Valdai matters because it is the highest-profile Russian equivalent to Davos (minus the corporate presence). What Vladimir Putin or Sergei Lavrov or Alexei Kudrin says here is worth observing. For close Russia-watchers — and most of the American attendees fall into that category — observing Valdai is like a physician doing a routine check-up of a patient. The interest is in the year-to-year changes in the official rhetoric, as well as what is said during the coffee breaks.
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