“I will transmit this message to Vladimir”, outgoing Russian president Dmitry Medvedev tells Obama at the Nuclear Security Summit in response to the US leader’s candid assurance that he will have a freer hand after being re-elected next November. Perhaps Obama wishes the US elections had the same sort of predictability of outcomes seen in Moscow?
The private chat, picked up surreptitiously by the world’s microphones, became a sensation due to Obama’s premature boast. But it also offered a cringe-worthy contrast between the supreme (over)confidence of the US president and the obsequious smallness of his Russian counterpart, hurrying to consult with Putin on every issue even while he remains nominally in charge.
“‘I understand. I will transmit this information to Vladimir’ – Story of poor Dima’s life”, quipped the British journalist Tom Parfitt on Twitter.
The exchange also reflects a painful geopolitical reality: that, behind the illusion of bipolarity maintained by the nuclear talks, it’s a case of the US doing the talking, and Russia the listening. It’s likely that the planned US missile shield in Europe, which America claims is designed to shield an attack from Iran but which the Putin government claims is actually aimed against Russia, will go ahead sooner or later despite Russian objections. As with the last few major international negotiations – over Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and now Syria – Russia’s strong rhetoric is likely to precede eventually acquiescing to the West or being over-ruled altogether.