Vladimir Putin seized his chance at the G-8 summit to strut upon a global stage as a proud host, a balancer of disparate viewpoints, and the strongman who returned Russia to its rightful place among the worldâ€™s major powers. Putin avoided criticism of his crackdown on media, his suppression of civil society bodies, or his inner circleâ€™s takeover of Russiaâ€™s energy giants.
But on the issue that was supposed to be the number one topic of discussion â€” energy security â€” nothing was accomplished. There was no agreement on energy pipelines, on long-term contracts, or on the security of consumersâ€™ access to supplies. There was no satisfactory response to Western requests for transparency in the Russian energy sector. And Europeans anxious about Russiaâ€™s reliability as their sole supplier of natural gas came away with nothing to ease their anxieties.
For Russia, the most obvious disappointment was the failure to reach a pact with Americans on a bilateral trade pact that would enable Russia to join the WTO. The key American demand is that Russia open its market to American beef and pork. The Russians are insisting they must first be satisfied about food safety. Petty as these disputes may appear, it is far better to be quarreling about steak and bacon than nuclear missiles in Cuba or a proxy war in Angola.