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German Opposition Parties Speak up for Easing Russia Sanctions

Two of Germany’s main opposition parties, the far-left Die Linke and pro-business Free Democrats (FDP), have found unlikely common ground in backing a friendlier diplomatic line on Russia.

Either of the two parties, at opposing ends of the political spectrum economically, could end up in government after federal elections in September, albeit as junior partners to either Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU) or the center-left Social Democrats (SPD).

Over the weekend, FDP chief Christian Lindner said Germany may need to accept Russia’s annexation of Crimea as a “permanent provisional relationship” in order to get out of “the dead-end situation” that is the West’s face-off with Russian president Vladimir Putin.

Germany, under the current “Grand Coalition” of CDU and SPD, has been a leading European backer of EU sanctions on Russia, due to the 2014 annexation of the Ukrainian region. The issue is also central to the U.S.’s sanctions on Russia. However, Lindner suggested “ring-fencing” the Crimea issue would allow the West to better influence Putin in other policy areas.

Read: Trump Signs New U.S. Sanctions Against Russia. Moscow Calls the Move a ‘Trade War’

Lindner’s words reflect the concern that the new bill exposes German companies that are co-owners of Russian oil and gas exports pipelines to U.S. sanctions. They prompted a quick backlash from members of the SPD and the Greens, another significant opposition party.

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However, the idea of accepting the annexation garnered praise from Sahra Wagenknecht, the leader of Die Linke. She told the Westdeutsche Allgemeine Zeitung (WAZ) on Tuesday that Germany should return to a more relaxed relationship with Russia “for reasons of peace and security in Europe.”

Wagenknecht’s party has its roots in the former East German communist party, so her enthusiasm is far from surprising. In January, she floated the idea of dissolving NATO and replacing it with a “collective security system including Russia.”

The election to the Bundestag will take place on 24 September. Merkel’s Christian Democrats and their Bavarian Christian Social Union partners are comfortably leading the polls with around 40 percent to the SPD’s 23 percent. The FDP isn’t in Germany’s current parliament as it failed to clear the five percent threshold last time, but it’s on track to get around seven percent this time, meaning it might once again find a role as a junior coalition partner. Die Linke is polling at eight percent, as are the Greens and the nationalist Alternative for Germany (AfD).