Putin's proposal puzzles Germany
One of the central issues discussed by Russian President Vladimir Putin and German Chancellor Angela Merkel during their spontaneous talks near Berlin on August 18 was the Syrian conflict. The refugee problem is Angela Merkel's real headache, and her government's inability to formulate clear responses to the migration challenge comes at a high price for the Chancellor in the domestic political arena.
Vladimir Putin, being quite well aware of the difficult situation in which Merkel got herself, decided to use the situation in Russia's interests and try to attract German capital to the restoration of the destroyed Middle Eastern country. "This is potentially a huge burden for Europe, that's why we have to do everything to get these people [refugees] back home," Putin said at a meeting with the chancellor.
According to all recent polls, the rating of the party headed by Angela Merkel, Christian Democratic Union (CDU), fell below 30% for the first time in history. It came to the point that the issue of refugees caused discord between the CDU and its much more conservative Bavarian "sister party" CSU. Against this background, the Alternative for Germany far-right party, which has won a significant support of the population, already gained 16%, after almost overtaking the CDU-CSU coalition partners, which set a new anti-record, the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD) (16.5-17%). As can be seen, the gap between the SPD and AfD is within the margin of error. In such circumstances, Merkel's teamis not able to continue its vague migration policy.
As Deutschlandfunk points out, more and more Syrian refugees are returning to the destroyed regions of Syria, which are not directly affected by fighting, and the issue of the restoration of the SAR becomes even more urgent today.
The German Social Democratic Party's foreign policy speaker Nils Schmidt commented on Putin's proposal to join European and Russian efforts in rebuilding Syria as follows: "The good thing is that we have a common interest with Russia. We want Syria to be a stable and unified state, and we do not want the collapse of this country, as it happened in Iraq or Libya. Russians understand that they are on their way to victory, but they also realize the fact that the long-term political decision and Syria's economic reconstruction can not be achieved without the support of the West, in particular the EU. Syria is an EU neighbor, economic and political ties with the EU have always been important for Syria, including in the future. Thus, Russia will do everything necessary to end the political isolation of Syria and the regime of Bashar Assad. " As conditions for German aid to Syria, Nils Schmidt mentioned the holding of free elections in the country and the investigation of committed war crimes under the auspices of the United Nations.
Guido Steinberg, a German political scientist from the Stiftung für Wissenschaft und Politik (SWP), which advises the German government, is not so positive about Putin's idea. "Its implementation will depend on reciprocal concessions which the Russians are willing to make, in particular, on the issue of Syria's new political order," the expert notes. The political scientist considers that achieving Russia's consent to the conditions voiced by Nils Schmidt is unrealistic. "The Russians spent billions in this war, losing their people, to support Bashar Assad. Any political reorganization of Syria, free elections will pose a threat to this regime. I think that the maximum the German government may agree, and which can to expect, is a formal political reorganization that would provide an external picture of changes and reforms, but would change nothing inside the country. Assad understands that if he weakens the grip, he will be quickly removed from power, he will lose it - so we should have no illusions. And it's a big question whether we should invest billions in such a situation," Steinberg believes.
At the same time, the analyst admits that the German authorities are in a vulnerable position now. "The government does not like to say it out loud, but, of course, everyone in Germany understands that reducing the number of refugees has become one of the most important goals of government policy in the Middle East and North Africa. The biggest problem is that the majority of refugees came to Europe from regions where insurgents were strong. And everything indicates that the Syrian government does not really want these people to come back. I fear that we should not expect a massive return of refugees from Germany to Syria, even if we really help to restore the Syrian Arab Republic. The Syrian government does not want these people, as they pose a risk to the security of the regime," Steinberg notes.
In general, according to the SWP analyst, currently Germany and Europe have weak negotiating positions in key international security issues. "Without support from the U.S., Europe is a weak player. And we will see it again in the negotiations with Putin, and probably with Erdogan next month. Europe is not a player in Syria. Without the Americans, Europeans have no military and very limited foreign policy weight. We see it in Syria, we see it in Iran and Ukraine. And the talks will change nothing here. Europeans should revise the fundamental issues to make changes," the expert concluded.