Calling German Chancellor Angela Merkel “Frau Europe” is no compliment. Merkel is now the packhorse in any debate regarding the future of the crisis-stricken euro. In real terms, what “Frau Merkel” means is that Europe has no future without Germany as its linchpin. Until summer 2010, it’s possible Germany may not have been aware of what lay ahead, hypnotized instead by the political blame-game in which all of Europe’s problems could be placed at the feet of lying Greeks, inconsistent Portuguese, and chaotic Italians. The French certainly had no idea, preferring to airbrush their economic shortcomings while overstating the reach of the Berlin-Paris axis. The Finns and the Slovaks didn’t know, convinced they still had veto power over European choices. The Italians were clueless. Europe’s deepening crisis was papered over by the slavish attention paid to Silvio Berlusconi’s twilight and the vacuous populist rhetoric that ran along with it. Today, no one is scandalized by the idea Europe has no future without Germany playing a first-among-equals role. The question then becomes how Germany should exert its newfound power.But that’s another story. In this issue’s Dossier, “east” analyzes how we got to this point,using interviews with former Italian Prime Minister Giuliano Amato by Donato Speroni and a detailed economic analysis by Erik F. Nielsen, Elena Fenili, Antonio Guarascio (in Brussels) and Alessandro Arduino (in Beijing) furnish additional reporting. This issue’s second major theme is Vladimir Putin’s decision to again seek the Russian presidency. Weighing in is Lev Gudkov, head of Moscow’s Levada Institute, along with Fernando Orlandi, Astrit Dakli, and Moscow-based Cristina Giuliano. As always, we dedicate ample space to special reports, with Gabriele Barbati reporting from Pakistan and Danilo Elia and Massimiliano Di Pasquale from the Ukraine. Elsewhere, Stefano Vergine examines Crimea, Carlo Buldrini writes from Bengal and Zhang Lijia travels to Bangladesh. Also well worth your while is photojournalist Monika Bulaj’s poignant portrayal of the Roma in Slovakia.