THE BLOG

Two Heads (of State) Are Better Than One

Clifford J. Levy in his July 5th, 2009 New York Times article "Heading to Russia, Obama is Mindful of Its Power Equation: One Plus One" (about the forthcoming summit) writes: "Speculation about where the power lies in the Putin-Medvedev tandem began as soon as Mr. Medvedev took office last year after being endorsed by Mr. Putin." I think I have an idea: the power lies in the hyphen.

The Putin-Medvedev "tandem" might not be an awkward political marriage of two paradigms but a clever good cop/bad cop arrangement. As seen on TV, good cop/bad cop dynamic is an interrogation approach in which two opposing interviewing styles are used to leverage an information-excavating advantage. As seen on the car lot, the good cop (salesperson in front of you)/bad cop (the invisible high-balling manager somewhere inside the dealership) is used to leverage a maximum commission. Why choose whether to low-ball or high-ball when you can do both? Tandems, after all, have the double pedaling power.

Two heads in most matters are better than one. But two heads of state are better than one only if they are connected to one and the same body. And, given the long-standing politically intimate history between Putin and Medvedev, these two heads are connected to one body. Just check the double-headed eagle of the new Russian coat of arms. So, here's a tip for bald eagle as it flies off to this week's summit: in Russian math, one plus one equals one.