For Medvedev and Putin (who was noticeably absent from the St. Petersburg bonding), achieving a breakthrough on the European front was imperative, since they are concerned that the wave of “patriotic” mobilization triggered by the five-day war could carry them too far toward a confrontation with the West.
The two-headed Russian leadership is seeking to demonstrate that the “issues” in their relations with key European countries caused by the Georgian “episode” have come to an end in less than a month.
The unwelcome political reality of deepening European dependency upon Russia is somewhat similar to the American asymmetric and unbalanced economic relations with China, which is the main holder of U.S. state debt, although mutual trust is very weak and political compatibility nonexistent. In both Moscow and Beijing the current analyses of the political options available to the West in mitigating the unfolding economic disaster actually encourages their self-assertive and resolutely anti-democratic behavior. The multi-polar world that Medvedev is propagating with the approving nods of Chinese comrades could, however, turn out to be far more brutally competitive and violent than Russia is able to handle. The easy victory over Georgia has propelled Russia toward a dangerous trap of self-aggrandizement, and the renewed dialogues with the Europeans create an impression that the price for revisionism is symbolic. Medvedev would perhaps prefer the next step to be a business takeover, but tanks still hold sway.