Following Russia’s military intervention in Georgia, Chancellor  Angela Merkel’s more than skeptical view of Russian foreign policy is slowly but surely gaining ground over the atmosphere created by her predecessor’s hopes for a special relationship with Moscow.

As her spokesman made clear yesterday, there is still no firm evidence indicating that the promised Russian withdrawal has begun, and the German government finds this „very unsatisfactory“ indeed (and that’s about the angriest thing Angela Merkel can possibly say – she’s the tight-lipped, reserved type, you see).

Her clear words on the matter also seem to be having an effect upon other European policy makers who, although split as usual, are now coming to see Russia as a problem rather than a partner. And this is a good thing. Clear words need to be spoken, especially from Germany. Arriving in the Georgian capital Tbilisi to discuss the implementation of a peace plan to end Russia’s first foreign invasion since the end of the Cold War, Merkel repeated her concern about Russia’s apparent refusal to withdraw troops quickly and even reiterated her claim that Georgia can become a member of NATO if it so chooses, despite (or because of?) Russian opposition to the plan.

But unfortunately, these clear words don’t always correspond to clear actions. During the NATO summit in April, Germany played a major role in preventing Ukraine and Georgia from joining the alliance’s Membership Action Plan (MAP), and now that hostilities have broken out, despite Merkel’s claims of support for Georgian membership, the Germans are clearly happy to keep as much distance as possible between them and embattled region.

Did NATO policy makers give Russia a green light for attacking Georgia by withholding fast-track membership for that country in April? Words are good, but words without action can lead to “very unsatisfactory” results indeed.

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