Merkel’s visit in Sochi: what the Chancellor told Putin

The relations of Berlin and Moscow are experiencing not the best times. Today’s first two years of the visit of German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Sochi for talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin – a clear confirmation. As experts predicted, it has been more of a trial: on the eve of the G20 summit in Hamburg, Germany, as the host side it is important to create a good and succinct agenda. That is why on Monday ahead of a meeting with Putin in Sochi, Merkel visited Saudi Arabia.

As announced, the leaders of Germany and Russia touched upon the topic of Donbass. At a press conference Angela Merkel said that he sees no point in a new agreement on settling the situation in Donbas and noted once again that the lifting of sanctions ,it is possible to speak only after full implementation of the Minsk agreements. Vladimir Putin, in turn, said that the recent undermining of the car with observers hmm OSCE in the Donbass only leads to escalation. Interestingly, the meeting between Putin and Merkel took place on the eve of telephone conversations between the presidents of Russia and the USA, which will take place at 19:30 Kyiv time. It will be their third phone calls after the inauguration of the trump. Neither the White house nor the Kremlin has not announced what will talk to the presidents. But will call leaders after the appearance of several publications about their emergency possible meeting.

International voyage: ratings and agenda of the G20 summit. From today’s meeting of German Chancellor with the President of Russia no significant breakthroughs expected. At least in Berlin. According to the German press ahead of the visit of Angela Merkel in Sochi, representatives of the media even to a briefing is not collected, although in front of important international talks to journalists usually tell the official, and even unofficial details of future meetings.

The Russian press has interpreted the visit of the Chancellor as a gesture of goodwill. Supposedly Merkel has arrived in Russia for two years. Last official visit of the Chancellor flew to Moscow in may 2015 to participate in commemorative events on the occasion of the 70th anniversary of the end of the Second world war. Last year the leaders of Germany and Russia met on the sidelines of the G20 summit in China and at the talks “channel four” in Berlin on October 19.

The meeting was held without incidents. Putin showed Merkel their dogs, as in 2007, when he came to the meeting with a Labrador named Koni, although the Chancellor is afraid of dogs. Gave Vladimir Putin, Angela Merkel and flowers, not to asking for a return gift – candy. Once, according to German publication Bild, “the Tsar of the Kremlin, tried to give flowers and received a parting gift – candy. But the message is the following: the Russian bear has a sweet tooth – how cute”.

Negotiations Merkel and Putin took place in two stages. After the first leaders came to the press. As announced, the Central theme of the talks was Syria and the agenda of the G20 summit. But not without the Ukrainian question. The German Chancellor reaffirmed the commitment to the Minsk agreements. Only after their full implementation, she said, possible removal of Russia from the sanctions. As regards the observation mission of the OSCE SMM in the Donbass, according to the leader of Germany, change it to UN peacekeepers is no sense. Despite the recent incident of blasting of the car of the OSCE, killing the observer from America. “It makes no sense to look for other formats that will not bring the greater good. We agree that the work of the OSCE is very important,” – said Merkel.

Putin, judging by his statement at the press conference, the incident with the undermining of a car of the OSCE mission in Donbass bothered anymore. “At the recent meeting in narrow format, as I have already mentioned it, we talked about the situation in Ukraine, which is a serious concern. MS Merkel are in constant contact with the other members of the “Normandy format”. The recent undermining of a car of the OSCE on Donbass harm the settlement of the conflict and lead to escalation,” – said the Russian President.

Deep freeze or restart “Normandy format”? Ukrainian and Western analysts do not believe that Merkel, given her long experience of communication with Putin, could promise him, for example, the lifting of sanctions. After all, her words at a press conference in the first round of talks with Putin about “hopes of lifting the sanctions against Russia…” many perceived ambiguously.

From time to time in Germany, there are calls for the lifting of sanctions and a return to business as usual. A couple of weeks ago in an interview with “Today” co-chair of the Green group in the European Parliament Rebecca harms called on Germans not to conclude a major deal with Russian state-owned enterprises such as Gazprom. “As an example, take the “Nord stream-2”. This is a project that contributes to the financing of the Russian army. Profit of “Gazprom” will be used to increase the budget of the Russian army. It is not in the interests of Germany. Not in the interests of Germany or Europe to increase its energy imports from Russia, while the Kremlin uses its natural energy resources to expand their own power and influence,” said Rebecca harms.

However, such voices in Berlin in the minority, and talking about the turn of Germany towards Russia is hardly necessary. But Russia is in no hurry to fulfill the assumed, under the mediation of Berlin obligations. According to Steffen Seibert, “the Russian-German relationship because of the annexation of Crimea and a significant contribution of the Kremlin to destabilize the situation in Eastern Ukraine”. To this can be added a third issue – the possible intervention of Russia by analogy with the USA and France in the race in Germany. The chances of Merkel to stay in the chair the Chancellor estimated by experts as quite high, it is not a strong suit Moscow. Its main competitor, former President of European Parliament Martin Schulz would be more beneficial for the Kremlin. It is worth remembering that as Chancellor he was nominated by the Social democratic party of Germany. Its leader and former head member of the Board of Gazprom and a close friend of Putin and Gerhard Schroeder. However, the ratings of the social Democrats over the last couple of weeks slipped by three percentage points, from 32% at the beginning of April up to 29%. At the same time, the Christian democratic Union (Merkel’s party) is ready to support 37% of the electorate, which is 2% higher than at the beginning of April.

What will happen with the Minsk agreements and the situation in the Donbass? Since the last meeting in the “Normandy format” in Berlin, it took almost six months and the parties have not moved even in the matter of the development of the Road map – a phased plan of implementation of the Minsk agreements. Even the last phone conversation the leaders of the “Normandy format” on 18 April has been more of a farewell is in a week Francois Hollande at the helm of France’s new President will replace.

Experts suggest that low-intensity military conflict continues. Clarity needs to make the first meeting Donald trump, Vladimir Putin, which, according to former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Steven Pifer will be held on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Hamburg. “I see less and less reason to worry about the secret deal between the presidents of the trump and Putin, which was about Ukraine. US officials realize that they can’t make a deal and make it act behind the back of Ukraine”, – told the “Today” Steven Pifer.

At the same time, according to the representative of Ukraine in the security subgroup of the Trilateral contact group Yevhen Marchuk, it is unlikely that Putin will go to any concessions. “After Putin and his team realized that their hope that trump will “they” (in this primitive sense), you see how Putin has acted. This is the old doctrine of Putin’s behavior, never to make any concessions on the agreement to the partner or the opponent. Simply put, Putin has never, and never made concessions under pressure,” said Yevhen Marchuk, in an interview with “Today”.

According to experts, more or less the picture should become clearer once the Kremlin will determine its General line on the eve of the presidential election in Russia is scheduled for March 2018. The fact that the current Russian political leadership will play the card of Donbass in his pre-election rhetoric, no doubt. But the approach, according to sources of the website “Today” in Ukrainian dipkrugah, unclear until the end. In the Kremlin, the sources noted, there are different groups of influence. Some are in favor of the annexation of occupied territories of Donetsk and Lugansk regions according to the Crimean scenario, others – for maintaining a constantly smoldering military conflict as a factor of destabilizing Ukraine from the inside.