Did Vladimir Putin Meet Ronald Reagan?

Russian President Vladimir Putin is one of a handful of world leaders that is unapologetic and vocal about his anti-Western stance. Indeed, Putin has never been shy about critiquing the U.S. and its policies, insomuch that Russia-U.S. relations have been complicated for many years. And much of that has been blamed on Putin, who's been president and prime minister of that country on and off for the latter part of 20 years. The former Russian intelligence agent once worked for the KGB, a Russian acronym that stood for the now-disbanded Committee for State Security when the country was once the Soviet Union (via Britannica).

Aside from leadership, Putin has been a major part of Russian history in a myriad of ways. And because of that, he's met many world leaders as president. But a photo from the 1980s shows that Putin has been meeting world leaders even before he took office. Former White House photographer Pete Souza worked as the official photo person for two administrations. Many today recognize his work during Obama's presidency, but he also worked with Ronald's Reagan administration (via International Photography Hall of Fame). During this tenure, Souza photographed President Reagan on his many trips, including one to the Soviet Union in 1988.

When Vladimir Putin allegedly met Ronald Reagan

In the photo, Ronald Reagan is seen with the then-Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev in Moscow's famed Red Square. Other people are also in the background of the picture, and Reagan can be seen reaching out to shake a young boy's hand. But just left and behind the boy giving him a handshake, a somewhat familiar face can also be seen. And to most — even the guy who took the picture — it looks like a young Vladimir Putin.

Former White House photographer Pete Souza shared the image on his personal Instagram account this past June along with his account of how he came to learn who exactly the man standing to left with a camera around his neck might be. Souza stated that the timeline indicating Putin's time in the KGB and where he was stationed contradicts the date the photo was taken; it would've been impossible for the curious person in the photo to be Putin. Or would it? 

Souza says he only learned that the guy in the picture could be Putin a decade after taking it when it was added to a book he published and someone contacted him about sighting Putin. He followed up on it with former White House officials, but it was never verified. Nevertheless, Souza believed for years that he had a photograph of the Russian leader and Reagan. But the Russian government denied that it was Putin in the picture. However, if you're familiar with denials from the Kremlin, perhaps this refutation may or may not actually be true. Alas, a concrete answer seems unlikely.