Russian President Vladimir Putin and German Chancellor Angela Merkel met last weekend at Meseberg, the guesthouse of the German federal government. Expectations for the meeting, on both sides, were rightfully low. But the meeting comes at a time when both the Germans and Russians are redefining their place in the international system, which for them also means redefining their own relationship. In the 20th century, shifts in the Russo-German relationship tended to have profound consequences for Europe. It’s worth considering what it could mean this time.
Contemporary Europe originates in the early 1990s when the Soviet Union collapsed and the Maastricht Treaty creating the European Union went into effect. For the Germans, these two events meant that their primary interest was no longer the defense of Germany against the Soviet Union, and therefore their primary partner in said defense, the United States, was no longer central. Instead, Germany’s immediate problem was the reinte