Russian President, Dmitry Medvedev, has completed an unprecedented foreign policy marathon.
Rubbing shoulders with world leaders, from US President, Barack Obama, to Iran’s President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, for weeks on end has apparently inflated Medvedev’s self-perception and made him believe that the next presidency is his for the taking. Answering question from the Polish media last week, Medvedev made the usual point that he “does not exclude the possibility” of pursuing a second term “if the situation in this country is normal and stable.” This pro forma condition could become meaningful and even crucial because the situation in Russia is visibly deteriorating. Last weekend, several cities, from Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky to Samara, saw protest rallies against Medvedev’s idea of changing time zones, but the most alarming commotion happened in downtown Moscow where nationalists and football fans clashed furiously with OMON (Ezhednevny Zhurnal, December 12). The government is losing control over the violent destabilization of the North Caucasus, and this smoldering civil war could yet again become the decisive influence in Russia’s search for direction. Putin knows how to play the fear factor but he can lead the country only back –to political zastoi and economic stagnation and yet another state-failure-type of crisis.