President Dmitri Medvedev’s much-anticipated European debut was held in Berlin last week and was immediately followed by his presiding over a summit of the Commonwealth of Independent States in St. Petersburg.
It was not difficult at all for Medvedev to perform in Berlin because the desire in the influential German business community to see him as an attractive “new face” of Russian politics was all but overwhelming.
Medvedev has slipped out of every small trap that was set for him during last week, confirming that Mikhail Khodorkovsky has the right to appeal for pardon (which has been the case since his verdict was announced in May 2005) and leaving the “issues” with the TNK-BP oil company to Deputy Prime Minister Igor Sechin to sort out. Such evasiveness comes naturally to a lawyer who made his career in the Kremlin administration, but the reluctance to give a straight answer even to the question about reflections on the “Prague spring” of 1968 shows that hopes of finding a closet liberal are very much self-serving. It well may turn out to be that leaning on his skills in juggling words and avoiding responsibility Medvedev has missed a chance to do something, perhaps small but enough to prove his potential as a decision-maker.