German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Russia’s President Vladimir Putin will have plenty to talk about when they meet on Saturday — thanks in no small part to U.S. President Donald Trump, whose sanctions and criticisms over trade, energy and NATO have created new worries for both leaders.
The two will meet at the German government’s guest house outside Berlin and will give short statements beforehand but aren’t planning a news conference, German officials have said.
Putin is facing the possibility of more U.S. sanctions on Russia imposed by Trump, and has an interest in softening or heading off any European support for them.
Meanwhile, while both countries want to move ahead with the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline — roundly criticised by Trump as a form of Russian control over Germany.
Stefan Meister, a Russia expert at the German Council on Foreign Relations, said that there is “an increased interest on both sides to talk about topics of common interest” and that, in part because of Trump, the two sides have shifted focus from earlier meetings that focused on Russia’s conflict with Ukraine.
Merkel was a leading supporter of sanctions against Russia over its annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea region.
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.
They share some common background.
Merkel grew up under communism in East Germany, as Putin did in the Soviet Union; she speaks Russian and he speaks German after living in East Germany as a KGB agent during the Soviet era. That said, the relationship is characterised by hard bargaining over each side’s national interest.