Trump Is Pushing Germany and Russia To Settle Their Differences

During this past Saturday, 18 August, Russian President Vladimir Putin made a brief visit to Austria to attend the wedding of the country’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Karin Kneissl.  Per the Kremlin, this stop of several hours in the Styrian wine country not far from the border with Slovenia was a “purely private” side excursion “on the road to Germany” for the state visit with Chancellor Angela Merkel starting later in the day at the Meseberg Palace, the federal guest house 60 km north of Berlin.

Journalists were admitted to film the wedding party, including Putin’s dance with the 53 year old bride. No questions were taken and no statements were issued by the President’s Press Secretary, who also was present. We know only that on the return journey to Graz airport, Putin was accompanied by Austria’s Chancellor Sebastian Kurz. Presumably they had some issues to discuss that may be characterized as official talks.

Prior to their meeting both Putin and Angela Merkel made statements to the press listing the topics they intended to discuss.  We may assume that these lists were not exhaustive. Comparing their lists, we find that the respective priorities of the parties were in inverted order, with economic cooperation at the head of Putin’s list while regulating the Donbass crisis in Ukraine was the top concern of Merkel. Moreover, the content of issues bearing the same heading was very different.  Both sides spoke of Syria, but whereas for Putin the issue for discussion is the humanitarian crisis of refugees, ensuring their return to their homes from camps in Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey by raising funds to repair and replace fundamental infrastructure destroyed in the war. For Merkel, the number one issue in Syria…

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