Merkel’s tougher Rus­sia stance meets re­sis­tance in Ger­many

The Guardian (Nigeria) - - WORLD REPORT - Saudi king Sal­man pre­sides over con­clu­sion of joint gulf shield one drills

GER­MANY’S Europe min­is­ter called yes­ter­day for a new pol­icy of easing ten­sions with Rus­sia, adding to a cho­rus of voices press­ing Chan­cel­lor An­gela Merkel to mod­er­ate her hard­ened stance to­wards the Krem­lin.

The con­ser­va­tive chan­cel­lor swung be­hind Britain af­ter the poi­son at­tack on a for­mer Rus­sian dou­ble agent in Eng­land last month, ex­pelling four diplo­mats de­spite un­easi­ness among a po­lit­i­cal class that is wary of con­fronta­tion with Ger­many’s giant eastern neigh­bor.

Europe Min­is­ter Michael Roth, a mem­ber of the So­cial Demo­crat party (SPD), said that while the Euro­pean Union needed a united front on Rus­sia, sanc­tions should aim to bring Moscow to the ne­go­ti­at­ing ta­ble.

“Anti-rus­sian re­flexes are just as dan­ger­ous as naively... re­main­ing silent over the na­tion­al­ist-tinged poli­cies of the cur­rent Rus­sian lead­er­ship,” he wrote in Die Welt­news­pa­per.

Many West­ern coun­tries are push­ing for a more assertive stance against Moscow over Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin’s back­ing for Syr­ian Pres­i­dent Bashar al-as­sad, ac­cused of us­ing chem­i­cal weapons in the coun­try’s civil war.

With ex­ten­sive busi­ness and en­ergy links to Rus­sia, Ger­many has been cau­tious in its re­la­tions with Moscow, though Merkel’s tone has hard­ened over the four years since Rus­sia’s an­nex­a­tion of Ukraine’s Crimean penin­sula.

Roth, whose party is ju­nior part­ner in Merkel’s coali­tion, echoed com­ments from Pres­i­dent FrankWal­ter Stein­meier - a fel­low So­cial Demo­crat - that “too much is at stake” for Ger­many to cast Rus­sia as an en­emy.

Opin­ion in the coali­tion is not nec­es­sar­ily di­vided along party lines. For­eign Min­is­ter Heiko Maas, also a So­cial Demo­crat, has ap­peared to shift away from a con­cil­ia­tory ap­proach to Moscow while Alexan­der Do­brindt, a law­maker for Merkel’s Bavar­ian sis­ter party, has ques­tioned the ef­fec­tive­ness of the sanc­tions against Rus­sia.

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