On Saturday evening, August 18, Russian President Vladimir Putin met with German Chancellor Angela Merkel at her residence in Meseberg, a suburb of Berlin. They talked for more than three hours. Putin visited the residence of the German Chancellor for the first time since 2014. On his way to Meseberg Putin attended the wedding to the Austrian Foreign Minister Karin Kneissl and her fiance Wolfgang Meilinger, who works in joint projects in the field of biogas with the Austrian company OMV, participating in the implementation of the gas pipeline project Nord Stream 2. Politicians talked with journalists before securing themselves in the park of the Meseberg Palace. Putin and Merkel reaffirmed their intention to implement the Nord Stream-2 gas pipeline project, the commitment to a nuclear deal with Iran, and stressed the importance of resolving armed conflicts in Ukraine, Syria and Yemen. What specifically discussed Putin and Merkel alone, remains a mystery. The message of the meeting in Meseberg is addressed to the United States and Ukraine. Merkel discussed with the Russian president exactly those issues that are a stumbling block in relations with the US and Ukraine.
Spitting in the Trump’s face
The meeting in Meseberg was held on the eve of the meeting of Russian company Gazprom on August 28, where it is planned to discuss the response measures in the case of US sanctions against the Nord Stream-2 gas pipeline project. The US plans to impose new sanctions against Russia in response to a chemical attack in the British city of Salisbury after August 22. Putin and Merkel confirmed their intention to implement this project. The gas pipeline is planned to be built between Russia and Germany on the bottom of the Baltic Sea until the end of 2019. Putin stressed that Nord Stream-2 is exclusively commercial in nature, and called for not politicizing this issue. Last year, Gazprom supplied Germany with 53 billion cubic meters of natural gas, which is 13% more than in 2016. Nord Stream - 2 will increase gas supplies to Germany to 110 billion cubic meters of gas per year and turn the country into the largest route for the transit of Russian blue fuel to European countries. The introduction of a new subsea gas pipeline will undermine the potential of the countries of Central and Eastern Europe in the sphere of transit of Russian natural gas. Ukraine and Poland are against the implementation of this project.
The idea of implementing the Nord Stream-2 project is not popular among the administration of US President Donald Trump. During the NATO summit, the American leader expressed bewilderment why the US should protect European countries from the Russian threat, while Germany concludes gas deals with Russia. According to Trump, if the Nord Stream-2 gas pipeline is implemented, Germany will pay billions of dollars to Russia. The new Russian gas pipeline is not profitable for the US economically, since American natural gas producers are going to increase the supply of liquefied gas to Europe. Americans want to free themselves a niche in the European gas market by reducing Russia's share. At a meeting with Putin in Helsinki, Trump said he was not sure that the implementation of the Nord Stream 2 project was in the interests of Germany, and stressed that the United States would compete with Russia in the field of natural gas supplies.
Merkel and Putin confirmed their commitment to a nuclear deal with Iran, while the US has a different opinion. Trump announced the US withdrawal from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action for Iran's nuclear program in 2015 and the restoration of sanctions in May this year. Under the terms of the nuclear deal, Iran pledged to stop enriching uranium in exchange for the gradual abolition of international sanctions. Now the Republicans are trying to persuade Iran to a new agreement and force the Ayatollah regime to abandon the development of ballistic missiles, sponsor terrorist organizations and interfere in the internal affairs of other countries in the Middle East. The interests of Merkel and Putin on Iran have converged. For the European Union, led by the German economy, Iran is a major supplier of oil. For Russia, the Islamic Republic is a military-political ally in Syria.
Merkel is blackmailing the US by rapprochement with Russia in order to encourage the States not to impose high import duties on the products of European producers. Putin's visit to Germany is part of the psychological attack of Berlin on Washington. In March, Trump announced the introduction of 25% and 10% duties on steel and aluminum produced by the EU to protect the interests of American metallurgists. In June, the owner of Oval Cabinet threatened to introduce 20% of import duties on European production cars, if the EU limits imports of American goods. This is not beneficial to Germany, which accounts for 55% of the exports of EU cars.
