In what will widely and accurately be seen as a snub to President Obama, the newly reminted Russian President Vladimir Putin has regretfully announced that he will not be attending the G-8 Summit at Camp David. Despite reports that the summit was moved to the location to accommodate his wishes, a statement from the White House confirms that Putin has decided to sit out the meeting due to a need to take care of cabinet business at home. Instead, Prime Minister Dimitri Medvedev will be going in his place, the New York Times reports.Given that President Putin was in no doubt about his re-election and had plenty of time to work on his cabinet, the excuse is thin — more or less on a par with having to stay home that night to wash his hair.The transparency of the excuse is an advantage from Putin’s point of view: it makes the underlying message more plain. For years, Russian leaders have wanted to undercut what they see as America’s undue power and prestige, and Putin, in particular, resents America’s condescending distaste for his government. From the Russian perspective, American statements about the need for democracy and reform in Russia are little more than intrusive and insulting meddling by overconfident foreigners, and they rub many the wrong way.It’s good politics domestically and internationally to be seen as standing up to the US; Putin is eager to ding America’s image where he can, and ducking out of the G-8 summit is an easy way to do it without sacrificing anything important—these meetings are more pageantry than business. Putting the US off with such a feeble excuse not only sharpens the message to Washington; it communicates to the world that Russia feels no need to dance to Washington’s tune.Russia, Putin wants us to believe, is a rising, self confident power; its unique political processes have given it a government that is strong enough and smart enough to guide Russia to new heights. Proud upholder of a multipolar world, Russia is an independent grat power without whose support no truly important problem can be addressed. The vitality of its economy, the popular support for its government and the transparency of its legal system make it a top destination for foreign investment. That at least is the image Putin would like to project.And if you believe it, there’s a bridge he would like to sell you.