Cultural Revolutions

Putin Reset

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin will return to the Kremlin as president in 2012, ending speculation on the fate of the “national leader” and of the “tandem” he had formed with current President Dmitri Medvedev.  Medvedev nominated Putin on September 24 during the congress of the ruling United Russia party, dashing the hopes of reformers that he would stay for a second term, diminish Putin’s influence, and “modernize” Russia.  Following the March 2012 presidential election, Medvedev will swap jobs with Putin, taking on the unenviable task of heading the cabinet with the world on the cusp of another wave of economic crisis.  Moreover, political strategist Gleb Pavlovsky, long associated with the Medvedev camp, claimed that the president had been blackmailed, yielding to unspecified threats.  The tandem’s political dance amounted to little more than a power struggle in the real Russian system, that of the political/economic “clans” in which Putin plays the pivotal role of mediator.  The switch likely will not have any significant near-term consequences for Washington’s policy of “reset” with Moscow.

While the West and some Russian liberals had entertained the possibility that Medvedev was another Mikhail Gorbachev leading Russia into a second period of perestroika, Putin’s chosen successor’s real power has in fact been quite limited. ...

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