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Putin/Merkel / The Meseberg summit

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  • Putin/Merkel / The Meseberg summit

    When Donald Trump ostracized Germany during his last trip to Europe and ahead of the summit in Helsinki it was predicted that Putin would respond with a charme offensive to Berlin. And here it is : Putin and Merkel will hold a summit at Schloss Meseberg this weekend, the chancellors official countryside retreat, 60 km north of Berlin.
    The two leaders arent on the same page on most issues, yet theyve known each other for a long time, they dont need interpreters ( Merkel, born in the GDR and studied in Moscow, is fluent in Russian and Putin speaks flawless German) and they have already proven that they can work with each other. If forced to.
    Three issues on the agenda are known : Ukraine (where Germany is one of the key backers of the governement in Kiev while Russia would like to have the sanctions imposed against it over Ukraine removed), Syria ( where Bashar al Assad, with Putins backing, gears up to crush the last rebel strongholds, something that not only Germany watches with concern. Merkel wants to avoid a new refugee wave, while Putin needs solvent backers for the rebuilding of Syria. For that Germany is an obvious partner ) and the baltic sea pipeline, that has caught Trumps ire ( that might be more important for Russia than for Germany, but Berlin wont back down to the US president either. Even under threat of sanctions. The construction works are going on).
    Putin, who will arrive in Meseberg coming directly from the austrian foreign ministers wedding, is considered certain to do his best at charming his host and singing siren songs. Wether thatll result in anything of substance remains to be seen. Yet the elephant in the room , that is not on the official agenda for a reason obviously will be Donald Trump :



    https://www.dw.com/en/war-and-fuel-a...lks/a-45081899
    Last edited by Voland; 08-16-2018, 11:54 PM.

  • #2
    Originally posted by Voland View Post
    When Donald Trump ostracized Germany during his last trip to Europe and ahead of the summit in Helsinki it was predicted that Putin would respond with a charme offensive to Berlin. And here it is : Putin and Merkel will hold a summit at Schloss Meseberg this weekend, the chancellors official countryside retreat, 60 km north of Berlin.
    The two leaders arent on the same page on most issues, yet theyve known each other for a long time, they dont need interpreters ( Merkel, born in the GDR and studied in Moscow, is fluent in Russian and Putin speaks flawless German) and they have already proven that they can work with each other. If forced to.
    Three issues on the agenda are known : Ukraine (where Germany is one of the key backers of the governement in Kiev while Russia would like to have the sanctions imposed against it over Ukraine removed), Syria ( where Bashar al Assad, with Putins backing, gears up to crush the last rebel strongholds, something that not only Germany watches with concern. Merkel wants to avoid a new refugee wave, while Putin needs solvent backers for the rebuilding of Syria. For that Germany is an obvious partner ) and the baltic sea pipeline, that has caught Trumps ire ( that might be more important for Russia than for Germany, but Berlin wont back down to the US president either. Even under threat of sanctions. The construction works are going on).
    Putin, who will arrive in Meseberg coming directly from the austrian foreign ministers wedding, is considered certain to do his best at charming his host and singing siren songs. Wether thatll result in anything of substance remains to be seen. Yet the elephant in the room , that is not on the official agenda for a reason obviously will be Donald Trump :



    https://www.dw.com/en/war-and-fuel-a...lks/a-45081899
    One point regarding the nordstream pipelines, illustrates a weak argument by Trump. Link:
    Trump has criticized Nord Stream 2 and the gas supplies, saying German is "totally controlled" by Russia by being dependent on the energy. Trump's criticism was linked to his push for other NATO member countries, particularly Germany, to pay a bigger share of the cost of NATO's common defense.

    From her end, Merkel will push for a Russian commitment to keep at least some gas transiting Ukraine, which earns transit fees from it. Putin has said he's open for shipments to continue if Ukraine settles a gas dispute with Russia.
    https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/world...ump/ar-BBM2uE4
    First, it is questionable that Germany is significantly dependent on those pipelines. It sounds more like a US president pitching nat gas sales from the US, than a statement of concern about Russian influence in EU energy policy. Second, Germany -along with other EU countries- have already signaled their acceptance for paying a bigger share of NATO costs. Trump's influence on this point can and should be largely ignored by both parties.

