The Putin Project is dead.
If the Germans ever imagined they could reach an accommodation with this Russian government, that expectation is now clearly gone. Multiple parties within the establishment have come out in the last few days with similar declarations.
A two hour tête-à-tête between Putin and Merkel last weekend allegedly produced no results (though by the middle of the week, the meeting had morphed into a four hour meeting in press reports).
In a speech in Poland on Thursday, Merkel noted:
“The strength of law is what we believe in, not the supposed law of the strong.”
A meeting between Russia’s Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov, and Germany’s Foreign Minister ended with this statement:
“There is no reason for optimism in the current situation,” Steinmeier said. “If I were pleased with the situation I would not have come here.”
It should be noted that the Russians were able to get one of their spies back from the Germans, though the details remain unclear. Rumor says that they Russians paid half a million euros for her return, but that has not been verified. It is also unclear if the Germans received anything else in exchange (my guess is no).
Meanwhile, Putin appeared in an interview on German television that did not portray him in the best light. The television station was rapped for the soft tone it took, but it is doubtful they would have gotten an interview without pre-approved questions. The content of the interview did not interest me as much as the body language. Putin could not sit up properly, the left side of his mouth was drooping, and he appeared to be in pain .
In another interview put out on Sunday, Putin said “he does not intend to remain president for the rest of his life”. Make of that what you will.