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Merkel Must Try Harder on Russian Human Rights

This one is fresh off the wire on Angela Merkel’s upcoming meeting with Dmitry Medvedev.  Despite strong efforts, Merkel’s past comments on human rights have not produced much.  Perhaps this summit, a new approach will be attempted.

From The New York Times:

For all her ability to speak Russian, or draw on her experience of growing up and working in Communist East Germany, Mrs. Merkel also has little to show for speaking out on human rights.

That will not stop her from voicing concern about recent killings of activists in Chechnya, said a government spokesman. This week, the bodies of Zarema Sadulayeva, a human rights campaigner, and her husband were found in the trunk of a car in Chechnya. Last month, Natalya Estemirova, a human rights campaigner, was kidnapped and killed; even Mr. Medvedev expressed dismay.

“The chancellor can keep criticizing, and bringing up the murders ofhuman rights activists such as Anna Politkovskaya or NatalyaEstemirova,” said Hans-Henning Schröder, a Russia expert at the GermanInstitute for International and Security Affairs, referring to thejournalist murdered in Moscow in 2006. “But nothing happens. Thereseems to be no influence.”

The United States, which has been reassessing relations with Russia,has had little influence either. Given Germany’s status as Russia’sbiggest trading partner and the centuries-old cultural, economic andpolitical ties between the two, human rights organizations had hopedMrs. Merkel might have an effect.

Some analysts say the historic high energy prices of recent yearsimbued the Kremlin with new confidence and conviction that it did notneed outsiders to give it lectures about human rights.

Others say that, leaving aside Mrs. Merkel’s outspokenness, hergovernment of conservatives and Social Democrats actually did notdeviate from previous German policy toward Russia.

“Even with this government, there has been a continuity in policy,”said Gernot Erler, the Social Democrat deputy foreign minister. “Thereis no other choice when it comes to dealing with Russia. Our interestis establishing a strategic partnership with the aim of modernizingRussia, diversifying its economy and integrating it with Europe, atleast from the economic aspects.”