    The other two issues, Ukraine and Syria, could involve more influence from the US. Syria certainly could use help from both the US and Germany, as far as rebuilding. I would be surprised if either party made very generous offers to that end, without serious concessions from Russia. As the old saying goes, "You broke it, you buy it", which applies to Russia's involvement in Syria. That involves at least a small amount of cynicism or political calculation by those opposing Russia -the reconstruction benefits the Syrian people at least as much as it does Assad. It won't be public (and she would do well to deny it when the press asks), but I expect Merkel to make that calculation, and play it starting now.

    As for the Ukraine, there is also a common interest between the US and Germany. I suspect you would disagree with me on this point, but I prefer the US accept a de facto "neutral" state in the eastern Ukraine. That might seem to be overly generous (it was always Ukraine, under Kiev), but this involves the geography of NATO playing against that special brand of paranoia and ambition practiced by Moscow. Putin has the upper hand on this issue (the "neutral" state would be a satellite in any case), sad but true. Perhaps the eastern zone could be permanently off-limits to any consideration for NATO, it's foreign affairs subject to review by the Kremlin for now, and (nearly) full reintegration planned with western Ukraine over the next several decades. By that time, Russia should be convinced it is not threatened and it's interests in central Asia will be safe; it might even be a functioning, representative democracy by the next century. If a buffer and reintegration agenda could be set, to be followed up with all parties involved in the coming year, that might be the best option IMHO.

    ?


    • #3
      1. Well, the defence argument against Nord Stream is particularly weak because a) it reveals a misunderstanding (or a lie) about how NATO is financed and b) Trumps real interest ( taking Russias place in supplying Germany with energy) is far too obvious. It also ignores that Russia has been supplying (western) Germany with oil and gas since the 1960s and never played politics with energy (where Germany was/is concerned) , not even at the peak of the Cold War. For a simple reason : They need(ed) the money and they have few customers with Germanys energy hunger AND reliability. Even as the Crimea sanctions were passed in the german Bundestag Putin dispatched the Gazprom boss to Berlin to state in every camera that energy contracts were safe (from Russias side).
      For Germany Russia is ONE source out of several (more or less on par with Norway and the Netherlands that noone claims were "controlling" Germany) and very useful to diversify sources and supplies. For Russia we are talking about an indespensable share of export earnings. If there is a security argument about the new pipeline than it should be much rather about it increasing security. Out of simple economic self interest. Trump may have added a political element though. After his tirades in Brussels Merkel, that is not even considered a fan of Nordstream 2, cannot be seen as giving in. That could be an own goal for US gas exporters.

      2. On Syria Putin is weaker than he and his followers pretend and Merkel is stronger than it may seem superficially (at least in the game for Syrias future). Putins problem is that his airforce can bomb any open resistance against Assads armies out of the way, but he cannot re-establish his grip on the country for him. The russian public wont stand for any significant amount of ground troops, and Putins domestic position is not as absolute as especially the US press makes it appear sometimes. Putin lacks an exit strategy, he lacks a workable political strategy beyond the war ( what is he going to do if Assads reach does not extend much beyond Damascus ? How is Assad all of a sudden supposed to unite his country ?), and most certainly he lacks cash for the rebuilding.
      Merkel has cash, she has an unassailable standing among vast parts of the syrian public and across the camps for obvious reasons, she has avoided taking clear sides (except providing the Curds with support against IS), she has exports crucial for syrian rebuilding (engineering, machinery) and she has made sure that a not insignificant part of Syrias educated class will use Germany as the standard to look to when it comes to matters such as administration, education, and other fields. Even if that is less glamorous than bombing an airfield. Or holding moral speeches.
      Putin will very much want her on board, and Merkel is very much in a position to dictate him conditions, even if not in public. Noone should be surprised if Assad vanishes shortly after his "victory" into a comfortable russian exile on the Black Sea coast with someone else taking his post f.e.


      3. I am actually going further than you said, and I am very much convinced that ALL of Ukraine should have been neutralized. And already upon independence. For clues look to the finnish political model. Finland is not in NATO, but in EU and Eurozone. It has a friendship treaty with Russia and cooperates neighborly on plenty of levels, but without beeing a vassal. That is the offer that Merkel should ( and might) make Putin. The price on the table should be lifting the sanctions. And while were at it, there is also some discussion about a Belgium model of two or three largely autonomous entities linked by a largely representative political center as an idea for Ukraine :




      https://www.nytimes.com/2014/09/03/o...html?referrer=

      https://nationalinterest.org/commentary/%E2%80%9Cbelgian-solution%E2%80%9D-ukraine-10062
      Last edited by Voland; 08-18-2018, 07:23 AM.

