Get the latest updates as we post them — right on your browser

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

EDITORIAL: What's So 'Impressive' About This?

Canada's Jean Chretien found Vladimir Putin's mastery of the issues "very impressive." An aide to Britain's Tony Blair pronounced Blair also "very impressed." For Germany's Gerhard Schr?der, Putin was ``brilliant.'' Italian and German officials advocated full membership for Russia in the Group of Seven leading industrialized nations, so that it would become a G-8.

"Before he was more a guest," enthused European Union chief Romano Prodi about the Russian president. "Now he's one of the Eight."

We can't help wondering exactly what was so impressive. After all, tax reforms (which are a mixed bag anyway) are collapsing, freedom of the press is under siege by the Kremlin itself, Chechnya is still in flames, and Putin is constantly on the road.

What is so great about this?

Well, as Chretien explained, Putin's comments were spontaneous and informed, and it was clear that he had read his briefing papers. Whoa! He can read!

Other leaders proclaimed themselves terribly pleased with Putin's report on his visit to North Korea, as well as his suggestion that he and the other world leaders in Okinawa this weekend keep in touch via e-mail.

It's all so modern!

If only they had e-mail, or the Internet f or food f in "absolutely modern" North Korea. If only the judgment of a world leader who could see Kim Jong Il as "absolutely modern" could be trusted when that leader says Pyongyang is ready to give up its missile program.

We also can't help remembering Western media odes to Anatoly Chubais as a reformer solely because he possessed a laptop computer. So what?

Nor are we impressed with the argument that Putin has improved the entire nation's reputation simply because he was coherent, not drunk, able to stand without help and able to finish sentences. It's time to move on from the Boris Yeltsin era.

In fact, the frivolous nature of the glowing judgments on offer says less about Putin than it does about the bankruptcy of the G-7 itself.

What is it anyway, and who needs it?

Why do we need an oligarchical mini-United Nations?

The G-7 f or G-8, as we will apparently now be calling it f wrapped up on Monday by promising to move more quickly in forgiving Third World debt, to bridge the "digital divide'' between rich and poor countries, to halve the number of people living in extreme poverty by 2015 and cut the number of AIDS cases 25 percent by 2010.

All very nice.

But then everyone left, without saying how those goals would be accomplished f providing yet another reason to find the entire Okinawa weekend, and all of its eight leading men, very unimpressive.