German Chancellor Angela Merkel visits Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow on Friday. The two leaders speak each other’s native language, but mutual understanding has certainly not always been the case over the past 16 years.
This is the 20th time that 67-year-old Merkel and 68-year-old Putin have formally shake hands, and also likely to be the last, as the German chancellor will leave politics in September. It was a stormy relationship with Putin during that time.
During their first meeting in 2006, Russian leader Merkel presented a plush dog toy as a gift, which made the chancellor laugh. At their second meeting in 2007, a real dog entered the room, and the German leader was not happy with it, because she is afraid of dogs. Pictures of an anxious Merkel and a gray Putin next to her have gone viral around the world.
The Russian president later claimed he had no ill intentions, and Merkel told German media he had no fear. “I can understand why he’s doing this: to show he’s a man,” she told the assembled press after the meeting. “He is afraid of his weakness. Russia has nothing, no successful politics or economy. That is all he has.”
The leaders also clashed regularly at the political level. The low point was Russia’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea in 2014. Merkel was a major driver of the subsequent European Union sanctions against Russia.
Another event that seriously spoiled relations between the two countries was the killing of a Chechen dissident in a park in Berlin in 2019. Moreover, Merkel was not too happy about the hacking of the computer systems of the German parliament in 2015, which was ordered by Russia. done.
Putin regularly expresses his appreciation for Merkel in public. “I trust her, she’s a very open person,” he has said of her repeatedly, adding that the chancellor is “making a really honest effort to resolve crises.”
The date of the visit is already loaded, because it will be exactly one year ago on Friday when Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny was poisoned with the nerve agent Novichok. Navalny fully recovered from the poisoning, which according to international investigations with the support of the United Nations was the work of the Russian Security Service. Navalny is currently serving a 2.5-year prison sentence in Russia.
Navalny is expected to be on Merkel’s list of topics she will discuss with Putin, as well as the disputed Nord Stream 2 pipeline and the political situation in Belarus and Afghanistan.