Will Navalny’s Poisoning Force Germany to Get Tough on Russia?

“All of those who call for appeasement, insisting that we have to respect Russia, are becoming less popular,” Mr. Gressel said, and increasingly, it is the hard-liners against Russia who are being heard.

That does not translate into immediate action on Germany’s part, however. Early calls to cancel the nearly completed, $11 billion Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline from Russia to Germany have faded, and Ms. Merkel’s government has insisted it will seek a European response to the poisoning.

But from the outset Ms. Merkel has taken an unusually personal interest in Mr. Navalny’s fate. She granted him swift entry to Germany even though most Russians are barred, given the threat of the coronavirus, and personally announced in notably harsh terms the discovery that Novichok had turned up in the tests on Mr. Navalny — which the chancellor in an unusually sharp tone called a “crime.”

Speaking to reporters in Vilnius, Lithuania, on Monday, President Emmanuel Macron of France echoed the chancellor’s demand for Russia to explain what had happened to Mr. Navalny before a meeting of the European Council, part of the European Union’s executive arm, on Thursday and Friday. The poisoning has been added to that meeting’s agenda.

“This is very clearly a murder attempt carried out on Russian soil, against a Russian opposition leader with a chemical agent manipulated in Russia,” Mr. Macron told the reporters, according to Reuters. “It is therefore up to Russia to provide clarifications.”

A European version of the United States’s Magnitsky Act — which sanctions those found to be in violation of human rights — would give the bloc an additional tool to use against Moscow in Mr. Navalny’s case. But even if Europe does pull together its own version, Mr. Meister expects that those affected would be limited largely to individuals who do not regularly conduct business outside of Russia.

The bigger question, though, will be how Russia decides to treat Mr. Navalny once he returns home as he has said he plans to do, said Janis Kluge, an analyst for Eastern Europe with the German Institute for International and Security Affairs in Berlin.

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