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Putin "Seeking to Restore Russia's Grandeur", Leaked Cables Claim

Even though he is not Russia's highest ranking politician, many in international diplomatic circles believe Prime Minister Vladimir Putin is the man really the show. Vittorio Zunino Celotto/Getty Images

The thousands of leaked U.S. diplomatic cables by Wikileaks have produced a host of startling revelations about the disparity between what a country's official stances are on a disputed topic and what its officials actually think about it.

Nowhere is this perhaps more true than in Russia, where one of the widest-reported leaked cables showed a U.S. belief that Prime Minister Vladimir Putin was the "Alpha Dog" in Russia government over President Dmitri Medvedev. The cables even go a step further and call the higher-ranked President Medvedev "Robin" to Prime Minister Putin's "Batman."

A look at other cables show this apparent internal power struggle between Putin, himself the former president, and Medvedev as leading to a host of other diplomatic issues.

In a cable detailing a January, 2010, meeting between U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and French Minister of Defense Herve Morin, the author details Sec. Gates as saying that the election of President Medvedev might as well have been for show.

"Russian democracy has disappeared and the government was an oligarchy run by the security services. President Medvedev has a more pragmatic vision for Russia than (Prime Minister) Putin, but there has been little real change," the author quotes Gates as saying.

In an earlier cable detailing a January, 2008, meeting between U.S. and French officials, the French said the uneven struggle for power at the top in Russia has lead them to be revisionists and wildly inconsistent.

The French diplomats told their American counterparts that "Putin made much-needed improvements to Russian infrastructure but has gone too far in seeking to restore Russia's grandeur at the expense of international cooperation and development. Russian judgment on important issues is worsening. In the past, Russia has been difficult to work with, but has ultimately made the right decisions -- until recently. As an example, in President Sarkozy's private meeting in Moscow with President Putin, Putin was very hardline on Iran, but that in the subsequent press conference, Putin distanced himself on this issue, to Sarkozy's surprise and chagrin."

In a cable designed to prepare U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for a late 2009 visit to France, the author claims that France has come up with an approach for its relations with Russia directly addressing its leadership issues and its diplomatic inconsistencies.

The cable's author states that Franch's strategy on Russia includes "supporting Russian actions in public while taking a more honest approach in private meetings; and cultivating relations with Russian President Dmitri Medvedev, in the hope that he can become a leader independent of Vladimir Putin."

The cables also reveal a testy personal relationship between American diplomats and their Russian counterparts. After outright rejecting a U.S. proposal to halt the U.S.'s Eastern European missile defense system plans in exchange for full Russian cooperation on ending Iran's nuclear program, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov also told visiting U.S. Senator Carl Levin in an April, 2009 meeting that they would not take seriously any U.S. demand to halt sales of surface-to-air missiles to the Iranians.

According to one cable, Minister Lavrov told Sen. Levin that "nothing Russia had sold Iran had been used against anyone, whereas U.S. weapons provided to Georgia had been used against Russian soldiers."

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The WikiLeaks Impact
WikiLeaks Releases State Dept. Documents
Key GOP Pol: WikiLeaks a Terrorist Group
Ahmadinejad Dismisses WikiLeaks Cable "Mischief"
U.S. Cables: Iran Armed Hezbollah Via Ambulances
Hoekstra: World's Trust in U.S. Now at Risk
U.S. Encouraged Diplomats to Spy, Leaks Show
Leaked Cables Shine Light on Iran Nuclear Threat
Worldwatch: Embarrassing Revelations Abound
Worldwatch: Diplomatic Shockers
White House Condemns WikiLeaks' Document Release
WikiLeaks Defies U.S., Releases Embassy Cables

Links to Leaked Cables:

Cables Shine Light Into Secret Diplomatic Channels (NYT)
The US Embassy Cable (Guardian)
A Superpower's View of the World (Spiegel, in English)
Los papeles del Departamento de Estado (El Pais)
Wikileaks: Dans les coulisses de la diplomatie americaine (Le Monde)
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