From "flawless" to lawless
Angela Merkel's glum trip to Moscow and Kyiv
When angela merkel took over as Germany's chancellor in 2005 Western leaders had high hopes that Russia would progress from semi-authoritarian regime to liberal democracy. Four years earlier Vladimir Putin had declared in a speech in German to the Bundestag, "Russia is a friendly-minded European country." The then chancellor, Gerhard Schroder, Mrs Merkel's predecessor, became so chummy with Mr Putin that shortly before leaving office he approved the construction of a gas pipeline from Russia to Germany crossing the Baltic Sea. Russia provided 40% of Germany's gas. Germany was about to become Russia's largest trading partner.
Sixteen years later, each country's expectation of the other has failed to materialise. Germany had imagined a more liberal Russia; Russia had hoped that Germany wouldhelp convince Europe to treat Russia as an equal, and to create a free-trade zone from Lisbon to Vladivostok. On August 20th Mrs Merkel will travel to Moscow during the last weeks of her chancellorship to say goodbye to a leader whom she has come to distrust deeply. Mr Putin will bid farewell to his most important interlocutor among Western leaders.
The debacle in Afghanistan will be high on their list, as well as the nearly finished gas pipeline, which America's Congress fiercely opposes. Now known as Nord Stream 2, it has become a stain on Mrs Merkel's legacy. The chancellor is normally adept at balancing competing interests, but she utterly underestimated how much the pipeline, which she supported mainly to appease the business lobby and her Social Democratic coalition partners, would upset America and Ukraine. They fear it will isolate Ukraine (which also stands to lose lucrative transit fees) and make Europe even more dependent on Russian gas. After her stop in Moscow Mrs Merkel will travel to Kyiv for talks with Volodymyr Zelensky, the Ukrainian president.