The trilateral summit between French President, Nikolas Sarkozy, German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, and Russian President, Dmitry Medvedev was advertised as an event of greater significance rather than just another cozy get-together.
Sarkozy is perfectly aware that Medvedev’s draft new treaty for European peace is a non-starter, However, the French President seeks to use the discourse on security “architecture” for developing networks rather than institutions and for creating a position for Russia that would look special without granting any privileges. The problem for Putin is not anti-missile defense, which he detests as NATO’s ploy for rescuing itself at Russia’s expense, but the money flow. He speaks at one investor forum after another staying on the same message: investments in assets in Russia are safe because he can provide a personal guarantee. The money, nevertheless, continues to flow out. The system of corrupt interpenetration of business and bureaucracy that has emerged as a result of his “manual management” does not take his word anymore as the final verdict. Too many promises have been issued to pensioners, the military, the Skolkovo “wonder-village” and the Olympic construction in Sochi. The stake-holders in Putin's system of power are squeezed to pay, but cannot take future profits for granted. Russia is not shaken by spectacular protests as in France, where Medvedev has enjoyed his oysters, but the crisis of the elites could be far more dangerous, and Putin's return to the top table would only make it worse.