RUSSIA

"Medvedev is the one who’s really in power"

The Western press reacted cynically to the inauguration of Russia's new president, Dmitry Medvedev, who has been considered a puppet of outgoing president - and now Prime Minister - Vladimir Putin since being elected in March. However, a political analyst in the country and harsh critic of the ruling party, tells us why the idea is entirely speculative.

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The Western press reacted cynically to the inauguration of Russia's new president, Dmitry Medvedev, who has been considered a puppet of outgoing president - and now Prime Minister - Vladimir Putin since being elected in March. However, a political analyst in the country and harsh critic of the ruling party, tells us why the idea is entirely speculative.

Stanislav Belkovsky, a leading Russian political analyst and the head of the National Strategy Institute, a critical think-tank he founded in 2002.

Medvedev is the one who's really in power. Putin will try to hold an informal influence over things, but all this talk of tandem-leadership is stupid. This idea that they're both holding the reigns is gladly supported by elites in both Russia and the West. In Russia, it's necessary for Putin's numerous friends to protect their business interests. Talk of "Putin the bloody tyrant" in liberal circles will depict Putin as a scarecrow to Medvedev, who will be seen as the "lesser evil". In the West, there are people who need the "bloody tyrant' legend to uphold the image of Russia as an unchanged, Soviet, imperialistic and even neo-Stalinist state, because it permits them to raise more money for military programs, and, above all, dismount the remains of the Yalta world order - the world order based on the results of WWII. Medvedev, not Putin, will really hold the power, but everybody will believe that he is Putin's puppet.

 

Since September Putin himself has worked on decreasing the powers of the prime minister. Several huge state corporations have been created: Russian Technologies, RosNanoTech and RosAtomProm. These are, in effect, state departments which are not under of the prime minister's control. And in March it was decided that Russian regional governors would no longer report to the prime minister. So Putin as a prime minister won't have the powers that his own Prime Minister Zubkov had, not to mention those of the notorious Primakov or Chernomyrdin. In any case, according to both the Russian Constitution and Russian political traditions, prime ministers never have any real power. They serve rather as conductors, who take responsibility for the failures of the executive branch. So Putin is really no competitor for Medvedev. It doesn't mean that Medvedev will be completely independent; but Putin is just one of many people who will be able to influence his decisions.

That said, domestic procedures carved out a decade ago are not going to disappear. The opposition party and the press can't expect better conditions, because an increase in democratisation would be fatal for the current power system. Despite the authorities talking of liberalism, their words will be accompanied with a tightening of screws. Economic policy won't change either, because the main objective of Medvedev's government is the legalisation of the Russian ruling class in the West. Although anti-Western rhetoric might be cooled down, the politics themselves won't change. The West can expect a shift in geopolitical positions, but no real democratic changes (though they're not really expecting them anyway). The task to become "our son of a bitch" of the West [referring to reference made by American statesman Cordell Hull "He may be a son of a bitch, but he is our son of a bitch" to Dominian Republican dictator Rafael Trujillo], which Putin failed in, will mould the direction of Medvedev's government.

Medvedev is just as independent as Putin. Let's remember who ruled Russia in 2000. Kasyanov, Abramovich, Voloshin - they held real power. Putin was but one of them. Now, Medvedev is also just one of the rulers. And he will stay one of many - just as Putin stayed at the beginning, middle and end of his rule. Despite having the image of a hard ruler who decided everything by himself and could destroy everybody, Putin was just a mouthpiece of the Russian ruling class - a very accurate, consistent and regardful one."