Two distinct and remarkably dissimilar international events developed in parallel in Russian foreign policy over the last two weeks: rapprochement with Poland and networking in Latin America.
In this tragic week for Poland, the Russian leadership went farther in expressing shared grief than protocol would prescribe, and the level of cooperation in investigating the causes of the plane crash was beyond what was necessary to prove that the Smolensk airport was not responsible for the pilot’s decision to land in dense fog.
There is probably more than just gas revenues involved in Putin’s surprising flexibility, and despite the servile flattery of ministers and sycophants he has likely noticed the gathering campaign for his resignation. This is still a minority view as some 40 percent of Russians expect him to become president in 2012, while around the same number believe that Medvedev will keep the job. Putin feels the shifting sands under his pyramid of power and tries to reassert the message that nobody else is fit to occupy the position at the top. This non-negotiable irreplaceability determines a very short limit in Russian-Polish reconciliation, because the Poles equate authoritarianism with totalitarianism.