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Putin is criticized in every singele German newspaper - Gerhard Schröder is perhaps the only person in Germany calling him a "lupenreiner Demokrat". Personally, I don't believe Putin is the monster as which he's mostly portrayed. We should not forget that he's the leader of a state with a completely different cultural and historical background than ours, and so he cannot act as we would expect from a western politician. He's certainly putting pressure upon media, but I don't think he's personally involved in murders of critical journalists - it would be absurd, because he knows the image loss for himself and for russia is far worse than the "gain". I rather think that certain old elites in politics and economy are responsible, who are strong and cannot be simply removed.
Merkel is doing a far better job than presented here. I wonder whether Gedmin has slept over the past few months. The german economy, especially the industry (which was said dead numerous times) has rising orders, the unemployment numbers are going down, the prospectives are better than for the last 7 - 8 years - what exactly does he want? Note from David: Merkel's poll figures are falling and falling... Nobody in Germany credits the current upswing to the Grand Coalition or Merkel. Also, forecasts for next year (a vat rise of 3 % is to be enacted in January 2007) are rather pessimistic. Deutscher, where do you live currently? Ever thought of relocating to Germany? It would definitely help you to get a better grip on the economic facts of the country...