Vladimir Putin made his first visit in his new status of president-all-but-elect to China last week and used this opportunity to emphasize the unprecedented level of trust between the leaders of the two world powers, which “learned to act hand-in-hand” on the international arena.
What is missing in this desire to revive Putin’s trademark style of toughness and tit-for-tat is a reckoning that while the EU and the US cannot find a way to reduce debt without slashing growth, every crisis is certain to hit Russia harder than the Western counterparts. Putin informed the Chinese media that his decision to reclaim the presidency was “absolutely the correct one because it will not weaken, but rather strengthen the governance system in Russia,” which was an odd way to formulate a rather questionable proposition. He could have learned that the efficiency of the Chinese non-democratic system of governance is secured by the constant renewal of the ruling elite, but this lesson is lost on the crowd of his courtiers. The Putin that is moving back to the Kremlin is not the hard-driven fast-climber of 2000; he is rather a spoiled and irritable over-stayer whose only agenda is to cling to the levers of power for as long as possible. His foreign policy could be only as tough as the manicured nails of a vain aging celebrity, but it is certain to be deeply corrupt