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Uprooting the Siloviki

Can Dmitri Medvedev become the moderate that everyone hopes he will be? Jim Hoagland of the Washington Post argues that this will depend upon his ability to uproot the siloviki, and Putin may allow them to be “tossed to the anti-corruption wolves of public opinion” in order to regain Russia’s great power status:

Putin saved Russian provinces the trouble and expense of having primaries, which were all held in Putin’s mind. With his encouragement, Medvedev has given “campaign” speeches that promise respect for the rule of law, more personal freedoms, a much-reduced state role in the economy and cooperation with other countries, including the United States.

Were Medvedev to carry out these promises, he would have to uproot the siloviki, the ex-KGB officers Putin has installed both in the Kremlin and in corporate jobs where they have raked off fortunes. He would also reverse Russia’s march away from democracy that has created much of the recent tension between Washington and Moscow.Putin, of course, may be playing a cynical, short-term game by extending such promises through Medvedev. He is warning the siloviki that they can be tossed to the anti-corruption wolves of public opinion if they ever cross him. Internationally, a more moderate stance by Russia as a new U.S. president is being chosen may be an effort to coax the acknowledgment of Russia’s return as a global power that Putin craves.