Vladimir Putin's decision to skip next week's meeting of the G8 at Camp David has set off speculation on how this decision should be interpreted.
The most pessimistic reading is that this is a deliberate snub and represents a continuation of the anti-Western policy that permeated Putin's election campaign. It essentially meant that the Obama administration's reset policy with the Russians had reached a dead end.
In commemorating the Russian victory over Nazi Germany with a parade involving a 100,000 participants, Vladimir Putin defended an assertive Russian foreign policy, claiming that since Russia had borne the brunt of the Second World War, it was entitled to take the lead in strengthening global security.
Putin has indicated on several occasions that he views certain Western policies, such as intervention in Libya, as undermining world security. Putin is going to attend the G 20 summit in Mexico, a framework in which the United States, Canada and Western Europe have a less preponderant position then within the G8.
The official explanation from the Kremlin is that Vladimir Putin was too busy deciding the makeup of the Russian government.
This explanation was downgraded, because the cabinet is officially the business of the Prime Minister and former President, Dmitry Medvedev.
There may be reasons for skepticism, but this is not a good one. The Russian system is modeled after the French system. In Russia, the Prime Minister serves at the pleasure of both the president and the majority in the Duma in the same way that a French Prime Minister serves at the pleasure of the president and the National Assembly. When the president's party in both countries has a legislative majority, the president, rather than the prime minister, determines the makeup of the cabinet.
Another explanation is that Vladimir Putin anticipated criticism at the G8 over his handling of the opposition and therefore it was preferable to send Dmitry Medvedev off to the conference, because as the good cop in the tandem, he would provoke less criticism.
Another explanation is suggested by the Russian analyst Fyodor Lukyanov, who wrote about Putin's return to the Kremlin for the British Telegraph. According to Lukyanov, the Russian leader is a person who disdains long diplomatic meetings and prefers dealing with businessmen where everything is concrete and to the point and protocol is kept to a minimum.
Putin may therefore have considered a G8 meeting to be a total waste of time, particularly when the G8 members themselves are unsure about the economic directions that they are taking. It is better to let Medvedev enjoy the dinners and speeches while Putin attends to the real business.