How close are ties between Germany and Russia?
German Chancellor Merkel and Russian President Putin have met in Sochi, where they discussed the conflicts in Syria and eastern Ukraine as well as the nuclear deal with Iran. According to observers the chancellor tried to avoid conveying the impression of a close partnership. How should politicians treat Putin?
German politicians paying court to Putin
The German government's Russia policy is far too lax, writes Julian Röpke in the tabloid Bild:
“Putin's murderous wars in Syria and Ukraine, his propaganda attacks on European elections, his cyber attacks on German government computer networks - the response to all that is for the most part uncritical visits by leading Germany politicians and German lobbying work for Putin's state company Gazprom and influential pipeline Nord Stream 2. Four weeks before the start of the 2018 Fifa World Cup, Russia's only serious opposition politician Alexei Navalny is behind bars for the umpteenth time and Angela Merkel is sitting on the catbird seat in balmy Sochi. The strong man in the Kremlin could not be more satisfied.”
Controversial flowers from the Kremlin
The discussion has focused on a bouquet of flowers for Merkel, Radio Kommersant FM notes:
“For the most part that's thanks to the tabloid Bild, which accused Moscow of covert sexism and violating the gender equality principle: one must not draw a woman's attention to the fact that she is a woman. The German chancellor is first and foremost a politician: giving her flowers is inappropriate. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov commented that in Russia it is a common courtesy to present a woman with a bouquet of flowers. ... That can be transferred into the realm of big politics. Russia's propaganda machine drew its conclusions from Merkel's visit. A rowdy has appeared on the scene: Trump does what he wants without caring how it affects others. Who is there to save Mother Europe? Only Putin. Because we give flowers and can add cheap gas on top. So you're very welcome!”