Russia’s new friendly face is perhaps an improvement, but with the change of style the substance of foreign policy has all but disappeared.
The current culmination of the long-running conflict over the Iranian nuclear program illustrates perfectly this lack of content in Medvedev’s policy.
October 30 in Russia is Remembrance Day for the victims of political repression, and Medvedev posted an entry in his video-blog condemning the “revisionist falsification of our history” aimed at justifying Stalin’s crimes; he asserted that “there is no excuse for repression.” This departure from Putin’s line of glorifying Russia’s past and erasing its dark pages may be just an attempt to re-establish his liberal credentials, which were compromised by sanctioning the results of the recent shamelessly falsified regional elections, particularly in Moscow. Nevertheless, it is a bold statement that goes against not only Stalin’s rising approval ratings, but also the widely-held conviction that Russia can only be governed by a “strong hand”. Medvedev’s “modernization project” –which still exists only as discourse– seeks to introduce a different model of creating room for “bottom-up” innovations, but as such it is incompatible with the system of power over which he is presiding so ambivalently.