Russia never got very far by defining itself as either pro- or anti-Western. It is now attempting to be more pragmatic. It may look cynical in London or Washington, but it might reflect the recognition in Moscow that the world has changed.
In early 2000, the British Embassy in Moscow took a bit of a gamble. They persuaded then-Prime Minister Tony Blair to meet with the new face in the Kremlin and heir apparent -- then-acting President Vladimir Putin. This was one of Blair's first major foreign policy initiatives.
Anybody watching President Vladimir Putin sipping from a teacup during three hours of questions on Tuesday could not have failed to be struck by his composure and confidence. Here was a president in full control of his brief, whether it was a softball question on living standards or a more delicate inquiry over military conscription. Putin, the man in control, was defending Russia's territorial integrity in the Kuril Islands one moment and fixing the plumbing for pensioners in Stavropol the next.