Silver linings?

“After years of a different mood, the atmosphere at the press conference between Russian President Putin and German Chancellor Dr Merkel was well-nigh a milestone. No-one was bristling, and there was no deliberate unease. In an extremely threatening world situation, professional discussions were held about what is important to people all over the world: Where can we de-escalate, so as not to the world to the brink of collapse? The Chancellor’s clear words to the United States about North Stream 2 can only be welcomed. But there is one vision imprinted by this meeting. Nothing can hide the fact that the American President should essentially take part in such meetings, as long as he is given a chance of survival on the domestic front. In recent days, the world has been brought to the brink of global war. The Moscow meeting Putin/Merkel has clearly demonstrated that things do not have to go this way.”

Willy Wimmer on 11 January 2020

Voices after the meeting of Vladimir Putin and Angela Merkel

“Chancellor Merkel has again stated that North Stream 2 will benefit Europe as an economic project. She emphasised that Germany would stick to the project and support its completion – even against the wishes of the USA. Following bilateral talks in Moscow, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Russian President Vladimir Putin held a joint press conference on Saturday. With regard to US sanctions against North Stream 2, the Chancellor stressed that sanctions were the wrong way to go, as this is a purely economic project. Both politicians promised that the gas pipeline project would be completed against all odds. In December the US State Department had issued an ultimatum to the European companies involved in the project and threatened them with sanctions, if they did not stop work by 20 January. The USA declared that the project would harm the interests of Poland and Ukraine, that they would lose billions of dollars in transit fees from Moscow and that it would limit Europe’s energy diversification options. Merkel refuted these claims in front of journalists on Saturday, saying that ‘everyone’ in Germany and Europe had ‘an interest in diversifying their gas supplies and will continue to act in this way’. The Chancellor stressed that North Stream 2 was an important project, adding: ‘Despite all the political controversy with the United States of America, we do not believe that these extraterritorial sanctions are right, and therefore we will continue to support this project, which is essentially an economic project, as we have done before’. President Putin announced that Russia was able to complete the project on its own without the participation of ‘foreign partners’, although the timetable for completion would possibly be extended by a few months. ‘We hope that the work will be completed by the end of this year or the first quarter of next year and the gas pipeline will be put into operation’”. from 12.1.2020

“The North Stream 2 gas pipeline project, hated by European neighbours as well as by the Americans, also brings Merkel and Putin closer together. Both are standing by the project despite the fact that the Americans have announced sanctions against companies building the pipes, and despite the fact that the German-Russian solo effort has caused great diplomatic damage with their European neighbours. Merkel’s considerate visit to Vladimir Putin, the surprising emphasis on common ground, the words of praise for Putin’s and Erdogan’s actions in Syria and Libya, of all places, reveal how big a vacuum the American government is leaving, into which other actors – Turkey, Russia, Iran – are entering. Merkel is now trying to come to terms with them. Her visit to Moscow may have been the beginning of that course of action.” from 12.1.2020

“In general, there was much agreement. Merkel described the North Stream 2 pipeline project, which is to bypass Ukraine as a transit country and the completion of which has recently been hampered by new American sanctions, as a ‘first and foremost economic project’ that will be supported also in future and that will desirably be completed. […] Merkel and Putin praised the ceasefire in Libya which he had announced this week in Istanbul together with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. According to the ceasefire, the weapons between the parties to the conflict are to remain silent from zero o’clock this Sunday. … Merkel also found nothing but praise with regard to the civil war country Syria, whose development is being influenced by fewer and fewer countries, to the benefit of Russia, Iran and the Damascus regime.”• from 11.1.2020

(Translation Current Concerns)

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