Monday, 14 November 2011
When Putin met Reagan
Picture date: May 1988
Picture author: Pete Souza
The photograph was taken during President's Regan visit in Moscow. He went there for 4th summit with Mikhail Gorbachev. Soviets prepared very warm welcome, buildings near Kremlin were repainted, streets repaved, and plants and trees planted. But the visit did not omit some diplomatic failures.
When the Reagans took an unscheduled walk and went shopping on one Moscow street, they were crowded by Russian pedestrians. They were suddenly surrounded by Russian secret police, and Mr. Reagan was supposed to say that Russia is still "a police state". On the other hand, the President fell asleep halfway through the performance in Bolshoi Theatre and Secretary Gorbachev had to tap his shoulder to wake him when the curtains were going down.
The most meaningful incident was revealed only 20 years later. The man with a camera around his neck, standing behind the boy was Russian Prime Minister (former Russian President), Vladimir Putin. During these days he was acting as a KGB agent, and on that day he was pretending to be a tourist. That day, Gorbachev introduced Reagan to a group of tourists who asked him pointed questions about about subjects as human rights in the United States. The photographer, Mr. Souza, asked a Secret Service agent that he cannot believe that regular tourists can ask such pointed questions. The agent replied that those tourists are all KGB families.
The Kremlin, however, denied that the man on the photograph was Vladimir Putin.