Beth Pond in The Financial Times on how Angela Merkel has been playing the long game with her policy towards Russia. Pond describes Merkel's systematic and effective approach to dealing with Vladimir Putin since the Russian invasion and annexation of Crimea. "Europe’s de facto leader has been working night and day to persuade three very different audiences that peace and security trump European economic interests, and will now require European financial sacrifice. Ms. Merkel’s first audience was Vladimir Putin, the Russian president. The second was the domestic business lobby, and the 6,200 companies that make Germany by far Russia’s most important trading partner. The third consisted of Berlin’s fellow EU members, especially Britain, France and Italy, which have their own pro-Russian business lobbies." Pond writes that both the United States and Russia have underestimated Merkel. "The US commentariat, like Mr. Putin, has defaulted in recent months to a consensus that Germany would never agree to tough sanctions because its economy is too beholden to Russian energy and trade. That view discounts Ms Merkel’s service in decelerating the pace of western sanctions to leave room for escalation as and when needed; and to keep Mr Putin talking, rather than shooting."
Dennis Ross in Politico on why the United States should approach the Middle East differently. Ross suggests that a changing Middle East explains why Hamas is continuing to fight against Israel. "Egypt had cut off the smuggling tunnels from Sinai into Gaza, which accounted for most of Hamas’ revenues. Hamas’ other main source of funding, the Iranians, has dried up given differences over the Syrian conflict and Iran’s other priorities ... With little to lose, Hamas launched this round of fighting, hoping that by being the focal point of resistance, winning sympathy because of large Palestinian civilian casualties, and imposing at least some losses on Israel, it could re-emerge as a player that must be dealt with and satisfied." He goes on to say that The Obama administration's Middle East policy must recognize the new realities of the region. "In its remaining two and half years, the administration needs to approach the Middle East with a broader goal and judge how its day-to-day policies support or detract from that goal: How can it ensure that U.S. friends in the region are stronger in January 2017, and their adversaries (and ours) are weaker?"