Just a few things we’ve been reading in response to Vladimir Putin’s nomination of Dmitri Medvedev to run for the presidency in March.
Olga Kryshtanovskaya thinks Medvedev’s “main strength is his weakness,” while a financial adviser to the EBRD thinks it will be a real presidency – not a placeholder – echoing the general approval of the business community. Ariel Cohen at Heritage urges a bit more caution, noting that the long pattern of discontinuity in regime change in Russia means there are still some major changes on the way.Writing in Der Spiegel, Klaus-Helge Donath argues that although Medvedev is “neither a thug nor a hitman … in no way does that make him a representative of liberalism in the Kremlin.” He continues, “Outside Russia, Medvedev has a reputation for being one of the last representatives of liberalism in Putin’s entourage. But the image rings hollow and is really just a tribute to the skills of the presidential administration’s PR strategists, who have been working to construct this facade for a long time. There are no longer any ideological factions in the Kremlin — the only divisions are along the lines of economic interests.“Andreas Umland says that if the West likes him, they would be better off not acting as though they did, while the boys at Stratfor think Medvedev’s primary role will be to make sure that Igor Sechin and Nikolai Patrushev, do not become too powerful. Jonas Bernstein at EDM points out that there is speculation that the nomination of Medvedev was a strategic move by Putin against the siloviki following their aggressive moves on Sergei Storchak and the spy wars.Alexei Bayer thinks that the new guy will almost certainly deal with a much more difficult economic future, as high oil prices make basic food staples unaffordable. Stephen Sestanovich from CFR says that “one possibility that will dampen some of the enthusiasm that people have for Medvedev, the liberal, is that in reality he was the preferred choice of the siloviki, the KGB veterans.“Medvedev offers a combination of ruthlessness and diplomacy, argues Quentin Peel: “It says a lot about Russia today that the chairman of Gazprom – the ultimate national champion and a state within the state – is the man almost certain to become the next president.” Reuben F. Johnson thinks that so long as Putin makes the power ministries answerable to the PM’s office, there is no real change.Mikhail Zygar says that for all we know, Alexander Lukashenko could become vice president.