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Speaking in what he called “the language of Goethe, Schiller and Kant,” picked up during his time as a KGB officer in Dresden, Germany, President Vladimir Putin of Russia addressed the German Parliament on Sept. 25, 2001. “Russia is a friendly European nation,” he declared. “Stable peace on the continent is a paramount goal for our nation.”

The Russian leader, elected the previous year at the age of 47 after a meteoric rise from obscurity, went on to describe “democratic rights and freedoms” as the “key goal of Russia’s domestic policy.” Members of the Bundestag gave a standing ovation, moved by the reconciliation Putin seemed to embody in a city, Berlin, that long symbolized division between the West and the totalitarian Soviet world.

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