Merkel Presses for Political Solution to Ukraine Crisis
August 24, 2014 • 7:54PM

German Chancellor Angela Merkel pressed Ukraine President Petro Poroshenko to agree to a new ceasefire and move forward with talks with Russia to end the crisis that has driven the world to the edge of a conflict between NATO and Russia that could lead to world war.

Following five hours of meetings with Poroshensko and other Ukrainian officials, Merkel gave an interview to the Wall Street Journal in which she emphasized, "There won't be a military solution to the conflict [in Ukraine]. That's why political talks are absolutely necessary ... I want to find a way, as many others too, that doesn't damage Russia.... We want to have good trade relations with Russia. We want to have reasonable relations with Russia. We depend on each other." In the Wall Street Journal's words: "She also reiterated that Ukrainian membership in NATO isn't on the agenda."

She cautioned that there will be no breakthrough in the Tuesday meeting of Putin-Poroshenko in Minsk, but there has to be a start; the meeting is part of that process.

Merkel's formulation was mirrored by a Washington source who held out "cautious optimism" that the Minsk talks can lead to a de-escalation and eventual normalization of relations between Ukraine and Russia. The source emphasized that German Foreign Minister Steinmeier has been closely coordinating with his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, and pushing for Poroshenko and Putin to start a genuine dialogue in Minsk. The Washington source added that the successful return of the Russian humanitarian aid convoy without incident, was a good sign that both sides are looking to avoid further escalation. He added that President Obama gave his tacit support to the German diplomatic efforts, and that this infuriated the British, who have been looking to use the Sept. 4 NATO heads-of-state meeting in Wales as a major escalation against Russia.