Nor did Medvedev underestimate Russia’s exposure to and vulnerability from the volatility of the global economy, but it is objectively difficult to decide what position in the multiple economic divides would serve best diverging Russian interests.
Russia’s isolation in international summits, which continue in the coming weeks with the NATO summit at Lisbon and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) summit in Astana, is caused not so much by its deliberate parochialism as by the muddle in its economic policy. Discontent with this hyper-concentration of wealth in the hands of self-serving elites is growing and takes different forms, for instance the mobilization of media of all persuasions behind the demand to investigate the brutal beating of Kommersant journalist Oleg Kashin, which leads to further demands for greater freedom of the press. Medvedev is trying to win public support by demonstrating personal attention to this investigation, but the impression is spoiled by the presence of Vladislav Surkov, deputy head of his administration, who is directing media censorship and controlling the activities of “patriotic” youth movements, at every occasion where the president is presenting a “liberal” face (www.grani.ru, November 9). Medvedev’s membership in the cabal of “masters” of state power is too transparent to make his quasi-democratic populism any more credible than his pretence for a major presence at tough-talking summits. The time for economic free-riding has passed, but Putin’s Russia is still stuck in it.