On Sunday, Vladimir Putin addressed about 100 chief executives at the International Economic Forum in St. Petersburg, where events quickly took a turn toward the surreal as Jeroen van der Veer of Royal Dutch Shell, the poster child of a business deal gone bad in Russia, again actually thanked Mr. Putin for the theft at Sakhalin:
Van der Veer thanked Putin for helping Shell secure a good agreement over the $22 billion Sakhalin project and then asked what the rules of the game were in Russia, participants and a Shell spokesman said. Putin replied by giving a short history of the deal and thanking Shell for helping Russia secure such a good agreement. One participant also quoted Putin as saying that the rules of the game were very simple: honesty.
This must be Putin’s greatest one-liner since the now infamous democracy quote – the fact that he no longer takes these kinds of serious questions with any level of sincerity is a disturbing trend.