In the aftermath of President Dmitry Medvedev’s somewhat melodramatic and drawn-out firing of Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov, the general consensus perspective appears to be that the president is politically benefiting from this strong “show of power,” even leading to some chatter about how this could reflect a changing dynamic in the diarchy. Although I will have time to address the issue in greater detail later on, I count myself among the minority that is unimpressed with Medvedev’s move – instead I see what should be a routine process for someone holding the highest powers of the executive requiring “permission” in order to do his job as he sees fit. It’s an illustration of the president’s limitations, as though we needed another one. Perhaps I’m wrong, but I think we’ve been Charlie Brown-ed on these promises of change in Russia’s current power structure quite a few too many times.
Julia Ioffe makes some arguments that I agree with in her recent Foreign Policy piece outlining this divide, which is sure to attract some spirited disagreement. More to come soon.
Instead, Putin determined that Luzhkov needed to go and sent in Medvedev to do the dirty work, a move that not only knocks out a powerful rival but leaves his hands unsoiled in what has become a bloody fight. “Putin wanted to stay in the shadows on this one, and he won by doing so,” a highly placed United Russia official told me. “Luzhkov was made into a cautionary tale; he was rather publicly and shamefully trampled. The elites surely won’t love Medvedev for this, and it will be hard for him to win back their love.” (…)
The lesson was clear: You will not publicly humiliate the Kremlin. (That’s something it does well enough on its own.) (…)
Toward evening, as Luzhkov’s aides cleared his stuff out of his office, Putin finally emerged from his silence. His work done for him, he expressed approval of Medvedev’s quick action. “Yuri Mikhailovich [Luzhkov] did a lot for Moscow’s development,” he told journalists who followed him to the northern republic of Komi. “But it is perfectly obvious that the relationship of the Moscow mayor and the president didn’t work out, but the mayor remains the subordinate of the president, and not the other way around. That’s why steps should have been taken in a timely manner to normalize the situation.” As for that law that allows the president to fire the Lord of Moscow with the stroke of a pen? “Your humble servant was the author of that law,” he said, humbly.