      ?


      • #4
        Not just with Trump, also with Merkel Putin met eye to eye, without even interpreters in the room. They dont need them, since both speak each others language fluently. Since neither leader is very talkative many of the issues that they adressed will remain sealed in the baroque castle outside Berlin, yet what is known so far :

        a) Putin wants Germany and Europe to play a leading role in rebuilding Syria. Of course, since he is lacking the cash and influence over groups other than Assad. Merkel wants to avoid a repeat of the refugee crisis, as Assad is circling in on the last rebel strongholds and to create conditions under that at least a substantial amount of refugees can return. Merkel stressed more the lack of a working political order and german efforts to get administration and a political process going, while Putin stressed more the humanitarian desaster ( that he has directly contributed to), but it is clear that both see a window of opportunity and common interests here.

        2. Both leaders are in agreement that the Nordstream pipeline will come. Predictably. Merkel made the concession that Ukraine wont be frozen out of energy transit. To Donald Trump she made none. It will be interesting now to see wether Trump takes his attacks on the german/russian project to the next level (which would also put him at odds with Putin) or wether he leaves it.

        3. On Ukraine both sides appear to have largely exchanged known positions. Yet : both sides have expressed a desire to restart formal talk between Moscow and Kiev, under mediation by Merkel and Macron. Merkel has not ruled out lifting at least parts of the sanctions in response to progress, she has ruled out however recognizing Crimea as russian.

        4. On holding up the Iran deal Putin and Merkel are in agreement.

        5. Putin repeatedly stressed growing bilateral trade and economic opportunities for german companies and exporters in his country. Merkel was more thight-lipped on that.

        More may come out in coming days.
        Merkel and Putin are a somewhat odd couple in politics. More than once thrown together by circumstance and interest, often on different sides and also sometimes hostile. Yet they CAN work with each other. If they have to.



        https://www.politico.eu/article/merk...gas-diplomacy/

        https://www.dw.com/en/angela-merkel-...ics/a-45133060


        ?


        • #5
          Trump basically dealt himself out of the game of natural gas supplies to Europe. Further, while Putin will hint that the pipeline routes thru the Ukraine might be in question for "economic reasons", that is more dependent on his control of the separatist factions in the east, more than any other single factor. If he is listening to those with controlling interests in exports thru Russia's pipeline infrastructure -and I'll bet that he pays attention- he will do his part to maintain that system. Distance matters in all matters involving transport, and the shorter distance to Italy and other points due west are not thru the nord stream routes. The Ukraine (and routes further south) will be maintained not only for business reasons, they serve to maintain political/cultural interests in those countries that help maintain the system en route.

          It is less certain how the Syrian problem works out. It will need some firm guarantees on a benefit for Germany and other European nations who took the lion's share of the war's refugee population. Otherwise, this will look like Vladimir enjoyed dinner at a 5 star restaurant, and managed to have the check paid by the other side of the table. Merkel will need to have the accountants do the fine-tuning on who does what and (especially) how much it will cost to restore Syria to livable conditions. As tempting as it is to have Germany demonstrate it's capacity (again) to rebuild from ashes, it is more important for Russia to pick up the better part of the tab. As you mentioned before, the "soft" engineering might be the more important contribution from Europe; helping Syrian refugees return to their country and restore it to a place that is much improved over any Assad regime. The human factor -a solid base that will never permit family dynasties nor religious nuts- will be the objective. If Putin is convinced that a "new and improved" Syria would also be in Russia's best interest, this is a practical objective. If his objectives are more aligned with the "machiavelli" faction, the human angle will be more difficult than getting Vladimir to pay for the whole meal.

          ?


