The Quadriga prize, a coveted German honor awarded to those “whose courage tears down walls and whose commitment builds bridges” went to Mikhail Gorbachev and Vaclav Havel. This year’s announced winner?Freedom fighter extraordinaire, Vladimir Putin.An explosion of criticism cancelled the Putin party; no prize will be given this year, and Prime Minister Putin’s dedication to freedom and the rule of law will go unrecognized for another year.The brouhaha came as Gazprom celebrates deeper ties with the German power industry and the German and Russian governments are preparing two days of high level talks.This new chumminess, plus Germany’s skittishness about helping troubled EU countries in the euro crisis, is making some wonder whether the Fifth Reich is looking east. Good relations with Russia were a prime condition for Prussian and then German power expansion from the 18th century to the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact. That’s an unsettling thought for Europeans uneasy about Germany’s emergence as the dominant EU power.Fortunately, things have changed since the bad old days. Germany is nicer, Russia is smaller and America keeps an eye on the European balance of power.