Putin’s working visit to Paris last week was organized as if the French hosts wanted to emphasize that in their opinion the change of his political status was only a formality and that he remained the man in Moscow they were ready to do business with.
Energy constitutes the core of the remarkably confident position that Moscow has assumed in its relations with Europe, inferring that the EU needs the dialogue and, specifically, the new agreement far more than Russia does.
This odd situation in the Russian “tandem” leadership is inevitably temporary, but it presents a peculiar dilemma for the West. Seeking to resolve practical issues and discharge current problems, Western leaders have to make contact with Putin and treat him as the real head of state, much the same way as he was treated in Paris. However, aiming at encouraging changes in Russia’s behavior and improving relations that have gone distinctly sour in the last couple of years, they need to address Medvedev and help him strengthen his hand. Typically, the urge to make quick fixes prevails, and Georgia appears a small price to pay.