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The failure of Merkel’s Russia summit shows that her power is waning

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Angela Merkel said she was “sad” that other leaders of the European Union rejected her ideas about the EU. First summit with Vladimir Putin Since Russia annexed Crimea in 2014. She said this shows that “we just don’t trust each other too much.”

This is a rare frustration of a politician who is known for his self-discipline and understanding.However, it highlights a scar left by a person Franco-German Initiative This triggered strong emotions and no small anger-even among Merkel’s closest allies.

This controversy cast a shadow over the last EU summit of one of Europe’s longest-serving leaders. Merkel will step down this year after serving as prime minister for 16 years. The intense discussion this week is not the smooth departure that many people expected.

“She incorrectly estimated the impact she could have,” said Ulrich Speck, a senior visiting scholar at the German Marshall Foundation in the United States. “This shows that her strength is waning.”

The EU-Russia summit is Merkel’s second failed foreign policy initiative this year.A large EU-China investment agreement she supports is Put on ice After China approved five members of the European Parliament, the European Parliament approved the bill in March. “Merkel is actually a lame duck,” Speck said.

Merkel’s long-term experience at the EU summit shows that she is good at reading rooms and ensuring that the debate goes smoothly. But this week, this approach failed.

Some EU countries proposed that she and Macron made “free concessions” to Russia through the idea of ​​promoting the summit. She was obviously angry, but she rejected some suggestions. “I want to make it clear that this kind of meeting with the Russian president is not a reward,” she said in a press conference after the summit.

For Merkel’s political opponents in Germany, this line highlights the collateral damage caused by Merkel. Beixi 2, The Berlin-backed pipeline will transport Russian natural gas directly to Germany, which many people believe will increase Europe’s dependence on Russian energy.

Franziska Brantner, spokesperson for the Green Party’s European Affairs, said: “The problem is that because of NS2, Germany has lost all its credibility as a representative of European interests.” “Some EU member states really want to Know whether the German government is for the benefit of Europe or just for the benefit of German companies.”

After the summit, Merkel clarified the reasons that prompted her to promote the idea of ​​holding a Russian summit-the most important of which is Joe Biden met directly with Putin This month in Geneva.

Given that the United States and Russia have reached an agreement on a framework for “discussing all controversial issues” in the relationship between the two countries, Merkel said that “in this case, it is also meaningful to find a form of dialogue between the EU and Russia.”

She insisted that this is not a question of a “new starting point” in EU-Russia relations, but a question of figuring out how to best resolve the current conflict.

“Even during the Cold War… we always have channels of communication,” she said. She said that although individual countries, including Germany and France, continue to have dialogues with the Kremlin, it makes more sense for the European Union to share the same voice with Moscow.

Diplomats said that Merkel may think that this week’s summit is her last chance to put the EU on the path of closer engagement before she withdraws from the political arena.

Her initiative was supported by her junior coalition partner, the Social Democratic Party. “The EU must become a major participant in security policy…[and]As a member of international affairs,” Social Democratic Party Finance Minister Olaf Schultz told the Financial Times. “And Russia must understand and accept EU integration. “

She is not completely without the support of the European Union. In view of Putin’s deteriorating behavior, some leaders questioned offering him a summit, but supporters said that the downward spiral in Russian relations is more reason for the EU to change its strategy.

Diplomats said the problem is that the idea was only put forward by its supporters the day before the summit. Some people refer to this strategy as “underpreparation” and “a bolt from the blue.”

Germany also seems to underestimate the sensitivity of member countries geographically close to Russia. The Baltic’s response was particularly strong, while some countries such as the Netherlands emphasized that they would not sit at the same table as Putin.

Nevertheless, Dutch Prime Minister and Merkel’s long-time ally Mark Rutte said that Chancellor Merkel’s strategy “will never” tarnish her legacy.

“My position is actually very close to the French-German proposal, but I cannot agree with the EU-27 meeting with Putin. This is too much for him,” he told the Financial Times.

The boldness of the plan also jeopardizes its opportunities.Russia has not withdrawn from Crimea or eastern Ukraine, and assassination attempts Alexei NavalnyThe leader of the Russian opposition has further tensioned relations.

Nevertheless, this is far from the end of the story. The Czech Republic and the Netherlands stated that they are not necessarily opposed to the summit between the European Commission and Council Presidents and Putin.

Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin said that the problem is still unresolved. “Yesterday was not the right time, but I think we will discuss this issue further.”

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