FP contributor Dan Drezner, citing reliable sources in Europe, tells a brief story about Russo-German diplomacy:
Angela Merkel apparently has a fear of dogs. Vladimir Putin is aware of this fact. Therefore, whenever Putin meets with Merkel in Moscow, he makes sure his pet dogs are in the room.
Press accounts suggest this to be true. President Putin loves his dogs, and he appears to use them to intimidate Chancellor Merkel during tough negotiations. This was the initial test, in January 2006:
Putin, who already met Merkel several times when she was opposition leader of the conservative Christian Democrats, said his meeting with her had taken place "in a very good atmosphere." Earlier, Putin, who likes dogs, had given Merkel a gift of a small toy black and white dog, which had a short leash. Merkel, however, does not like dogs - she was bitten by one when she was young and has since kept her distance, according to an aide. German diplomats said they were unsure how to interpret the gift.
One year later, in January 2007, Putin brought in diplomatic reinforcements during a dust-up with Merkel over energy supplies:
Later, when Koni, Putin's black Labrador, made her domineering entrance, Merkel nervously, or perhaps wishfully, commented in Russian, "Now the dog is going to eat the journalists." [...] Kremlin critic and journalist Yulia Latynina, writing for "Yezhednevny zhurnal," said the "friendly meeting in Sochi between Vladimir Putin, Angela Merkel, and Labrador Koni" left her bewildered.
Putin apparently told the German chancellor, "I don't think the dog will scare you. She won't do anything bad, she likes journalists."
I wonder what Vlad does to try to intimidate U.S. President George W. Bush. Show him the latest poll numbers?