          • #6
            Originally posted by radcentr View Post

            It is less certain how the Syrian problem works out. It will need some firm guarantees on a benefit for Germany and other European nations who took the lion's share of the war's refugee population. Otherwise, this will look like Vladimir enjoyed dinner at a 5 star restaurant, and managed to have the check paid by the other side of the table. Merkel will need to have the accountants do the fine-tuning on who does what and (especially) how much it will cost to restore Syria to livable conditions. As tempting as it is to have Germany demonstrate it's capacity (again) to rebuild from ashes, it is more important for Russia to pick up the better part of the tab. As you mentioned before, the "soft" engineering might be the more important contribution from Europe; helping Syrian refugees return to their country and restore it to a place that is much improved over any Assad regime. The human factor -a solid base that will never permit family dynasties nor religious nuts- will be the objective. If Putin is convinced that a "new and improved" Syria would also be in Russia's best interest, this is a practical objective. If his objectives are more aligned with the "machiavelli" faction, the human angle will be more difficult than getting Vladimir to pay for the whole meal.

            Well, I would say thats typical "Merkel". The german chancellor is often underestimated ( not by Putin, he knows her long enough) because it is a typical feature of her style of governement to have her eyes on the long game, even if that means sailing though rocky waters short term. Her behaviour in the refugee crisis is an example. More often than not, Merkel has turned out having the last laugh though.
            On Putin and Syria she was quoted a year ago as saying that the best strategy for Germany was to wait and to work on the "soft engineering", as you put it. Put people in school, in job training, in university, in jobs, and make sure that the overall refugee situation doesnt get out of control. Putin would either have his own Afghanistan moment ( like the Soviets) and get out with his tail between his legs or come and ask for help in rebuilding. Because who else would he ask ? Trump ? The Iranians ? Russian oligarchs ?
            And that would be the moment when Germany could set the conditions.
            In the meantime hundreds of thousands of Syrians are in german schools, in job training, in university, or are already working. And also here the strategy points to the long game. There are masterclasses for syrian students in medicine, in engineering, but also in journalism or in public administration. Each asylum seeker has to learn the norms and rules of european societies in so-called "integration classes", that are obligatory to get an asylum request accepted.
            It is certain that Merkel will set Putin a bunch of conditions. She will not accept providing direct funds to the Assad regime f.e. She will also certainly make sure that german companies get their share in lucrative contracts out of rebuilding Syria. But the german governements idea of political change in Syria clearly isnt an abrupt one. It is sending loads of people back with direct ideas how things work in Germany and Europe and with education and training as to how these things could work in Syria as well, if.......


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            • #7
              Originally posted by Voland View Post


              Well, I would say thats typical "Merkel". The german chancellor is often underestimated ( not by Putin, he knows her long enough) because it is a typical feature of her style of governement to have her eyes on the long game, even if that means sailing though rocky waters short term. Her behaviour in the refugee crisis is an example. More often than not, Merkel has turned out having the last laugh though.
              On Putin and Syria she was quoted a year ago as saying that the best strategy for Germany was to wait and to work on the "soft engineering", as you put it. Put people in school, in job training, in university, in jobs, and make sure that the overall refugee situation doesnt get out of control. Putin would either have his own Afghanistan moment ( like the Soviets) and get out with his tail between his legs or come and ask for help in rebuilding. Because who else would he ask ? Trump ? The Iranians ? Russian oligarchs ?
              And that would be the moment when Germany could set the conditions.
              In the meantime hundreds of thousands of Syrians are in german schools, in job training, in university, or are already working. And also here the strategy points to the long game. There are masterclasses for syrian students in medicine, in engineering, but also in journalism or in public administration. Each asylum seeker has to learn the norms and rules of european societies in so-called "integration classes", that are obligatory to get an asylum request accepted.
              It is certain that Merkel will set Putin a bunch of conditions. She will not accept providing direct funds to the Assad regime f.e. She will also certainly make sure that german companies get their share in lucrative contracts out of rebuilding Syria. But the german governements idea of political change in Syria clearly isnt an abrupt one. It is sending loads of people back with direct ideas how things work in Germany and Europe and with education and training as to how these things could work in Syria as well, if.......

              Merkel's position on Syria is solid, she has an excellent position from which to bargain. One thing occurred to me regarding the Ukraine. How will Poroshenko react to EU proposals to wind down the military conflict? Kiev's position should be for keeping NATO present until the whole separatist mess is resolved. That is a bargaining point for both Putin and Poroshenko, but Putin's strength on that issue is difficult to overcome. The Russian position will likely be an eastern Ukraine that is compromised in favor of the Kremlin, if not forever, then for the lifetime of the current ruling class (including those leading the separatist movement). I'm an optimist as far as democracy finally taking hold in that part of the world, both Russian and Ukrainian citizens taking the time and persistence to establish functional republics. It's frustrating that it looks like that process will take several decades. In the meantime, both countries have to rely on the oligarchs, who sometimes look after their personal objectives, as opposed to their national interest.

