So You're Having Trouble with the Americans? Merkel and Putin Meet
Just last week, German Chancellor Angela Merkel warned that with American protection of Europe no longer assured, it was time for Europe to craft its own foreign policy. Today, she will get her first shot at showing what that might look like when she meets Russian President Vladimir Putin in Sochi.
Merkel’s relationship with Putin has been a mercurial one over the past 15 years. Their shared upbringing behind the Iron Curtain and fluency in each other’s languages gave them a special bond early on, but they broke over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in 2014, and things haven’t been the same since.
Now Trump’s loveless treatment of Europe has pushed Merkel to seek out renewed possibilities with Russia. Their meeting will likely focus on…
- salvaging the Iran deal without the US, because neither Merkel nor Putin wants Iran to bolt from the deal now and foment a regional nuclear arms race, but she is particularly concerned about the fate of German companies now potentially exposed to renewed US sanctions on Iran.
- exploring peace options for Syria — Merkel has drawn closer to Moscow on this recently, calling for European-Russian cooperation to broker a solution to the civil war and pointedly sitting out the US-led airstrikes on Bashar al-Assad’s chemical weapons facilities last month. This gives Merkel more credibility as an interlocutor with Moscow on this issue than any other European leader.
- energy ties — the $10 billion Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline project would increase flows of Russian gas to Germany, already one of the largest energy relationships in the world. The US government, which opposes the project, said this week that scrapping the pipeline was one way for Germany to win permanent exemptions from the Trump administration’s steel and aluminum tariffs.