BERLIN — He was skinny in his trim, dark suit, an almost lupine figure, nervous and unexpectedly youthful for a president of Russia. Taking the lectern beneath the dome of the restored Reichstag, Vladimir V. Putin soon shifted to German, with a fluency that startled the German lawmakers and a pro-West message that reassured them. The Cold War seemed over.
It was 2001, just weeks after the Sept. 11 attacks, and Mr. Putin pledged solidarity with America while also sketching a vision of Russia’s European destiny. He was the first Russian leader to address the German Parliament, and lawmakers jumped to their feet, applauding, as many deputies marveled that he could speak their language so well.
Except for Angela Merkel, then the relatively untested leader of the opposition. She joined the standing ovation but turned to say something to a lawmaker who had grown up in the formerly Communist East, as she had. She knew how Mr. Putin’s German had gotten so good.
“Thanks to the Stasi,” Ms. Merkel said, a reference to the East German secret police Mr. Putin had worked alongside when he was a young K.G.B. officer in Dresden.
Fast-forward more than 15 years, to a world where the Cold War seems resurgent, which has seen a procession of American and European leaders try and fail to engage Russia, and only Ms. Merkel and Mr. Putin remain. Their relationship, and rivalry, is a microcosm of the sharply divergent visions clashing in Europe and beyond, a divide made more consequential by the uncertainty over President Trump’s policy toward Russia and whether he will redefine the traditional alliances of American foreign policy.
I'm a dork! Get me out of here!
No Exit (French: Huis Clos, pronounced: [ɥi klo]) is a 1944 existentialist French play by Jean-Paul Sartre. The original title is the French equivalent of the legal term in camera, referring to a private discussion behind closed doors. The play was first performed at the Théâtre du Vieux-Colombier in May 1944. The play begins with three characters who find themselves waiting in a mysterious room. It is a depiction of the afterlife in which three deceased characters are punished by being locked into a room together for eternity. It is the source of Sartre's especially famous and often misinterpreted quotation "L'enfer, c'est les autres" or "Hell is other people", a reference to Sartre's ideas about the look and the perpetual ontological struggle of being caused to see oneself as an object from the view of another consciousness.
Picture at top: Former Stasi Headquarters in Berlin (picture by Gus Leonisky), now the home of the Soho Club, Berlin. All this to say that we all are dependent of others, even those we don't like because there is some historical baggage with the "greater" relationship of ideas and cultures, though the relationship of people should not be a struggle. We are mostly people in search of better ways to live in peace. Our means to peace may differ, but we should not be in hell yet.