The G8 summit is over and it could not have gone better for the Kremlin. World leaders saved their painful questions regarding the status of democracy in Russia for the unofficial dinner. The topic of continuing brutality in the Russian army wasn't even mentioned. And the so-called alternative G8 summit launched by the Russian "freedom fighters" Andrei Illarionov and chess master Gary Kasparov went largely unnoticed.
One cause of the summit's success was the pre-summit police work which prevented anti-globalists and other protesters from getting close the heart of the city. One of the protestor's requests for an anti-globalization march was approved, but with one condition -- the protestors had to march in circles around the soccer stadium on the outskirts of the city.
A diplomatic success for America came when the Russian President, a traditional supporter of the Palestinians, agreed with the other world leaders on the Middle East situation. "Under no circumstances can one abduct people and carry out rocket strikes on the territory of one state from the territory of another," Putin said. It also appears that Putin and Bush reached an agreement that Iran should not be allowed to independently enrich uranium.
"We are satisfied that all our ideas and suggestions were met with understanding" -- said Putin, who spent 50 minutes answering questions from the press (more time than any other world leader). Tony Blair, in his answers, addressed the question of human rights and democracy in Russia. Blair said that at the Sunday dinner "Putin answered in detail about the evolution of democracy in Russia, about the future elections, about the new rules of governor's elections; this was a very detailed analysis, which we were listening to with a great interest."
Putin told the G8 leaders one more time that he will not change the Russian constitution and stay for the third term. Putin also explained that Russia is a nation in transition and cannot simply copy the government system of more established democracies. German Chancellor Angela Merkel disagreed with Putin and suggested that Russia should develop a stronger independent court system. That's when George Bush defended his "friend Vladimir" and asked Putin to repeat the one-on-one conversation they had before the summit started. Jacques Chirac also stood up for Putin, asking the G8 leaders to not forget what a challenge it is to rule a country as big as Russia.
The alternative G8 summit sponsored by the Russian opposition didn't make the news. Russia Blog has written before about Andrei Illarionov, the former Putin advisor who brought people to tears at the annual Heritage Foundation meetings with his promise to condemn Putin's administration right before the summit. At that same meeting, Wall Street Journal journalist John Fund promised that the letter condemning the Kremlin would be published in the Journal.
At that time, I presented a different view from Mr. Illarionov and predicted that anti-Russian government sentiments would not receive wide support from the real policy makers and politicians. Now, we are happy to see the Russian President on the covers of Forbes and The Economist this month, while the "alternative G8" has received no attention whatsoever.
It seems that rising living standards in Russia, the expansion of international trade, and the growth of a market economy has a more positive impact on Russia's relations with the West than the Cold War-era speculations of Illarionov and his supporters.
UPDATE: Konstantin's Russian Blog has some comments on the extremists who sullied Gary Kasparov's alternative G-8 event with their presence. Unfortunately, in the name of creating a united opposition to promote democratic values against the Putin Administration, Kasparov appears to make common cause with National Bolsheviks (whose symbol is the communist hammer & sickle set against a red flag that resembles the Nazi banner) and other extremists who could care less about "democracy".