One of the most amazing things about the past few years is the extent to which Vladimir Putin's Kremlin got Germany so wrong.
It's truly remarkable when you think about it.
Germany is Russia's most important trading partner in Europe.
Berlin has long been one of Moscow's main advocates on the continent, resisting, for example, U.S. efforts to enlarge NATO to include former Soviet republics like Georgia.
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Putin speaks fluent German and spent five years as a KGB agent in Dresden.
You'd therefore think he understands the country, right?
But for some inexplicable reason, the Kremlin leader failed to grasp that the first forceful annexation of another country's territory in Europe since World War II would, you know, kind of freak the Germans out.
And he failed to grasp that an intensive propaganda effort aiming to stir up fear of migrants and undermine the German government's authority would end up damaging Moscow's standing.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel meets Putin in Sochi today at a time when relations between Berlin and Moscow are at a post-Cold War low.
The Putin regime was counting on lucrative energy deals, close business ties with German industry, and an intensive lobbying network to keep Berlin in Moscow's corner following Russia's aggression in Ukraine.
It thought business, money, and pragmatism would do the trick.
Putin and his cronies expected the Germans to be as cynical as they themselves were.
They didn't count on the Germans having principles.
And that speaks volumes about the Putin regime.
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