Brave Merkel

merkel082108.gifIt’s tough to identify a European politician more intelligent, fair, and sensible about working with Moscow than Angela Merkel, and let’s hope she can keep the SPD at bay… From the Wall Street Journal:

Merkel Taking Lead Role In Shaping Europe’s Line By MARCUS WALKER BERLIN — German Chancellor Angela Merkel is emerging as a pivotal player in reshaping the West’s relations with Moscow. In the wake of Russia’s military intervention in Georgia, Ms. Merkel’s skeptical view of Russian foreign policy is gaining ascendancy over other German policy makers’ longstanding hopes for a special relationship with Moscow. That is creating in European capitals a new critical mass that views Russia as a problem rather than a partner. For years, the EU has been split among founding members such as Germany, France and Italy, which were reluctant to offend Russia, and new entrants from Central and Eastern Europe, which saw Russia as a threat.

Big questions remain over what Germany and Europe can do to tame a Russia emboldened by its oil and natural-gas riches and determined to regain some of the geopolitical influence it lost after the collapse of the Soviet Union.”Merkel is enormously important in recalibrating Europe’s Russia policy,” says Pawel Swieboda, director of Warsaw think tank demosEuropa. “The blue-eyed sentiment has clearly gone and will not return.”Georgian officials say they were surprised by the strength of Ms. Merkel’s show of solidarity last Sunday when she visited Tbilisi, Georgia’s capital.She promised that Georgia would one day join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, despite Russian opposition, and proposed NATO help rebuild Georgia’s military and infrastructure. NATO foreign ministers agreed on an aid package at a meeting Tuesday in Brussels.The German leader didn’t get on well with Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili in previous encounters, partly because Mr. Saakashvili lectured her on economics, according to people familiar with those meetings. And Ms. Merkel was instrumental in blocking Georgia’s U.S.-backed bid to start NATO membership talks at the alliance’s April summit in Bucharest. She said a country with unresolved territorial disputes wasn’t ready to join NATO.German officials at the time said she also wanted to give Russia’s incoming president, Dmitry Medvedev, room to deliver on promises of liberal changes. At a terse meeting Friday in Sochi, Russia, Ms. Merkel told Mr. Medvedev that Russia’s image in Europe was worsening every day Russian tanks remained in Georgia, according to German officials.Germany’s business lobby opposes political moves that could offend Moscow. The German economy relies heavily on exports, which make up 47% of gross domestic product, and Russia is one of Germany’s fastest-growing markets. Germany also gets 37% of its natural gas and 31% of its crude oil from Russia.Ms. Merkel is the first German leader to grow up in Communist East Germany, an experience that left her instinctively suspicious of Russian power, unlike many politicians from Germany’s capitalist West who have long tried to act as a diplomatic bridge between Washington and Moscow.