Latynina on the Putin-Merkel Relationship

Yulia Latynina has a column in the Moscow Times examining the Putin-Merkel relationship. merkel_putin.jpg Latynina: “The Kremlin operates according to simple principles. Make a friend of someone and you can do as you please; your friend will always back you up. If someone does not give you his support, it is not because of what you did, but because that person is not your friend.” Some excerpts:

Putin usually invites only friends to his private residence, as in the case of former German Chancellor Helmut Kohl and U.S. President George W. Bush. Merkel is clearly not Putin’s friend. Moreover, however fair Merkel’s criticisms of Putin in the past have been, they were criticisms nonetheless. Following such criticism, it is considered bad form to invite the offender to your personal residence, because this diminishes the country’s prestige. It takes a special kind of person to take such a shot and continue a constructive dialogue. The new German leader has always been more severe than her predecessor, Gerhard Schroder. Her biggest rebuke came in October, when Putin offered Germany an agreement on access to output from the western Siberian Shtokman gas field. The offer, which was only made after Gazprom broke off negotiations with U.S. and European oil majors and announced that it would develop the field alone, sounded too good to refuse. But Merkel did refuse. She turned it down, saying the EU would stick together and follow a common energy policy. Merkel then responded to pressure on the companies developing the Sakhalin-2 project — Shell, Mitsui and Mitsubishi — to sell a share in the project to Gazprom, by saying, “If Russia creates obstacles to European investment, it shouldn’t object to reciprocal measures.” Following Merkel’s response to the Shtokman offer, her comments about the Sakhalin-2 controversy and her strong comments about the Russia-Belarus standoff, we end up with the two leaders in talks in Sochi. There is only one explanation I can provide for this: Putin is used to working out policy – both foreign and domestic – on the basis of personal relationships, by winning his partner’s trust. In the language of his former profession, he managed to recruit his friends: former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, French President Jacques Chirac and Schroder.

Read the complete article here.