A rapprochement between Merkel and Putin?
Kremlin boss Vladimir Putin and German Chancellor Angela Merkel met on Tuesday in Sochi for the first time in two years. Both stressed the importance of the Minsk Protocol and the OSCE monitoring missions in eastern Ukraine. While some commentators fail to see any signs of rapprochement, others evoke the possibility of a pragmatic solution to the conflicts in Syria and Ukraine.
No breakthrough in Sochi
The meeting between the chancellor and the Russian president was disappointing in Polityka's view:
“Europe's heads of government can't agree on what policy to take towards Russia. Not all are in favour of sanctions against Russia's unlawful annexation of Crimea. Angela Merkel stands for a hard line on this issue. In Sochi she didn't just want to talk with Putin about the G20 summit in July but also about Ukraine, Syria and human rights violations, and in particular about the repression of homosexuals in Muslim Chechnya. ... According to everything we now know about the meeting there were no breakthroughs on any of these three issues - Syria, Ukraine, human rights - although agreement would be in the interest of both parties.”
Still more room to move
Fortunately pragmatism has returned to German-Russian relations, because the conflicts in Ukraine and Syria can't be solved without reaching compromises with Russia, Handelsblatt writes after the meeting:
“Merkel must make a credible promise to Putin that Ukraine will be compelled to meet the obligations it criminally neglected with the Minsk agreements. Europe potentially has the necessary influence over Ukraine, particularly given the way the US has distanced itself from the Ukraine conflict since Donald Trump took office. In Syria Germany has less influence but perhaps the differences between Moscow and Berlin are also smaller there. … Russia has always stressed that it wouldn't cling to Assad if the terms of a political transition could be settled. So Merkel must find out to what extent this statement is true and how much influence Russia would want to maintain - outside its military bases in Syria - after a transfer of power in Damascus.”
Merkel polishing her reputation
Merkel's reasons for meeting Putin had more to do with domestic policy than anything else, the head of the parliamentary group of the Lithuanian pro-Moscow party Harmony, Jānis Urbanovičs, writes in Neatkarīgā:
“The chancellor is trying to charm the German nation. She's trying to prove that not only is she the mother of the German nation and the EU, but also of the entire world. ... The reputation of world leader is hard to live up to without having contact with the bad boys Trump and Putin. That's why Merkel packed her bags and headed for Sochi. A lot is at stake at the moment, and the chancellor wants to be sure that these leaders of two major powers will pay her a visit during the G20 summit in Hamburg [at the start of July]. ... No matter what the final outcome is, Merkel's trip to Sochi shows that the world leaders put national interests above foreign policy.”