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Medvedev in Gorbachev’s Shadow

Foreign Policy is sure getting a lot of links from us today, but this book review by Peter Baker is worth a read:

Even as Medvedev flew to London to meet with President Obama for the first time this month, Russian authorities hauled onetime oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky from his jail cell to put him on trial again for what his lawyers call essentially the same charges. Many saw the move as a warning to anyone else who might get out of line like he once did — and a sign that Moscow could not care less about protests from Khodorkovsky’s friends in the West. And at the same time, Medvedev has done nothing evident to rein in Kremlin-backed Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov, whose enemies keep getting killed even as far away as Vienna and Dubai.

So Medvedev is no Gorbachev. At least not yet and maybe never. What Mann’s book reminds us is how little we understand about what really goes on inside the Russian leadership. Russian leaders, after all, are acting not as we want them to but out of what they see as Russia’s interests. Gorbachev believed it was in the Soviet Union’s interest to open up a closed system and put an end to the arms race. Reagan recognized that and collaborated with him. After a decade of instability, Putin saw consolidating power both at home and in Russia’s immediate neighborhood being in Russia’s interest.