Putin Was Frightened To Travel to G8 Summit

Text of report by anti-Kremlin Russian current affairs website Yezhednevnyy Zhurnal on 15 May

[Article by Yuliya Latynina: "Putin Was Frightened To Travel to G8 Summit."]

Vladimir Putin will not travel to the G8 summit at Camp David in mid-May. The Kremlin’s official explanation is that this is a busy time with the forming of the government, and the president cannot absent himself. At the same time he is sending the prime minister to Camp David. The prime minister evidently does not participate in forming the government.

The unofficial explanation, from the venerable Kremlin lickspittle Pavlovskiy, is that Putin’s refusal is a final Chinese warning [one that is never carried out] to upstart America, which does not take account of the Russian stance on missile defence and dares to criticize the breaking up of demonstrations. "I believe that those who ought to will read it appropriately, namely as a light warning," Pavlovskiy remarked. I am afraid that neither explanation is any good. The point is that throughout the previous four years, while Medvedev was wearing a toy crown, it was noticeable that almost the only thing that really irritated Putin was when Medvedev featured in summits abroad in the company of Merkel or Sarkozy, while at that time Putin was having to travel somewhere around Saratov.

Just such a summit was usually followed by a public humiliation of Medvedev (let us recall, for example, the photo of a supposedly "drunk" Medvedev precisely at a G8 summit in Italy in the summer of 2009). A sense of involvement with the strong of this world and the opportunity to get together with Obama-Cameron is evidently one of the most important trappings of power for Putin. So I do not believe that Putin’s refusal to travel to Camp David is a warning. It is fear. Cowardice. The understanding that, were he to appear in Camp David, he would find himself in the position of a pariah.

What, in fact, would Obama-Cameron care if Putin does not come? If a third-rate player was invited to participate in the Olympics, and he did not go, that is the third-rate player’s problem. What will the G7 not resolve without Putin? On what question is his precious opinion important to it? The question of financial markets? Modernization? The fight against corruption?

What is Putin "warning" America about? The reaction of any American president to a particular event in another country is limited to the framework of what is acceptable and unacceptable to the voter. It is under a dictatorship that it is possible to struggle against Hitler today but conclude the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact with him tomorrow. A democratic government cannot afford such a breathtaking breadth of manoeuvre. If the sovereign of all Rus travels to his coronation through a deserted Moscow, while protesters are being arrested in the side streets, then the Obama administration cannot say nothing about this. Otherwise Romney will mix it up with excrement.

The same thing with regard to missile defence. Regardless of how rational the desire to acquire missile defence in its present form is for America itself, it must be obvious to the American authorities by now that Putin’s stance on missile defence has nothing to do with common sense. It is a paranoidal stance meant exclusively for domestic consumption -to explain to the Russian Lumpen that "the United States is against us." It is impossible to reach agreement with Putin on missile defence because Putin’s stance consists in not reaching agreement. If you want not to reach agreement, you will always not reach agreement.

If there were not missile defence, Putin would find a way not to reach agreement on some other issue. This is like a dialogue between a businessman and a bandit. The businessman comes along in the mood to negotiate, but the bandit begins: Why did you not ask after my mother’s health? Do you not like my mother? Do you wish her ill? You goofed up! If he had asked after the mother’s health, another goof would have been found. It is useless to try to reach agreement; you have to call the cops.

The problem of Putin’s "warnings" has consisted recently in the fact that nobody hears them. Chief of General Staff Nikolay Makarov declared 3 May that Russia can inflict a preventive strike on missile defence: Well, who paid attention to that?

A couple of years ago Putin threatened America with joint exercises by the fleets of Venezuela and Russia. Under Khrushchev the Caribbean crisis began on similar grounds, but here Sean McCormack, official spokesman for the US Department of State, only hemmed and hawed in a briefing: Well, first let these ships sail as far as America. Fine: In the 21st century an American official doubted whether the Russian Navy under Putin is capable of travelling the path that Columbus’s caravels travelled. Now this Putin is threatening this United States with his absence from Camp David?

What can Putin do? Refuse the base in Ulyanovsk? He needs this base 100 times more than Obama does. The value of this base for Obama is measured merely in reduced transaction costs. For Putin it is a guarantee that the Americans will not be too pushy in matters of human rights.

Block the latest resolutions on Syria or Iran? He already blocks them. Don’t be mistaken: Whenever a particularly nasty piece of work starts shooting his own subjects, Putin invariably voices support for him.

To all intents and purposes the G8 no longer exists. The fact that Russia was kicked out of the G8 is the main geopolitical outcome of Putin’s rule. We were included in the G8 in advance, under Yeltsin. Now only the G7 and the G20 really remain, and many G20 countries occupy a far higher place in the world hierarchy than Russia does. A G8 that includes Russia but not China looks absurd.

So, I repeat: I do not believe that Putin’s refusal to travel to Camp David is a "final Chinese warning." It is fear. Cowardice. A reluctance to find himself in the position of a pariah. Therefore Putin rightly decided that it is better for Medvedev to find himself in the position of a pariah. He himself went to Uralvagonzavod instead of the G8 summit. He abstracted himself, so to speak, from the very important issue of forming the government.

Source: Yezhednevnyy Zhurnal website, Moscow, in Russian 15 May 12

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