Today marks Dmitry Medvedev’s first year in office. But is he President Medvedev or “President” Medvedev? Is there a harmonious “tandem” or a Putin/Medvedev rift?
I have a column on his tenure so far at RealClearPolitics.com. My conclusion:
So far, the difference between Medvedev and Putin is mainly a matter of style and tone. Will style become substance? Could Medvedev be a genuine reformer who must tread carefully because he is still hobbled by the presence of Putin and his faction? Is he an ambitious man who wants to free himself from his mentor’s shadow, and prepare the ground for a second term, by using a mostly cosmetic liberalism to build a power base? Will the rumored discord in the Putin/Medvedev “tandem” become a full-scale war of Kremlin “clans”? Or is Medvedev playing “good cop” to Putin’s “bad cop,” primarily for Western consumption?
“Only time will tell” may be the tritest of conclusions. But in this case, it is the only one that seems fitting.
An interesting article on Medvedev’s liberal moves appeared in the “Russia Now” online supplement to The Daily Telegraph (UK), produced by Rossiyskaya Gazeta — the official publication of the Russian government. In other words, this is what the Kremlin’s mouthpiece wants to tell an English-speaking audience.
For those who read in Russian, some good expert opinions on Medvedev’s first year and the “tandemocracy” are offered here. For those who don’t read in Russian, here’s a translation of the most interesting quote.