Merkel about Putin

After Putin’s speech at the Bundestag, Merkel told a colleague, “This is typical K.G.B. talk. Never trust this guy.” Ulrich, of Die Zeit, said, “She’s always been skeptical of Putin, but she doesn’t detest him. Detesting would be too much emotion.”

When Putin and Merkel meet, they sometimes speak in German (he’s better in her language than she is in his), and Putin corrects his own interpreter to let Merkel know that nothing is lost on him. Putin’s brand of macho elicits in Merkel a kind of scientific empathy. In 2007, during discussions about energy supplies at the Russian President’s residence in Sochi, Putin summoned his black Lab, Koni, into the room where he and Merkel were seated. As the dog approached and sniffed her, Merkel froze, visibly frightened. She’d been bitten once, in 1995, and her fear of dogs couldn’t have escaped Putin, who sat back and enjoyed the moment, legs spread wide. “I’m sure it will behave itself,” he said. Merkel had the presence of mind to reply, in Russian, “It doesn’t eat journalists, after all.” The German press corps was furious on her behalf—“ready to hit Putin,” according to a reporter who was present. Later, Merkel interpreted Putin’s behavior. “I understand why he has to do this—to prove he’s a man,” she told a group of reporters. “He’s afraid of his own weakness. Russia has nothing, no successful politics or economy. All they have is this.”

New Yorker

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