Qaddafi stayed in Moscow for three days, and Medvedev hardly had much joy in the lengthy negotiations.
Even more sensational was Medvedev’s removal of Murat Zyazikov, Ingushetia’s president, who was installed by Putin in April 2002 and presided over a profound destabilization of this tiny republic.
Qaddafi might have demonstrated to Putin and Medvedev in his tent that an unlimited amount of public veneration could be bought if a leader were economical with oil revenues. Russian elites, however, are committed to policies that are anything but economical, so that the extravagant squandering of the rich and powerful is camouflaged by wasteful spending to prove that the country is a “great power” and is justified by generous social programs. A dose of common sense is always helpful, but plenty of bitter medicine has yet to be swallowed, and that will take some stomach, at a time when flexible spines are the prime quality of Putin’s cadre.