Putin's "diplomatic act" at Merkel meeting

Taras Chornovil
15:20, 21 August 2018
Politics
642 0
Opinion

The meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and German chancellor Angela Merkel had a minimal effect. Putin achieved only one thing - demonstrating that he was not in full international isolation. For domestic use in Russia, it is quite a lot, but for the international audience, it's almost nothing.

Looking at the pro-Russian segment of Facebook, I noticed one illustrative thing: there instantly emerged terrifying, even panicking, reports of "total betrayal," "giving up on Ukraine," "Europe with Putin," "no blockade for Putin who is accepted at the highest level in Berlin,""Putin is accepted in Austria as their best friend," and so on. But in reality, this is just wishful thinking for the Kremlin. Even Putin spox Dmitry Peskov didn't allow himself claiming some kind of a win situation, because in reality the results of the meeting were below modest.

But for Russian domestic use, the demonstration of what Putin flying around the world as a good and respected guest, has its own effect. They also seek to sow panic in certain circles in Ukraine.

Putin himself requested the meeting from Merkel. From the very beginning, it was his initiative. Merkel had previously met with the Russian president in Sochi, where the two seemed to have discussed everything they could but still failed to agree on anything

But let's get back to the actual situation. Putin himself requested the meeting from Merkel. From the very beginning, it was his initiative. Merkel had previously met with the Russian president in Sochi, where the two seemed to have discussed everything they could but still failed to agree on anything. And it was clear that there would be little sense in the new meeting. But Putin insisted...

Merkel agreed, but firmly insisted that this meeting would have a working visit status, not an official state visit. Putin actually sought a state visit, because for him it would be a very big demonstration of a breakthrough. But he was denied.

Besides, the visit was ridiculously wrinkled. Those aware of diplomatic practice and protocol, understand that this is not how such visits are played. The meeting was held on the day off, in the evening hours, practically without any post-briefing, only with the press conference held ahead of the talks. In addition, Merkel voiced her statement that she did not expect anything from the meeting, that's adding up to a standard set of "it's still necessary to negotiate with Russia, because we want to have a normal relationship with her…"

Putin, for his part, also took a shot at Merkel. Some in Ukraine are trying to see some kind of conspiracy in Putin's visit to an Austria wedding before seeing Merkel, allegedly pointing at some unification of the leaders of these states and creation of a Germany-Austria-Russia triangle. In fact, Putin quite frankly spat in Merkel's eyes. That's as if Putin told her: "Here, I'm going to pay you a visit, but it'll be just a quick stop on my way home from a wedding..." And he was late for the meeting, too.

This is quite typical for Russian diplomacy: if the other side does certain things offensive things to you, but it's too late to cancel the upcoming meeting, you can also offend them. Putin made Merkel a very unpleasant surprise by meeting with the Austrian Foreign Minister from the Austrian Freedom Party.

For Merkel, this is a painful moment, because she comes from East Germany and never tolerated various ultra-right organizations, especially those associated with Nazism. The Austrian Freedom Party was founded by the cousin of the Minister of Austria's Nazi Government. Moreover, this party never even conceals that it is the heir of the Austro-Germanic Nazis of the WW2 era.

Demonstrating special affection and love to one of the representatives of this political force, and then flying to see Merkel in Germany, where revengeism is one of the most terrible accusations, was an outright slap in the face. And Merkel was forced to take it.

The Merkel-Putin meeting yielded no results. Zero

Another important and eloquent moment was the absence of an evening briefing. Although this has become the occasion for rumors that Putin and Merkel have secretly agreed on something, it wasn't the case. When there are at least some agreements, they are reported to journalists.

So, the Merkel-Putin meeting yielded no results. Zero.

As for the agenda... Before the meeting, Merkel demonstrated that she, in particular, would insist on the discussing human rights. At the moment, there are no high profile Russian prisoners in Russia, so it was about Ukrainian political prisoners in Russian prisons. Ahead of the Putin meeting, Merkel promised Poroshenko to raise the issue during the talks.

Among other issues discussed was Russia's non-fulfillment of Minsk agreements and the topic of possible mechanisms for the introduction of UN peacekeepers. At a briefing before the meeting, Merkel said she would raise this issue with Putin.

For Putin, these were unpleasant topics which he still had to swallow that pill.

Merkel also voiced a statement that Nord Stream-2's launch should not affect Ukraine's status of a gas transit state. This is an important moment, but it remains unclear whether there are enough mechanisms to ensure this... It was not the first time Merkel said this phrase …

There's a rather high probability that Nord Stream-2 will never start operating. Although, it may as well be completed. But it's becoming a big problem

In Russia it is a completely political project, and from the German side it is about "doing business." Moreover, Merkel cannot provide guarantees even to German businesses that she will protect them from American sanctions.

Therefore, there's a rather high probability that North Stream-2 may never start operating. Although, it may as well be completed. But it's becoming a big problem. That's why Merkel is more and more trying to distance herself from the project. If Nord Stream-2 becomes a serious threat to Ukraine's security, that is, provoke Russia for more aggressive actions, Merkel seeks to be able to claim she has nothing to do with it and that she didn't lobby for it, while only businessmen wanted it built. And if the German businesses are hit, she seeks to be able to say: "What have I to do with this? I warned that it's business where anything could happen."

The Russian president was also imposing another topic, setting one more task before himself – that is, to achieve Merkel's solidarity in the war against Trump. That is, Putin's main task at this meeting could be to persuade Germany to engage in anti-American rhetoric, reach agreements with the Kremlin, act together in a common front, that is, to enjoy mutual solidarity.

But, as far as I can judge, Putin saw a complete rejection. Merkel is generally dissatisfied with Trump, his policies and today's U.S. policy. She is indignant, but the principle of "enemy of my enemy is my friend" is not working there. Western European countries have already moved away from such a unicellular perception of politics.

When it comes to Putin, he cannot be a friend. He could be someone with whom due to certain circumstances one has to maintain contact. Therefore, there is no anti-American agreement between Germany and Russia. There are no agreements on Ukraine either. But, to our great regret, there is also no progress and no result in the Sentsov case.

So, if Putin even gained something at his meeting with Merkel, it was only for domestic use in Russia, nothing else. However, unfortunately, Merkel didn't gain anything, either.

Taras Chornovil is a Ukrainian political analyst, expert on international politics, former MP

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