Putin Moves to Capitalize on Europe’s Fury With Trump

Ms. Merkel, who has few illusions about Mr. Putin and has been vital to maintaining economic sanctions against Russia, also finds herself and her country a particular target of Mr. Trump. In addition to the tariffs on steel and aluminum, which Germany can live with, he is now threatening unilateral tariffs on imported cars, which it cannot.

He has also raised the prospect of tariffs on those companies involved with building Nordstream II, an energy pipeline from Russia to Germany that entirely bypasses Ukraine.

Austria was the first country to import Russian energy 50 years ago, another reason for Mr. Putin’s visit, and Europe now gets a third of its gas supply from Russia, a figure likely to increase.

Putin Moves to Capitalize on Europe’s Fury With Trump
Putin Moves to Capitalize on Europe’s Fury With Trump

At the same time, both Ms. Merkel and Mr. Macron noted the nagging sores that continue to infect relations with Moscow, including the ongoing wars in Ukraine and Syria. Ms. Merkel underscored that both were impediments to better ties, and there seems little movement possible from Moscow on either front.

Many European governments remain deeply concerned about Russian meddling in their internal politics, ranging from spreading false information on social media to fostering far-right opposition to trying to widen divisions among European states themselves over Russia.

Still, Russia is cognizant of the fact that Mr. Trump has created a sudden opportunity for them.

“A battle for Russia has begun in international politics!” Vladimir R. Solovyov, the host of a prime-time talk show on Russian state-run television that often reflects the government line, said on Sunday. “Europe is compelled to change its policies on the fly since Trump has declared a trade war.”

Vladimir Chizhov, the Russian ambassador to the European Union, said on Tuesday: “I am closely watching how the situation evolves and when the necessary volume of political will is there — and I see this tendency — then the E.U. perhaps will take the necessary decision to change its course.’’

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