Putin Removes Medvedev Appointees in Security Shakeup

Russian president Vladimir Putin speaks with his prime minister, Dmitri Medvedev, at his country residence outside Moscow, January 25
Russian president Vladimir Putin speaks with his prime minister, Dmitri Medvedev, at his country residence outside Moscow, January 25 (Kremlin)

Nine top security officials lost their jobs in Russia this week, five of whom had been appointed by the previous president, Dmitri Medvedev, between 2008 and 2012.

Among those were the head of Russia’s witness protection program and two police chiefs in the regions of Omsk and Tomsk.

The changes come only weeks after Vladimir Putin, who returned to the presidency in 2012, replaced the long-time head of the Federal Protection Service (FSO), Evgeni Murov.

The organization is somewhat comparable to America’s Secret Service in that is responsible for the protection of federal officials and property, but its full purview is ambiguous.

Health problems were said to play a role in the removal of the septuagenarian Murov, but Russia watchers also saw his agency getting the short end of the stick in a contest with the Federal Security Service (FSB), the successor to the KGB spy agency Putin himself served in.

Murov’s replacement came only a month after Putin created a brand new paramilitary service, the National Guard, which answers directly to the Kremlin as opposed to any minister. With an avowed Putin loyalist, Viktor Zolotov, at its head, this new organization has all the trappings of a Praetorian Guard. Read more “Putin Removes Medvedev Appointees in Security Shakeup”

Russia Shocked, Shocked That West Is So Unfriendly

Vladimir Putin Dmitri Medvedev
Russian president Vladimir Putin speaks with his prime minister, Dmitri Medvedev, at his country residence outside Moscow, January 25 (Kremlin)

Russian prime minister Dmitri Medvedev said on Saturday he feared Russia and the West were spiraling into another Cold War.

“NATO’s political stance toward Russia remains unfriendly and isolated,” he said at an international security conference in Munich, Germany. “One can say even more harshly, we have slid into the times of a new Cold War.”

Except the two sides didn’t “slid” into anything. Nor, as Medvedev suggested, is the tension due to an unfriendly Western attitude. If there is a new Cold War, it is Russia alone that must be blamed.

Given Russia’s flagrant violations of the postwar order in Europe, the West’s response has if anything been remarkably restrained. Read more “Russia Shocked, Shocked That West Is So Unfriendly”

By Promoting Autarky, Russia Condemns Its People to Poverty

Moscow Russia
Moscow, Russia at night (Unsplash/Alexandr Bormotin)

Following Russian sanctions banning the import of most farm products from Europe and North America, Prime Minister Dmitri Medvedev on Tuesday suggested the country should become agriculturally self-sufficient. This foolish longing for autarky does not bode well for the country, already teetering on the brink of recession. Read more “By Promoting Autarky, Russia Condemns Its People to Poverty”

Russia Fails to Diversify Economy Away from Energy

Gazprom managing chairman Alexei Miller speaks with Russian prime minister Dmitri Medvedev in Moscow, June 2012
Gazprom managing chairman Alexei Miller speaks with Russian prime minister Dmitri Medvedev in Moscow, June 2012 (Gazprom)

President Vladimir Putin and his deputy, Dmitri Medvedev, have talked for years about the need to reduce Russia’s dependence on oil and natural gas, but progress is slow.

Indeed, they have recently taken steps that run contrary to their stated goal.

Despite the economic reforms that were enacted during Putin’s first eight years in the Kremlin, including income tax cuts, fiscal consolidation and education and infrastructure investments, which helped fuel economic expansion, corruption and entrenched interests still block growth. The state maintains a heavy hand in key industries, as evidenced by Putin’s recent intervention in a dispute between the European Commission and Gazprom. The Russian leader shielded the energy giant from an antitrust probe. Read more “Russia Fails to Diversify Economy Away from Energy”

Medvedev Criticizes France’s Recognition of Syrian Rebels

Russian prime minister Dmitri Medvedev criticized France’s decision to formally recognize the Syrian opposition, telling reporters on the eve of a visit to Paris, “not a single state, not a single government should undertake any action directed at the forcible replacement of an acting government in any other country.”

However, he condemned the Syrian government for the violence it has deployed against civilians as well as rebel fighters and added, “Right now, I don’t want to say who is right and who is wrong.” Read more “Medvedev Criticizes France’s Recognition of Syrian Rebels”

Medvedev Predicts Eurasian Union by 2015

Outgoing Russian president Dmitri Medvedev has given impetus to the Eurasian Union by declaring that it will be up and running in three years.

An idea that has been around the block several times, the union would encompass Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan and have as observer countries Armenia, Moldova and Ukraine. The union would be one of a myriad of regional initiatives set up in the post-Soviet space. Whether there will be meaningful integration remains doubtful. Read more “Medvedev Predicts Eurasian Union by 2015”

Medvedev Urges Russians to “Vote for the Future”

President Dmitri Medvedev urged Russians on Friday to vote “for the future” and stability in electing a majority for the ruling party. United Russia is expected to win the upcoming parliamentary elections which would clear the way for Medvedev to succeed Vladimir Putin as prime minister next year.

