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I don't think anyone has said Medvedev will have complete independence from Putin(s plan).  But the way the government is set up, the President takes care of foreign policy and the Prime Minister takes care of domestic issues.  The two positions and two responsibilities are not completely independent of each other, and Medvedev has said he will continue on the same path Putin has been on.

Noteworthy are the following:

1. Putin could have altered the Constitution to stay on as President, but did not.  I think it would have been very detrimental to his credibility if he had done that, but I'm not convinced that's the only or primary reason for his decision to step down at the end of his term.  I'm inclined to agree with Vilhelm Konnander's comments:

At the news conference Putin said: "Throughout all these eight years I have toiled like a slave in the galleys, from morning till evening and, have done so with the full devotion of my strength." This is most probably a very sincere statement, and is also in line with what Putin has previously said repeatedly. Also, people working in the Kremlin has let it be no secret that the Russian president has been quite tired and weary of his duties in recent years. So, being a slave to power does not in Putin's case have to be a fixation to power, but an actual slavery of duties. Still, media have failed to see this.

So if he has not stayed on as Prime Minister as a result of some lust for power and megalomaniacal paranoid control-freakism, why has he?  Ok, listen, I am not an expert.  Obviously.  But I do read a lot, and there appears to be a great deal of consensus among those for whom russophobia has not compromised their capacity for critical thought.  And that is : he doesn't feel his work is done.  Especially on the domestic end of things.  He's re-established Russia's place on the international stage, but inflation, corruption, gap between the rich and poor, birthrates, etc. remain problems, and I suppose he imagines he's best suited to address them.  We'll see.  But what it boils down to is that he knows his legacy -and that's what all of this is about- hinges on the success of the country.  Ensuring Russia's success, and that no one comes along and tramples on, reverses, ruins whatever accomplishments or "reforms" he's implemented = ensuring his legacy.  

2.  Everyone said Putin, when personally chosen by Yeltsin, would be a puppet of Yeltsin's regime/people.  He was specifically chosen for his loyalty, after all.  Well... we saw how well that worked out, didn't we? :)  Fact is, and I re-iterate, there is no sense in trying to predict the future, esp. when it comes to Russia.  

"Pretending that you already know the answer when you don't is not actually very helpful." ~Migeru.

by poemless on Tue Mar 4th, 2008 at 11:27:55 AM EST
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Nicolai N Petro's take on Medevedev:


A careful reading of his more than 2,000 public pronouncements over the past seven years, however, suggests that neither of these descriptions is accurate. His record indicates that Medvedev will indeed pursue a concerted liberalization of Russian politics, not as an alternative to the Putin Plan, but as the next logical stage in its evolution.

Rather, it appears that most observers simply underestimated the Russian government's ability to conceive of and carry out its own strategy of democratic modernization, now commonly referred to as the Putin Plan, and also completely missed its purpose, which Medvedev sums up as "an effective civil society ... composed of mature individuals ready for democracy".

On separation of duties between Prime Minister and the President, there is Presidential Administration which can direct a Cabinet when Prime Minister is not politically strong enough. There were precedents when in weak President - strong PA - strong PM trio PM was running the entire show (Primakov).

Yeltsin/Putin dichotomy is a useful frame to distinguish two epochs, but note how elites remain the same: with few exceptions, oligarchs are allowed to remain at large, people close to Yeltsin family got to keep all the billions, the cabinet (Kasyanov's) for the first Putin term was put together by Yeltsin's people.

For all the rhetoric of the last few years regarding a clean break with Yeltsin's regime, Chubais (universally  hated) is still "reforming" the energy grid, Kirienko (fall boy PM in 1998 default) is busy reorganizing nuclear infrastructure and names like Yakunin, Primakov and Voloshin are still showing up on a short list of candidates for either PM or head of PA posts, not to mention regional feudals ramaining mostly the same.

by blackhawk on Tue Mar 4th, 2008 at 04:23:50 PM EST
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Nick's always reliable for a reality check and bit of pro-Russia feel-good cheerleading.  I generally really appreciate his articles, but I'm still hesitant to believe anyone's psychoanalysis of Medvedev.  And as for this 3rd way (won't be a puppet, won't be at odds with Putin's "plan") arguing that he's just a pragmatist ... this is probably true, but I think one could argue the same about Putin.  Neither of them are ideologues, and that's what the whole West can't get past.  They want to know who is the Democrat and who is the Stalinist, and there is no evidence that either Putin or Medvedev think in those terms.   Probably Petro is right about Medvedev being more "flexible" and economically liberal, based on past performance.   But who knows what he will become once in the highest office?   As you pointed out, Putin did go along with the old guard for a while after becoming President.   But eventually there was a break, it just wasn't in 2000.  The people who have stuck around have been able to do so because of their loyalty to Putin, not to Yeltsin.  Also, the incestuousness and perpetuity of the power elite is quite normal in many countries all over the word - America included.  

Primakov the Strong PM...  Well, he wasn't PM for very long, and when the President is chronically ill (or hungover...) it's hard for anyone not to appear strong in comparison.

It will be interesting to see how long Putin remains PM.  No one has talked about that.  It's been a job with a high turnover rate.

"Pretending that you already know the answer when you don't is not actually very helpful." ~Migeru.

by poemless on Tue Mar 4th, 2008 at 04:55:41 PM EST
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I noted in last Thursday's salon that a Finnish analyst at Helsinki University thinks Putin won't be around for more than a year. Her reasoning being that Medvedev would be unable to take on the role of a strong leader if Putin were to continue in too prominent a role beyond a transitional phase.

"The basis of optimism is sheer terror" - Oscar Wilde
by NordicStorm (m<-at->sturmbaum.net) on Tue Mar 4th, 2008 at 05:08:48 PM EST
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That makes perfect sense.  
That also makes ... me sad. </sniff>

"Pretending that you already know the answer when you don't is not actually very helpful." ~Migeru.
by poemless on Tue Mar 4th, 2008 at 05:11:56 PM EST
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It will be interesting to see how long Putin remains PM.  No one has talked about that.  It's been a job with a high turnover rate.

Seems to be one of those trademark Putin things when everyone keeps guessing and Putin manages to surprise everyone in the end. President still has a power of a pink slip over the PM and Parliament can nudge a President into using this power.

by blackhawk on Tue Mar 4th, 2008 at 05:54:33 PM EST
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one of those trademark Putin things when everyone keeps guessing and Putin manages to surprise everyone in the end...

...and always by doing the most obvious thing.

I bet he wins a lot at poker.

"Pretending that you already know the answer when you don't is not actually very helpful." ~Migeru.

by poemless on Tue Mar 4th, 2008 at 06:13:46 PM EST
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poemless:
I bet he wins a lot at poker.

If he did the western media would be reporting that everyone was scared to beat him.

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.

by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Tue Mar 4th, 2008 at 06:29:19 PM EST
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BTW, shouldn't you be our resident Russia Expert?  I think you should fill out an application for the position.  

"Pretending that you already know the answer when you don't is not actually very helpful." ~Migeru.
by poemless on Tue Mar 4th, 2008 at 05:00:31 PM EST
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