As Vladimir Putin and Angela Merkel issue a joint declaration condemning North Korea for its nuclear tests, let me point out that the former is accused of being an autocratic ruler who is reelected under questionable circumstances, while the latter is currently standing for a fourth term with no one questioning her legitimacy. In fact, the subhead to the latest Politico article on her confesses that “it’s getting hard to imagine Germany and Europe without her.”
Vladimir Putin won his first presidential election in 2000, after being chosen by an ailing Boris Yeltsin to replace him. Is a difference of five years in power all that meaningful? Russophobes will retort that it isn’t only a question of time but of system. And yet, while accusing Putin of being an authoritarian — if not an outright dictator (dictators as defined by the US having been known to win elections…), even America’s brightest pundits would be hard pressed to define Merkel’s power. This would require knowing not only how the German system works officially, but the ins and outs of its backstage. The Politico article, like a New Yorker piece several years ago, does not hide its admiration for a woman who rose from being an East German chemistry Ph.d to head Europe’s most powerful country, finishing off a trail of unhappy male counterparts along the way.
In March of this year the same journal reported with obvious glee that Senator John McCain was accusing Rand Paul of ‘working for Vladimir Putin’ when the Senator from Kentucky tried to foil a vote on Montenegro joining NATO. (That tiny Balkan country was the only piece of European real estate remaining outside of NATO with the exception of Sweden, Monaco and Lichtenstein, even though President Reagan’s Jim Baker had promised Gorbachev that in exchange for him allowing Germany to be reunited, NATO would not move one inch beyond that country’s eastern border…)
Angela Merkel did not even try to prevent NATO from engulfing continental Europe, yet she is (rightly) seen as indispensable. As for Vladimir Putin, polls taken around the world indicate that a majority of citizens view him as the only adult in the room when it comes to international affairs. Simultaneously, the evidence in a newly released poll, from Pew, “clearly suggests that the percentage of people in the 65 nations that WIN/Gallup had polled in 2013 who saw the US as being ‘the greatest threat to peace in the world today’ would be even higher today.”
To round off this comparison, it is indispensable to mention that Angela Merkel and Vladimir Putin may be the only two world leaders to be fluent in each other’s language. As was usual in the past, the two leaders could take advantage of their ease in communicating to conspire against their neighbors; but times have changed: together, Merkel and Putin are slowly but surely pulling Europe away from the Atlantic, toward being a full member of Eurasia.
For Politico to be without bias, it would have to confess that ‘it’s hard to imagine the world without these two leaders.