Medvedev Passed G8 Test

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President Dmitry Medvedev has clearly passed muster at his first Group of Eight summit in Japan last week.

Although in the beginning of Medvedev's presidency, many had doubts about whether he would be taken seriously because of his "tandem relationship" with Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. After the G8 meeting, these doubts should now be dispelled. Medvedev was indeed taken seriously at the summit, and he has proved to be a tough and tenacious negotiator for Russia.

In face-to-face meetings with the G8 leaders, Medvedev demonstrated the ability to hold his ground on key issues, including the U.S.-backed missile-defense system in Europe, the Kuril Islands dispute, the murder of former Russian security services officer Alexander Litvinenko and the British charges against Andrei Lugovoi for his alleged role in Litvinenko's death.

Medvedev showed no inclination to seek approval and support for his policies in Russia from the G8 leaders by compromising the nation's core interests. From this perspective, he has dashed the hopes of many in Western capitals that his presidency would be one of unilateral accommodation to the West a la Gorbachev or Yeltsin.

Medvedev appears to have little need to bolster his domestic standing by gaining support and personal friendship from the world's most powerful men and women. He is self-reliant in his pursuit of a better fortune for the Russian people, and he conducts his foreign policy with quiet confidence, healthy self-assurance and a dry sense of humor.

At the same time, however, Medvedev is not another "Mr. Nyet." He managed to combine tough talk on missile defense with U.S. President George W. Bush -- making it clear that an interceptor site in Lithuania is unacceptable -- with constructive engagement on issues where it proved possible, including Iran and North Korea.

He quietly warned Bush of impending Russian counter-measures against deploying the missile-defense in Eastern Europe while U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice signed an agreement to place a missile-defense radar installation in the Czech Republic. Medvedev made it clear that the Kremlin would not "engage in hysterics" over missile-defense installations and would simply reconfigure its nuclear and defense posture to counter the threat.

He stalled Japanese Prime Minister Jasuo Fukuda on the islands issue, but he did so by nudging Tokyo to be patient and reconsider its overly ambitious approach. The message is simple -- "We could have settled the whole issue a long time ago based on the 1956 declaration, but you guys were too greedy and unrealistic in your expectations by demanding all four islands instead of settling for just two."

In addition, he withstood British Prime Minister Gordon Brown's pressure on the Litvinenko case, the British Council status in Russia and Russian visas for British employees at TNK-BP. Brown miscalculated that he would be able to pressure the young and untested Russian leader. Medvedev walked into a meeting with Brown ready to talk business and put the nastiness of the past two years behind us.

Moreover, Medvedev demonstrated deep knowledge of energy issues and was blunt enough to tell the G8 leaders that their restrictions on agricultural imports and emphasis on biofuel production were much to blame for the spike in food prices that now threatens the stability of many Third World nations.

He went further by throwing in ideas and proposals to deal with the global food crisis and called for a closer G8 coordination in agricultural policies through regular meetings of the G8 agriculture ministers.

Medvedev continued his push for a new international financial system to remedy the destructive effects worldwide of a weakening dollar and soaring deficits in the United States. This has become Medvedev's mantra in major international appearances.

It underscores the reality that Russia is now in a position to play a major role in shaping the global financial system in ways that would reflect the country's new economic and financial prowess. It also reflects the country's ability to provide a stabilizing anchor to global finances that have been reeling from the aftershocks of the subprime debacle in the United States.

It was a good start for Medvedev as a global leader. He passed the test.

Vladimir Frolov is president of LEFF Group, a government relations and PR company.