Angela Merkel travelled to Russia again on Tuesday for the first time since 2015. She didn’t really want to go under the current circumstances, with the Ukraine crisis far from resolved.
An episode almost exactly two years ago might still have been fresh in her mind, when she laid a wreath at the Kremlin wall to demonstrate Germany’s historical responsibility for the World World II. Her plan was to stay clear of a gigantic military parade the day before to avoid any symbolic connection to Vladimir Putin’s demonstration of power. So the Russian president surprised her at the wreath-laying ceremony with a mini parade, in full view of the television cameras.
Ms. Merkel’s subsequent step back from Russia was no less symbolic. But the symbolism has now given way to pragmatism – and that’s good. Even those who didn’t know or didn’t want to know now surely realized that without Russia a large number of problems can’t be solved, whether it is Ukraine or Syria.