SOCHI LOT TO DO

Merkel and Putin defend their new gas pipeline in the face of US opposition

Angela Merkel certainly doesn’t have the type of flashy, adoring relationship with Vladimir Putin that her predecessor Gerhard Schröder has, but the chancellor was keen to stress the importance of the Germany-Russia relationship during her meeting with the Russian president in the resort town of Sochi today (May 18).

“We have a strategic interest in having good relations with Russia” Merkel said. Putin said Germany is “one of our key economic partners, and that “even in the hardest times, we never broken off contact with each other.”

Asked on Thursday, whether Donald Trump’s behavior on the global stage would push her into the arms of Putin, Merkel said “of course not.” However, given Putin’s influence in Syria and Iran, the German leader has no choice but to work closely with him.

From the conflict in Syria, to Ukraine, to saving the Iran nuclear deal, the pair had much to get through. “We discussed things we disagree on,” Merkel said. “We discussed Ukraine—there were violations of the Minsk agreement again.”

One thing, however, they did agree on was that the new Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline from Russia to Germany was going ahead and was a good thing.

The US is loudly opposed to the pipeline, which will be built by Gazprom to bring natural gas from Siberia to Western Europe, and is slated to be operational at the end of next year. It claims the pipeline, which got Germany’s approval in March, is a security risk. US deputy assistant secretary Sandra Oudkirk said it will increase Russia’s “malign influence” in Europe.

Putin, who said the pipeline was commercial, not political, had some positive words for the US president. “Donald isn’t just president, but also a good strong entrepreneur,” Putin said. “He’s promoting the interests of American business, of sales of liquefied natural gas in Europe.”

Merkel’s economy minster Peter Altmaier told Washington to back off, saying today that the US was trying to block the pipeline purely to serve its own interests of exporting more shale gas to Europe.

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