27 August 2018. PenzaNews. Russian President Vladimir Putin and Federal Chancellor of Germany Angela Merkel held talks at Meseberg residence for the honorary guests on August 18, where they discussed a number of topical issues, including situation in Syria, Iranian nuclear dossier, settlement of Ukrainian conflict and Nord Stream-2 gas pipeline project.
According to Angela Merkel, the meeting became a continuation of the conversation that took place between the leaders of the two states three months earlier in Sochi.
“I believe that disputable issues can be resolved through dialogue, and this is why I am very happy to welcome Mr. Putin,” German Chancellor said prior to the talks.
After the meeting, some foreign media reported on the rapprochement between Europe and Moscow.
“It was the Russian president’s first one-on-one meeting on the home turf of his most implacable European opponent since relations froze in 2014 after his annexation of Crimea. If not a breakthrough, it was at least a thawing of the ice,” says Bloomberg article titled Europe Is Warming Up to Putin.
Commenting on the results of the talks, Patrick Sensburg, German MP from the CDU/CSU fraction, stressed the depth of the dialogue.
“The meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and German Chancellor Angela Merkel last Saturday in Meseberg was a continuation of the discussion in the Black Sea resort of Sochi in May – therefore the conversations were intensively deepened. Of course, one important topic was the stabilization of Syria. In this context it has been discussed that the preparations for an exchange between Germany, France, Turkey and Russia are being promoted,” the politician told PenzaNews.
Both Moscow and Berlin have a responsibility when it comes to international conflicts such as those in Syria, he said.
“It is always important to stay in dialogue, because it is the only way to achieve rapprochement in conflicts,” Patrick Sensburg noted, adding that “nations have to talk to each other,” especially when the situation is particularly difficult.
He also stressed that Russia is an indispensable player regarding to solve major conflicts.
“Germany has a strong interest in good relations with Russia and therefore will continue to seek dialogue,” he said.
In turn, Jonathan Stern, Distinguished Research Fellow and Founder, Natural Gas Research Programme, Oxford Institute for Energy Studies, drew particular attention to the discussion of the Nord Stream-2 gas pipeline project.
“Possibly the meeting between Putin and Merkel can be important for the Nord Stream-2 gas pipeline project but we won’t know that until we see whether and how the trilateral negotiations on Ukrainian transit of Russian gas progress,” the British analyst said.
In his opinion, there won’t be a quick start of this project.
“At least one line of Nord Stream-2 will be built but even this first will not be operational until at least mid or late 2020. It has become a political issue which will need a political solution,” Jonathan Stern explained and added that the meeting won’t change the political atmosphere between Russia and Germany.
Meanwhile, Roberto Castaldi, Research Director of International Centre for European and global governance, Director of the Research Centre on Multi-Level Integration and Governance Processes at eCampus University, noted that the relationship between Russia and Europe are still at a low point.
“There are common trade interests, but diverging geopolitical interests from Ukraine to Syria. [European] public opinion is worried by alleged Russian interference in the democratic processes in many countries and by the murder attempt of a former Russia spy in the UK. However, the fact that Trump is such an erratic President creates an incentive for Europeans to talk with anybody else,” the expert said.
From his point of view, the meeting in Meseberg was very important.
“It signaled Germany’s willingness to consider Russia an indispensable interlocutor on many international crises and issues, beside the trade and economic aspect,” Roberto Castaldi stressed and added that in the past Germany was among the countries more keen on anti-Russian economic sanctions.
“I don’t expect any rapid or dramatic change in the relationship between the EU countries and Russia. But they all have an interest in keeping an open dialogue though,” the analyst said.
Meanwhile, according to him, the position of some EU political parties on relations with Moscow will not be able to provide practical efforts to review anti-Russian sanctions.
“Unless there is a real implementation of the Minsk agreement in Ukraine a significant improvement of the relationship is unlikely. The idea that the Italian, Austrian and Hungarian governments can change the overall European position is based on an overstatement of their influence and ability to work together and build coalitions in the EU,” Roberto Castaldi added.
In turn, William Courtney, former US Ambassador to Georgia and Kazakhstan, Adjunct Senior Fellow at RAND, shared the opinion that Russian relations with Europe, as well as America, are more strained than ever.
“Europeans see the annexation of Crimea, and war in eastern Ukraine as a direct affront to European values. In the European view, this aggression contravenes the post-World War II security order in Europe, which opposes the use of coercion to seize territory from another country. Europeans are upset that Russia denies responsibility for shooting down Malaysian Airlines flight 17 over occupied eastern Ukraine in 2014, and for poisoning Sergey Skripal and his daughter and for the death of British bystander Dawn Burgess earlier this year,” the analyst described the situation.
He reminded that Russian and Germany are the two most populous countries in Europe, which are central to some of the major issues that affect Europe.
At the same time, William Courtney suggested that the meeting may not change the political atmosphere between the two countries unless progress was made on specific issues, and called the Ukraine issue the most important one.
From his point of view, “Europe is determined to maintain sanctions on Russia” until it changes its policies, including with regard to Syria – however, the progress on this issue “may be no more than modest.”
Meanwhile, Pal Steigan, Norwegian politician, publisher, writer, independent entrepreneur in the field of culture and information technology, shared the opinion that the relations between Moscow and Brussels are absolutely not productive and this runs counter to both European and Russian interests.
“The abnormal sanctions regime which was installed by the US was in fact given as an order from Washington to reluctant European allies, former vice president Joe Biden boasted in a speech in 2014. This regime has destroyed European jobs in the hundreds of thousands and harmed industry and agriculture both in Europe and in Russia,” the politician explained.
However, the fact that the meeting was held is a small positive sign, he believes.
“Germany is the second biggest exporter in the world. German industry has lost jobs, incomes and future opportunities by the sanctions regime. German exporters have long been pleading for a change. Also Ms Merkel has come to understand that when the US says America first, it is also directed against Europe and Germany,” Pal Steigan said.
At the same time, in his opinion, Russia is an ideal economic partner for Germany.
“The energy and investment possibilities of Russia combined with the excellence of German industry is a strong combination,” he stressed and added that it will take time for potential changes in relations between countries.
“Also the Helsinki meeting between Trump and Putin gave some hopes for détente, but almost nothing has happened so far. Of course Merkel doesn’t have the same opposition on the home front, but she has the so called ally over the Atlantic to consider. Will she be allowed to make a new version of the Rapallo Treaty of 1922?” Pal Steigan said, pointing out that the general international development works for rapprochement between Russia and Germany.
“The BRICS+ meeting in Johannesburg, the accord between Russia, China and Iran on economic development, the de-dollarisation of global economy and the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative all work for a multipolar world in which the US no longer has a veto,” the politician concluded.