On March 24, 1999, Yevgeni Maximovich Primakov was heading to the United States for an official visit. Midway over the Atlantic Ocean, the Russian Prime Minister learned the combined forces of NATO had started bombing Serbia, a close ally. Primakov immediately ordered the plane to turn around, and returned to Moscow in a manoeuvre dubbed “Primakov’s Loop”.
Russia is not widely known for its outstanding abilities in soft power. That could be explained, albeit not justified, for the strong concision characteristic of the communist regime during the Soviet Union years, which resulted in East European countries in general – and Russia specifically - understanding and applying a stricter conduct when it comes to international relations.
The celebrations of the 70th anniversary of the victory over Nazi Germany in Russia were in top headlines last week. Grand events, commemoration ceremonies, nation-wide media campaigns - Russia has been preparing for this day throughout the whole year. This time such a significant date for Russians, however, made a different sense in the context of the tense relations with the West.
Six members of the Elders Group, led by Kofi Annan, took a three-day trip to Moscow to hold a series of private meetings with Russian officials and academics. It was their first visit to Russia as an organization. To conclude this historic trip they met President Putin in his residence in the vicinity of Moscow on April 29.