Merkel's Bavarian Ally Plans Putin Visit in Bid for Global Stage

Bavaria’s state premier said he plans to visit Russian President Vladimir Putin next year, stepping on German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s foreign-policy turf a day after clashing with her over refugee policy.

Horst Seehofer, whose Christian Social Union party rules Bavaria and is part of Merkel’s governing coalition nationally, is one of the most prominent critics of her open-door stance on asylum seekers. On Russia, he said it’s “realpolitik” to try to involve Putin in tackling global crises.

Horst Seehofer

Photographer: Joerg Koch/Getty Images

“We can’t solve the conflicts of our times without or against Russia,” Seehofer said in a speech to a CSU convention on Saturday in Munich, which is home to companies such as Siemens AG and Bayerische Motoren Werke AG.

Efforts by the CSU to demonstrate autonomy from Merkel’s larger Christian Democratic Union have increased this year as Bavarian politicians blame the chancellor for encouraging Europe’s biggest refugee influx since World War II. In the conflict in eastern Ukraine, Merkel is insisting that economic sanctions against Russia remain in place until a peace plan negotiated with Putin in February is fully implemented.

After challenging Merkel on Friday to cap the number of asylum seekers, Seehofer backed off, saying he wants the CDU-CSU alliance to endure while making the Bavarian party a “bulwark” against the “radical right.”

“We have a first-class chancellor who’s doing extraordinary work and a brilliant job of representing us internationally,” the Bavarian premier said.