A Deluge of Opinions on Putin and Medvedev

medved050708.jpgI read all of these so you don’t have to … below the highlights and lowlights of today’s op/ed deluge on the inauguration of Dmitry Medvedev. Lee Hamilton, Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars: “Whatever Putin and Medvedev’s past relationship, this new arrangement has the potential to expose ideological and policy differences, exacerbate factional battling, and reveal the fragility of Putin’s gains. Or it could ensure continuity.Rose Gottemoeller, Carnegie Moscow Center: “As unpleasant as the experience has been, outside observers can understand why the language of threats became so important to the Kremlin. It was meant to propel Moscow back onto center stage in global affairs. But Russia is at the center now, and continued threat-mongering complicates its efforts to remain there. Without friends, the job will be hopeless.

Neil Buckley, Financial Times: “Others agree that, once in office, Mr Medvedev will realise the extent of his powers and succumb to temptations to bolster his position. Mr Putin, suggests Mr Makarkin, will also not want to undermine the office of president – not least since he wants to be able to one day return as head of state.”C.J. Chivers, New York Times: “The policy challenges are unenviable, even if Russia has recovered from its severely weakened state. Mr. Medvedev faces steeply rising inflation, an outsize bureaucracy, pervasive corruption, a weak judicial system and a population decline fueled by a low birthrate, substandard health care and poor public health.Peter Goodspeed, National Post: “Although Russian politics will remain opaque after Mr. Medvedev is sworn in, having two competing centres of power in the president and prime minister’s offices may inevitably lead to power struggles in the Kremlin, especially because Mr. Putin retains a strong personal power base as head of the United Russia party, which dominates the Duma. Some wags have compared the power-sharing arrangement between Mr. Putin and Mr. Medvedev to Russia’s coat of arms, which features the two-headed eagle of the old Russian Empire.Andrew Wilson, European Council on Foreign Relations: “By the end of Putin’s second term, these economic empires controlled over a third of Russia’s GDP. Politics under Putin was never really about “liberals” versus “nationalists.” It was more about the relationships among different clans that were feeding at different points along the trough. Their precise configuration is ever-shifting. But by 2007 discernible battle lines could be drawn. The most important group of siloviki businessmen is led by Sechin. Like a 17th-century first minister or court councilor, Sechin’s immediate power derived from his position as a direct conduit to Putin, controlling the information the president received and how his decisions were implemented – a role Sechin had performed since the early 1990s when Putin was deputy mayor of St. Petersburg. Sechin’s secondary power derived from being at the dead centre of the fusion of economic and political power achieved after Yukos.Yonatan Pomrenze, NBC: ““All this money goes to the bureaucrats!” complained Yulya Ivanova, an industrial manager. “I love Russia, but I don’t love the Russian government. And Putin is …””Quiet!” Her mother, Larisa, cut her off. “If you say that about Putin, he’ll print it and then it’ll come back to hurt you!””We still have freedom of speech here, don’t we?” Yulya shot back.Peter Finn, Washington Post: “In a ceremony rich with pomp, Medvedev swept into the Kremlin in a stretch Mercedes limousine shortly before noon. He walked along a red carpet through three halls of the Grand Kremlin Palace and past some 2,000 guests, including foreign diplomats, members of both houses of parliament and regional leaders from across this sprawling country, the world’s largest in terms of land mass.Mary Dejevsky, The Independent: “Sobchak may have died prematurely, but he left behind a coterie of young technocrats who shared his outlook and progressively joined Putin in Moscow. If the former KGB was one network Putin drew on for recruits to his administration, Sobchak’s “nursery” was another – and at least as important as the first. In this light, Medvedev’s inauguration marks less the rise of a junior Putin, and more the ascent of Russia’s Westernising tendency to power.If you go to St Petersburg, take the Underground to Vasilevsky ostrov. On an anonymous street corner, you will find the city’s one statue to Anatoly Sobchak. It bears a single inscription: “To Anatoly Alexandrovich, who gave the city back its name.” If Medvedev remains true to his mentor, Sobchak’s legacy will be not just to his city, but his nation.Ariel Cohen, Heritage: “All this implies that Putin and his group are not only determined to avoid sharing political and economic power, but would go to great lengths to retain and nurture power and avert every undesirable threat and challenge after Medvedev takes office. (…) The United States should wait patiently until the dust settles in this transition between the Putin and Medvedev teams. Any open conflicts may indicate that the ruling elites in Moscow are far from united.Robert Mackey, New York Times blog: “Any doubts that Russia Today easily crosses the line into promoting rather than simply reporting on Russia’s leaders should be resolved by an item now featured on Russia Today’s YouTube channel, just below the full video of this morning’s inauguration ceremony. In a look at Mr. Medvedev’s hobbies, the reporter informs us that the new president is “a veritable renaissance man,” based solely on his love of Deep Purple, weight-lifting, yoga and his cat.Russia Today plays this sort of adoring coverage so straight that it manages to make even the twenty-first century version of Pravda look subversive.Fred Weir, Christian Science Monitor: “Russia’s Constitution and political traditions may seem clear, but experts say too little is known about Medvedev’s character. “Does Medvedev have the political will to make himself the real president?” says Nemtsov. “This remains the key mystery.”Guardian editorial: “When Mr Medvedev was elected president Gordon Brown offered him a relationship built on frankness, not rancour. How Mr Medvedev replied has not been made public. Clearly the Foreign Office is pinning its hopes on the theory that the new president is a liberal, keen to break free from his predecessor’s authoritarianism. This would not be the first misjudgment Britain has made about Russia. Mr Brown should have sorted out his relationship with Mr Putin first. The new Russian premier shows every sign of outlasting his British counterpart.Oleg Mityayev, RIA Novosti: “Dmitry Medvedev’s economic policy spotlights four I’s – institutions, infrastructure, innovation and investment. This gives hope that the new president will see the challenges facing Russia better than the outgoing administration and government.Paul J. Sanders, The National Interest: “Understanding Russia is difficult at best and predicting Russian behavior doubly so, especially in times of transition. But we could do ourselves a big favor by focusing less on unanswerable questions instead looking at actions over the coming year. It’s the only way to develop sound and effective policies for the United States in dealing with another major power.“Anybody got another one to add? Just let us know…