The traditional meeting of the international Valdai club with Prime Minister Vladimir Putin on Friday lasted long into the night but still was an indubitable letdown.
Putin definitely tried his best to convince the influential messengers that Russia was on an even keel and open to cooperative work with the West, and it was only once that he mentioned problems looming in the relationship with the US – and his readiness to face them. The “reset” with the US may have exhausted its drive but it has deleted anti-Americanism from the list of exploitable political topics, and Putin has not quite internalized this effect. He still presumes that his firm foreign policy course would mobilize public support for his mono-centric system of power but in fact, the fast-eroding respect for this corrupt system makes Russia’s external behavior ambivalent and erratic. In the coming farcical elections, Putin could establish the Russian variation of the Pareto principle, when 20 percent of the supporters for his United Russia party score 80 percent of the votes, but that would only signify a big leap in destroying the credibility of Putinism. The Valdai experts concur that a forceful regime change is not a probable scenario in Russia, but Putin is set to disprove them.