Michel’s risky Russia summit

For weeks, relations with Russia were extremely tense. But now the signs are pointing to an easing of tensions – at least at first glance.

US President Joe Biden has invited his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin to a summit. It could take place in Europe in June.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Selenskyj is also planning to meet with Putin. “It seems to me that this meeting will take place,” Selenskyj said.

But no signals of détente are coming from Brussels. On the contrary, EU Council President Charles Michel has called a special summit for May 25.

The topics: Corona, climate policy – and Russia. The format: “physical” – meaning that decisions are to be made.

Originally, this was already planned in March, a new Russia strategy was on the agenda. But because of the third Corona wave, there was only a video summit.

So now the time has come. It is still unclear what Michel will propose on Russia. The only thing that is clear is that Michel is in a hurry to drive in stakes – hence the special summit.

The liberal Belgian is under pressure – from the U.S., which has just imposed sanctions against Russia that could also affect Europe. And from the Czech Republic and Eastern Europe, where new EU measures are being demanded.

But apparently Michel also wants to try to keep the issue out of the German election campaign. There was already a first skirmish over the weekend.

Green Party candidate for chancellor Annalena Baerbock called for a tougher course against Moscow, while Foreign Minister Heiko Maas warned against “confrontational cries.”

Against this background, what might a European line look like? It would be desirable to explore the possibilities for détente.

With the end of the military maneuver on the border with Ukraine and the offers of talks to Biden and Selenskyj, Putin has created this option.

But Michel’s foreign policy agenda speaks a different language. He emphasized loyalty to Ukraine, traveled to Georgia, and supported reforms in Moldova.

If he wanted détente, he probably would have flown to Moscow sooner. But maybe that will come? After all, he can hardly do worse than Josep Borrell….

Translated with www.DeepL.com/Translator (free version) The original post (in German) is here