Merkel, in fact, spits in the face of the US Republican Party, which supports tightening and the introduction of new anti-Russian sanctions. Instead of supporting the new US sanctions against Russia, freezing the implementation of the Nord Stream-2 project in response to Russia's reluctance to withdraw troops from Eastern Ukraine, as befits a NATO ally, the German chancellor invited the aggressor president to her home. Even Trump is not in a hurry to call Putin to the White House. The recent trips of Putin to Austria and Germany - this is a kind of psychological attack on the United States. Trump should understand that Germany and a number of other EU member states might begin rapprochement with Russia, which president is still a member of the European establishment, and will displace American interests from Europe, as they are not satisfied with the fact that they must bear losses from for his protectionist measures. Merkel made it clear to the Republicans that Germany and other European countries are allegedly doing the US a favor by participating in anti-Russian sanctions. The meeting in Meseburg testifies to the deepening of the split in the relations between America and Europe.
Nothing new has been said about Ukraine. As always, Merkel and Putin declared their commitment to the Normandy format, Minsk agreements, despite the fact that they do not work, and the Ukrainian military continues to die as a result of provocations by Russian-terrorist forces. According to the Ukrainian media, from April to July 2018 during the fighting in Donbas 41 Ukrainian soldiers died. Not a word was said about when Russia is going to return the annexed Crimea to Ukraine. According to the editor of the Russian Echo of Moscow radio station Alexei Venediktov, during the talks, Merkel offered Putin the option of placing 40 thousand UN peacekeeping contingent in the conflict area in Donbas.
Putin and Merkel paid attention to the transit of Russian natural gas through the territory of Ukraine. Merkel said that the project of the Nord Stream-2 gas pipeline will be implemented on the condition that the transit of Russian natural gas through the gas transport system of Ukraine continues, and welcomed the beginning of the interim negotiations with Russia on this issue. Putin expressed himself very flamboyantly: "The future transit of Russian gas through Ukraine, while maintaining it, must meet economic requirements and be economic in all senses of the word."
The leaders of Russia and Germany are clearly cunning. Last year, Russia supplied 193.9 billion cubic meters of gas to Europe (in addition to the territory of Ukraine, natural gas from Russia is transit through Belarus and the Nord Stream gas pipeline from 2012). Transit of Russian blue fuel through Ukraine amounted to 93 billion cubic meters (44% of Russian gas supplies). With the current volumes remaining, the implementation of the Nord Stream-2 gas pipeline project with a capacity of 55 billion cubic meters of gas per year will reduce the transit of blue fuel through the territory of Ukraine to 38 billion cubic meters. If the Turkish Stream gas pipeline (the first two pipes with a total capacity of 31.5 billion cubic meters of gas per year) is put into operation, then the volume of gas transit from Russia via the gas transportation system is unlikely to exceed 6.5 billion cubic meters. The need for Ukraine's gas transportation system, which has never been modernized during the entire period of independence, will remain in case if the forecasts of the British National Grid company on increasing natural gas supplies to Europe by 47 billion cubic meters are justified by 2035. And then this may be smaller volumes than now. If the demand for natural gas in Europe grows slowly, and the use of energy-saving technologies and alternative energy will increase, the volumes of transit of blue fuel through the gas transportation system of Ukraine will decrease. The lion's share of profits from gas transit will settle in the pockets of German business partners of Gazprom.
Interests of German business
The important role in the meeting of Merkel and Putin was played by the concern of the German business regarding the negative consequences of anti-Russian sanctions for their interests. On the eve of the meeting in Meseberg, a survey was conducted among 800 firms participating in the German-Russian foreign trade chamber, on their attitude towards sanctions against Russia. According to the results of the survey, 94% of the firms supported the immediate or gradual abolition of restrictive measures. According to the chairman of the board of the German-Russian foreign trade chamber, Matthias Schepp, the new sanctions against Russia, which the US plans to introduce after August 22, will damage German companies. Representatives of the German-Russian foreign trade chamber criticized the anti-Russian sanctions that the US imposed against Russian state employees and oligarchs in April 2018. In their view, Germany's losses as a result of these restrictive measures could amount to 1.5 billion euros.
Business is one of the key sponsors and electoral base of the Angela Merkel’s party "Christian Democratic Union". It is possible that Putin's visit was just intended to play up to Merkel, to make it clear to her voters that despite the policy of anti-Russian sanctions of the United States, Russia appreciates the established ties with its German partners. Putin said that Germany is one of Russia's key trade and economic partners. Putin's visit is important for Merkel in order to strengthen her position in opposition to the "Alternative for Germany", which openly calls for the abolition of anti-Russian sanctions and, after the last parliamentary elections, took a significant number of seats in the Bundestag. Apparently, some German businessmen are tired of the policy of anti-Russian sanctions and for them, trade with Russia is more important than the interests of the US and Ukraine.
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