Putin Reassures his Audience and Reduces Medvedev to Irrelevance

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Baev, Pavel K. (2009) Putin Reassures his Audience and Reduces Medvedev to Irrelevance, Eurasia Daily Monitor, 7 December.

The underlying aim of this political therapy is, however, not so much to dissuade the majority of the population from staging protests or taking any interest in politics, but rather to demonstrate that in the position of prime minister, he remains in charge of distributing money and so, to all intents and purposes, continues to function as the head of state.

Paternalism –even if false and deeply corrupt– easily wins over the discourse of innovation and responsibility, and Medvedev’s point that “living beyond our means is immoral, unwise and dangerous” is demonstratively disproven by Putin’s promise to increase pensions no matter what costs for the budget.

Many commentators highlighted Putin’s supposedly meaningful point that he “will think about” the 2012 presidential elections, but his barely hidden readiness to reclaim the position of supreme authority may turn out to be not that significant. There was perhaps just one slip of the tongue in his smooth performance, when answering a question about his surprise appearance in a talk-show for teenagers he assured that it “had nothing to do with approval ratings because, thank God, we do not have any elections” (the official translation on his website edits out this candor). Putin obviously foresees no problem with reducing Medvedev to his natural position of an obliging junior partner, but he may underestimate the corrosive impact of his increasingly bitter criticism of bureaucratic predation that constitutes the very essence of Putinism. The two co-rulers are not merely addressing different audiences, but effectively canceling each other out, and that makes Russia progressively ungovernable on the eve of a new crisis spasm.

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Pavel K. Baev

Pavel K. Baev

Research Professor