ST. PETERSBURG, Russia — Vladimir Putin gave the first major international speech of his new presidency Thursday, telling an audience of influential businessmen, government officials and economists everything they wanted to hear.
But instead of applauding Putin’s assurances that he was building democracy, fighting corruption and creating trustworthy courts, they listened in silence. They had heard it before. Even in the same forum last year. This year, the mood was wait and see. Polite applause came at the end of the speech.
“Vintage Putin,” said Angela E. Stent, director of Georgetown University’s Center for Eurasian, Russian and East European Studies, who was in the audience. “The speech exudes self-confidence. . . . Let’s see how much of this they actually implement.”
“Vintage Putin,” echoed Andrew Somers, president of the American Chamber of Commerce in Russia.
“Shameless,” said a Russian who spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of reprisal. “The level of shamelessness is so high it’s unbelievable.”