires don't go together," Schaeuble told an audience at the Council on Foreign Relations.
"Because of this, Russia's current imperial moment will remain just that - a moment, especially since it is already based on a shaky foundation." He pointed to Russia's "rather gloomy" economic outlook, stressing that its economy is too dependent on energy exports and lacks a strong industrial basis.
"Russia does not currently offer a very attractive model for emerging countries," said Schaeuble.
Schaeuble urged Europe and the US to "stay competitive and attractive on the global stage," after the euro area debt crisis and Washington's grinding budget battles hurt Western credibility.
In a reference to Washington's vast surveillance programs that also targeted German chancellor Angela Merkel, he demanded that "everyone in the world must enjoy the same rights" when it comes to data protection.
Schaeuble also mentioned the US-EU talks on a free trade zone, which he described as "the most important transatlantic project for the foreseeable future." "We need to negociate patiently and proceed from the assumption that we respect the same values for example in the areas of environmental and labour standards," he said.