Meeting Vlad

Former Hong Kong governor and onetime EU commissioner Chris Patten met Vladimir Putin back in 1999:

Preparing for the meeting in the early morning, the EU team heard that there had been an explosion in Grozny, Chechnya’s capital, killing several people. When Putin arrived, we asked him about it. He claimed to know nothing, but promised to find out by lunch what had happened.

At our lunchtime discussion, he reported that the explosion had been caused by Chechen terrorists who were running their own arms bazaar. By this time, we knew that the deaths had been caused by a Russian military assault; it subsequently came to light that a wave of Russian ballistic missiles (probably Scuds) had killed more than a hundred people.

Putin had looked us in the eye and lied, almost certainly aware that we knew he was lying.

What Putin was doing was sizing up the European leadership.