Geopolitical Gravitas

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Merkel, Seeking Middle Ground, Sends Right Signals in Kiev Visit

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  • Why it matters

    Why it matters

    Germany and Europe have much to lose if the Ukraine crisis worsens. But Berlin can improve economic ties with Ukraine and not alienate Russia.

  • Facts

    Facts

    • Chancellor Merkel visited Kiev on Saturday, pledging €500 million in reconstruction credit guarantees.
    • The German leader said her country opposed Ukraine’s request to join NATO.
    • Ms. Merkel, an East German who speaks Russian, is one of the few Western leaders with contact to Vladimir Putin.
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    Audio

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German Chancellor Angela Merkel arrived in Kiev with nearly empty hands on Saturday – that is, if you consider all Ukraine wants at the moment is economic aid and weapons. In both cases, she didn’t fulfill her host’s wishes on her first visit to the Ukrainian capital since the outbreak of conflict with Russia.

Instead of direct financial aid to the war-torn country, Ms. Merkel pledged €500 million ($690 million), mostly in credit guarantees for reconstruction projects in eastern Ukraine.

It was the right approach, however, since she is the only western politician who still gets a hearing from the Kremlin with any regularity. Admittedly, that’s barely changed Russian President Vladimir Putin’s actions, but cutting this line of communication would be careless.

Ms. Merkel is following a policy she set during the 2008 military conflict between Russia and the former Soviet state Georgia. Back then, she didn’t back Georgia’s bid for membership in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and last weekend, she did not back that for Ukraine either.

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