Location Germany Germany

Pence Asked Merkel to Provoke Russia by Sending Warships to Crimea

by Patrick Donahue and Jennifer Jacobs

The U.S. leaned on German Chancellor Angela Merkel last month to conduct a naval maneuver in Russia’s backyard aimed at provoking President Vladimir Putin, according to three people familiar with the talks.

At a Feb. 16 meeting at the Munich Security Conference, U.S. Vice President Mike Pence urged Merkel to send German warships through a narrow channel between the Crimean peninsula and mainland Russia to show Putin that Western powers won’t surrender their access to those waters, according to the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The German leader refused, they said, citing reservations from Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko. A spokesman for the chancellor declined to comment.

The two-mile (three kilometer) wide Kerch Strait is a critical flashpoint as Putin looks to consolidate his control over the Crimean peninsula and eastern Ukraine in defiance of sanctions from the European Union and the U.S.

Merkel had indicated she was willing, in coordination with the French, to send a convoy through the waterway as a one-time maneuver but Poroshenko said that wasn’t enough to solve his problem — he wants to ensure the strait is open permanently, the people said. France also refused to take part, judging the idea as an unnecessary provocation, according to another official who declined to be identified.

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