German political analyst Alexander Rahr, director of the German-Russian Forum well known for his insights into relations between Russia and the West, maintained that Ukraine would be the main topic on the agenda.
"Whether Merkel wants it or not, but as the Chancellor of Germany she serves as the guarantor of the success of the peace process in Eastern Ukraine or its failure. She is the one who launched this process. This was her idea. She brought French President Francois Hollande to Minsk where this process was kick started with the participation of Russia and Ukraine. If it fails, then Merkel will be to blame," he said.
Political analyst Peter Schulze of the University of Göttingen also expressed doubt that the summit could lead to any major bilateral decisions.
"The best-case scenario involves reduced tensions, but not a real thaw of these frozen relations. Merkel hardly has anything new to offer Moscow. If she adds a flexible and creative review of the sanctions regime to the agenda of her visit, this would necessarily lead to positive response from Russia. But I don't think this will happen," he said.
Schulze ruled out any potential Russian meddling in the upcoming elections in Germany.
"There is a forecast that if we lose on September 24, then Russians would be surely to blame for this. This is ridiculous. Russia is at the moment a sort of a monster, whom no one wants to approach," he said. "There will be no meddling in [the German elections] on the part of Russia."
Alexei Mukhin suggested that the upcoming elections would have an impact on Merkel's visit to Sochi.
"Clearly, Angela Merkel has to show that everything she has done makes at least some political sense. She will turn this into a rigid stance vis-à-vis Vladimir Putin. After her reelection, Merkel would probably tone done here tough rhetoric with regard to Russia and will weaken this standoff, senseless from the business point of view," he said.
For his part, Martin Hoffmann, who heads the Russian-German Forum, said that Russia is unlikely to become a hot topic during the election campaign.
"More likely, this visit aims at showing that despite everything the thread of the dialogue has not been cut, that a comprehensive foreign policy is possible under Merkel and that she is in contact with Putin," he said.
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