The Russian leaders announced their power switch in September. Putin, who served as chief executive for two consecutive terms between 2000 and 2008, is almost certain to win the presidential election in March although his party’s approval ratings have declined modestly, dropping from roughly 60 to over 50 percent in two years.

United Russia will retain its majority but it will be a less comfortable one. It will probably no longer be able to enact constitutional reforms without opposition.

President Medvedev tried to rally support for his party in a televised address, referencing the political chaos of the 1990s when the legislature was bitterly divided before United Russia surged. “Will this be a legislative body that is torn by irreconcilable differences and is unable to decide anything,” he wondered, “as we have unfortunately already had in our history?”

Or will we get a functioning legislature where the majority are responsible politicians who can help raise the quality of life of our people, whose actions will be guided by the voters’ interests and national interests?

Despite vocal opposition from political activist who accuse the ruling party of nepotism and corruption, Putin is still by far the most popular politician in the country with an approval rating north of 60 percent. United Russia dominates television coverage which is overwhelmingly loyalist but online and in newspapers, criticism of the Kremlin and the ruling party is regularly published. More than 30 percent of Russians have Internet access.

The communists will probably secure the second largest parliamentary faction in Sunday’s election. They currently poll at 20 percent. The social democrats could clear the 7 percent election threshold while minority liberal parties are unlikely to win any seats.

Medvedev, Putin to Switch Places Next Year

Russian prime minister Vladimir Putin told his United Russia party on Saturday that he will stand for the presidency in 2012 which would return him to the post he vacated in 2008 after serving the maximum two consecutive terms.

Incumbent Dmitri Medvedev is expected to become prime minister after the power switch next year. Putin said to be confident that his protégé could “create a new, effective, young, energetic management team and head the government of the Russian Federation.”

Putin told party members in Moscow that the two men had reached agreement on who should hold which post “a long time ago, several years back.” Speculation abounded in recent months nevertheless about who would seek United Russia’s presidential nomination for March’s election. The party dominates Russian politics and is certain to deliver the next government.

A constitutional amendment recently enacted allows Putin to serve two new terms of six years each instead of four so he could be in power until 2024. Read more “Medvedev, Putin to Switch Places Next Year”

Medvedev Could Run Again

There’s a good chance that Dmitri Medvedev will stand for reelection next year while his predecessor and former mentor Vladimir Putin stays on as prime minister. The reason is simple — the condominium is working very well for the both of them.

Medvedev last month virtually ruled out a democratic competition between the two Russian leaders, saying that he would find it “hard to imagine” him and Putin running against each other. Such a leadership race, he added, could be “harmful” and “detrimental” to their “goals.”

Dmitri Trenin explained last year how both men complement one another. Whereas older Russians, reminiscent of the Soviet days of global power, long for what Trenin described as “the preservation of a paternalistic state” and see in Putin the strong man needed to guide them in difficult times, the nation’s youth and middle class are hungering for more inspirational leadership. “Enter Medvedev. His Internet surfing, compassionate and generally liberal image helps recruit a key constituency — those beyond the reach of Putin himself — to Putin’s plan.”

To dismiss Medvedev as a mere Putin puppet — a constitutional bridge between Putin’s second and third presidential terms — would be both unfair and wrong. […] Conversely, portraying Putin as “a man from the past” and Medvedev as “a hope for the future” exaggerates the differences between them and omits the more important factors that unite them.

For all his talk of democracy and reform, Russia under Medvedev last week banned an opposition party from participating in the upcoming elections and propped up a small faction led by a Kremlin friendly oligarch instead — “Right Cause,” a pro-business platform for, indeed, reform. Corruption is still endemic. Moscow remains firmly in control of those parts of the economy it cares about. Medvedev isn’t going to change any of that which is why Putin chose him for president four years ago.

All the while, everyone knows who is truly in charge when it matters. It is why Foreign Policy‘s Steve LeVine suggested this week that “Putin doesn’t need to convince anyone.” He may continue to hint at a presidential run for several more months but eventually, LeVine predicts that “he will, for the good of the nation of course, step aside (technically, that is) and maintain the status quo. The system works the way it is.”

France, Germany Discuss Russia Partnership

Ahead of the G20 summit in South Korea later this month, the leaders of France, Germany and Russia met privately to discuss the future of economic and security cooperation between Russia and the West.

French president Nicolas Sarkozy invited his Russian counterpart Dmitri Medvedev as well as German chancellor Angela Merkel for two days of talks at the Normandy seaside resort of Deauville this week. No major decisions are expected to be announced; Merkel and Sarkozy wouldn’t want to be seen as trying to bypass the rest of the European Union. Read more “France, Germany Discuss Russia Partnership”