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              • #8
                Originally posted by radcentr View Post
                Merkel's position on Syria is solid, she has an excellent position from which to bargain. One thing occurred to me regarding the Ukraine. How will Poroshenko react to EU proposals to wind down the military conflict? Kiev's position should be for keeping NATO present until the whole separatist mess is resolved. That is a bargaining point for both Putin and Poroshenko, but Putin's strength on that issue is difficult to overcome. The Russian position will likely be an eastern Ukraine that is compromised in favor of the Kremlin, if not forever, then for the lifetime of the current ruling class (including those leading the separatist movement). I'm an optimist as far as democracy finally taking hold in that part of the world, both Russian and Ukrainian citizens taking the time and persistence to establish functional republics. It's frustrating that it looks like that process will take several decades. In the meantime, both countries have to rely on the oligarchs, who sometimes look after their personal objectives, as opposed to their national interest.


                a) Well, if Assad is shrewd enough ( or his advisers ) they will have figured that also Merkel is seeking his ouster. She is just playing the long game. And he is not well positioned against that.
                If Merkel demands Assads head from Putin, safeguards for refugees willing to return from the RUSSIAN governement, plus russian support for the kickstart of a political process that in the first place should create order and safes the fine tuning for later ( Europeans have a word for that : "freezing" a conflict, and yes, that can work. Ask the Northern Irish. Or the Kosovars), and offers in return an opening of the purse plus respecting russian security interests in the region than that looks like a deal for that Putin could throw Assad under the bus.
                And even if Merkel does not make demands regarding Assads person than the numbers of Syrians schooled, trained and educated in Germany are too large not to have an impact. They are (and german leaders have been relatively open on that) supposed to trigger the kind of societal change that typically sweeps away dictators. From within.


                b) On Ukraine the problem is (partially) that Americas policy is too often guided by illusions. And Trumps ( largely unjustified) adoration of Putin is probably one of the more harmless ones :

                1. Russians have the ( documentable) habit to rally around their leaders during hard times and they are used to hard times. The idea of ever more and ever more crippling sanctions (two new rounds from the US last week, right ? ) engineering political change is clearly completely ignorant of russian history and mentality. Putins enemies are largely in the educated urban middle and upper classes. His supporters are largely working class. Putin has reason to worry about growing middle classes demanding more political rights. oversight and scrutiny, not about them facing hits from sanctions. Inflicting economic pain on his country is less likely to topple him than to shore him up.


                2. The idea that Europes/the Wests security architecture has to be set up AGAINST Russia, when actually resolving most european security issues requires working WITH Russia, wether we like that or not.
                Which requires getting rid of the illusion that Putins goal is territorial expansion. Crimea should be treated as a separate case here. The territorys "donation" to Ukraine was a remarkably silly idea and under dispute already in the Soviet Union. Its population always regarded itself as russian and for a reason did not lift a finger to stop the russian invasion.
                Putin took his chance when Ukraine was in turmoil and "corrected" the border in violation of international law and according to plans that the generals without already had in the cupboard. Yet there is nothing to suggest that handing it back to Ukraine was in line with the wishes of its people. Clearly rewriting borders unilaterally cannot possibly be rewarded, but in the case of Crimea another solution than just re-establishing the status quo ante or insisting on something that is not going to happen has to be worked out.
                On eastern Ukraine Merkel ( that leads european efforts in tandem with Macron) seeks to "freeze" the conflict first. Europeans have considerable experience with "frozen" conflicts that have sometimes been "cooled down" long enough for parties to forget what they were actually fighting about ( Take the once violent one between Italy and Austria over Southern Tyrol. Northern Ireland is on the road to that). For that you first need to convince both parties that they have more to loose from continuation of the conflict than from "freezing" it. The Kiev governement could be relatively easily forced to tame its more extreme forces in the east, Putin needs to be "convinced". Though that should be possible in principle. The war is deeply unpopular at home in Russia ( Russians are not used to see Ukrainians as enemies), it costs a fortune, and it has produced little demonstratable. And probably most of all, it bogs down the domestic economy.
                To sucessfully "freeze" a conflict you need to establish a working control regime then ( like under the OSCE flag, as prescribed by the Minsk treaty), before you continue with little steps. Fix a sewage plant here, re-open a school there. Encourage enemies to debate local issues first. Where will the bus stop be put ? When should the market be open ? And if it works, than the return of life forces politicians to fix the bigger issues as well. It has worked before.

