by Arne Delfs
German Chancellor Angela Merkel (C) and French President Francois Hollande (R) during a meeting in Kyiv on Feb. 5, 2015.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel is pessimistic about Vladimir Putin’s willingness to defuse the crisis in Ukraine as she travels to Moscow for emergency talks today, a person familiar with the matter said.
Merkel will tell Putin that Russia faces tougher actions from Europe unless he agrees to help end the escalating violence that’s put the Ukrainian army and economy on its knees, said the person, who asked not to be identified discussing government strategy. Merkel and French President Francois Hollande will press Putin to implement the Minsk cease-fire agreement from last September, two people said.
The chancellor is changing course and going to see Putin -- she had previously said she’d only meet with the Russian president if concrete results could be expected -- because of the deteriorating situation in Ukraine, the person said.
Pessimism prevails on all sides. Merkel sees little chance of getting Putin to change his mind; officials in the Obama administration say there’s little anyone can do to stop pro-Russian separatists from seizing more territory; and in Moscow, policy makers are increasingly coming to the view that the disputed Donbas region will eventually cede from Ukraine.
Hanging over the talks is the prospect of deeper sanctions on Russia, an economic collapse in Ukraine and the risk that the conflict descends into a proxy war. While Merkel has rejected arming the Ukrainian army and President Barack Obama is said to be skeptical, some officials and diplomats in Washington are openly discussing the idea.
Merkel’s decision to go with Hollande -- first to Kiev on Thursday and now Moscow -- was a spontaneous reaction to the dire situation and not the result of any talks where an historic agreement is expected, the person said.
The talks are set to begin at 6:30 p.m. in Moscow.