Monday, July 10, 2006

The president in residence means traffic congestion!

G8 leaders in St. Petersburg!
Welcome to Vladimir Putin's Russia. The façades are freshly painted; everything glints with the sheen of new money. In the run-up to the summit, the Russian president is not only honoring dead democrats but has taken to spending hours meeting with pro-democracy NGOs. So eager is he to burnish his liberal credentials, in fact, that last week he politely thanked environmentalist hecklers for interrupting him. As leaders of the world's leading industrialized democracies—plus Russia—gather this week to discuss, among other things, Iran and energy security, the larger questions may concern Russia itself. Just what kind of nation has it become under Putin, and where is it heading? "Times are changing; there is a new reality now, says top Putin aide Sergei Prikhodko. Or, as Dmitry Trenin of the Carnegie Moscow Center puts it: "Moscow has left the Western orbit. It's now in free flight."
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