                3. Putin is no demonic overlord that changes election results with a mouseclick, because all issues blamed on his sinister meddling actually have domestic roots. Trump, Brexit, the rise of far-right parties have all been aided by Putin, but to claim he had actually engineered them overestimates his power significantly. He has a clever hybrid conflict strategy under that he managed to exploit other societies internal conflicts to an extent. Although the results have not always carried his goals very far. ( Where is Marine Le Pen ? f.e.) The response to that has to be fixing shortcomings in our own democracies most of all.
                Other than that he leads a sclerotic economy the size of Italy, that exports few things except weapons, oil and gas, with a military budget around 10 % that of the US, around 20 % that of the main european nations combined and around 50 % that of China. To put a few things in perspective.
                Putin is mostly worried about two things :

                a) Attracting investions and capital to ( urgently) modernize his economy. For that he needs to get rid of the sanctions. And since the US Congress wont play along, and China neither (for different reasons), he tries to charm the Europeans. Which is a window of opportunity that Merkel has been more than clear to intend to use.

                b) Putins strategic moves are clearly aimed at achieving security, also against imaginary threats (from a western perspective), such as the comparatively tiny NATO force in the Baltics.

                That should be the base for western engagement with Russia, realistically, fair, but not hysterically. We have even managed that when they had 500 000 soldiers in the GDR. And in some ways better than today.
                Last edited by Voland; 08-22-2018, 09:33 AM.

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                • #9
                  ... A freeze on hostilities, followed by investments into both countries, the Ukraine and Russia. Supposing the EU end of that strategy could throw the US a bone (after taking first place in line), that should be equally attractive to both Putin and Poroshenko. It even has the promise of transparency in the negotiation process, with a minimum of secrecy. -Aside from making the US a second-best investor. I'd keep that part of the strategy in the dark, were I Merkel. We have too many politicians with delicate egos; they could use a little secrecy to at least pretend a larger US role in resolving the political and economic issues. That opens the bank here in the US, which is the objective anyway.

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by radcentr View Post
                    ... A freeze on hostilities, followed by investments into both countries, the Ukraine and Russia. Supposing the EU end of that strategy could throw the US a bone (after taking first place in line), that should be equally attractive to both Putin and Poroshenko. It even has the promise of transparency in the negotiation process, with a minimum of secrecy. -Aside from making the US a second-best investor. I'd keep that part of the strategy in the dark, were I Merkel. We have too many politicians with delicate egos; they could use a little secrecy to at least pretend a larger US role in resolving the political and economic issues. That opens the bank here in the US, which is the objective anyway.


                    For that the US would first need to have a roughly consistent position on both Russia and Ukraine. Trump has repeatedly made statements that Ukraine can only interpret as hostile, such as the US unilaterally lifting all Crimea and Donbass-related sanctions and recognizing the disputed territories (at least Crimea) as russian. Also in Helsinki Trump appeared to support Putins statement that the war in Ukraine was solely Ukraines fault and that Russia was merely fighting "terrorists". At least he didnt bother to contradict him or distance himself.
                    Congress (and that includes Republicans) on the other hand is far more trigger happy with sanctions than the most Russia-sceptic Europeans and often uses language that Merkel and Macron ( neither of them "pro-russian") would never use. But Europeans also overwhelmingly understand that at the end of the day they have no choice but to share the continent with Russia. That means the pressure is higher on them to come up with actual policies and not political/rethorical games.
                    The picture that emerges is that US leaders are split among themselves and are therefore deadlocking each other out of playing a major role in the negotiation process. Merkel and Macron on the other hand have a consistent position on Russia ( constructive engagement with sanctions as well as business and investment on the table, carrot and stick) and in spite of beeing geopolitical adversaries (with Putin) they are more interested in talks than in posturing. Therefore it is clear why the Cremlin sees its more promising contacts in Paris and Berlin.

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