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Medvedev and Putin: Pinpricks and Hookings

Medvedev and Putin: Pinpricks and Hookings
Kirill Rogov 28.06.2010

Their mutual attacks became more rigid and turned to the element of big politics. For long time discussions of relations of Medvedev and Putin seemed to me empty and boring. Eventually Vladimir it was Putin who after a long casting chose Dmitry Medvedev as the keeper of the presidential post. What we know about Putin does not give us grounds to believe that he was not attentive, impulsive or sentimental in selection of the candidate for such role. Art "to find a person" and make him "swallow the bait" is for policeman the same that the skill of playing with a ball for the football player.

However events of last weeks and days force to look at what is going on more attentively. Here Dmitry Medvedev in interview to the Americans speaks about relations with Putin chilly: "I am president, he is prime minister, it speaks for itself". While a week before it Vladimir Putin had a heart-to-heart talk with other foreigners and suddenly told them that he say "you" to Medvedev, while the last refers to him with "You". It is already obvious roughness and infringement of decencies.

On the eve of opening of the Petersburg forum Putin contrary to the initial scenario arranges in his residence loud signing of the agreement between "Rosneft" and "Shevron" and Putin's rammer - Igor Sechin - appoints session of board of directors of "Rosneft" in Petersburg exactly at that time when Medvedev should say a keynote speech. All these pinpricks and hookings which will seem to the inhabitant more similar to signs on rivalry of two theatrical primas are convincing by their insignificance and ceremonial meanness.

Actually pins and preens of war of superbities are very difficult to be imitated and are even more difficult to overcome, than different ideological disagreements. They are real favourite toys of derisive Clio. Besides, ceremonial gestures - the basic signaling system sending information to all open and hidden ladder downwards for deeply hierarchical structures as the Russian state machinery and large business. But the most important thing is that all these whimsical reprises are being carried out on the background of becoming more and more oppressing questions hanging over elite and society: what comes next? where do we sail to?

Agendas which Putin and Medvedev propose became quite defined and different. Putin appears as "man of action": his credo - daily manual control over economic subjects, deals, monetary streams, budgets. He constantly shows that all keys from that real economy which today's Russia backs on are in his hands and projects he is engaged in - not pies in the sky (read: he is not like someone!)

Medvedev's agenda is also known: "modernisation" and "innovations" oppose ordinary Putin's antiquity of realism drive for the future, prospect, they serve to show insufficiency and exhaustiveness of Putin's paradigm with his support on old raw economy and predilection for body-checks.

However both agendas look for society insufficiently convincing. They do not give the answer to the main question: where do we sail to?

Weakness of Putin's agenda is that as crisis showed, control over "old economy» with its giants of raw industry, monopolies and state corporations looks solidly and convincingly only while prices for oil are high. Beginning of era of low prices is more often accepted as the base scenario of serious long-term forecasts. Logic here is simple: the longer prices for energy carriers remain high, the more investments are made in new deposits, technologies of extraction and alternative fuel. So, the turn of the prices is almost inevitable. Change of a trend of raw prices cuts not only "old" economy but also two main pillars of political mode leaning against it - social stability and possibility to control elite and state machinery.

Therefore, despite constant demonstration by Vladimir Putin of self-confidence and calmness, the main characteristic of his agenda for elite in long-term prospect is its "unsteadiness". Putin's readiness for force application makes it less attractive on this background.

Medvedev's agenda, however, looks for now more like chin-chin, "paper architecture". And even at full success of Skolkovo it obviously will be too little to give new impulse to the national economy. In general, the further, the more situation reminds the story which took place twenty five years ago - beginning of perestroyka. Then appearance of new secretary general coincided with increasing perception by society and elite that status quo in which country stayed for many years exhausted, with increasing perception of unsteadiness and adversity of economic tendencies.

It is amusing that the slogan to "accelerate scientific and technical progress" became the first reaction to it. Something similar to Medvedev's modernisation: search of simple, technological decision which does not touch system problems. As well as in Medvedev's modernization there was, on the one hand, underestimation of truly named danger and on the other hand - intention to use the threat mentioned more in tactical purposes.

New agenda should have helped new leader to become stronger - to expand influence on the staff, to redirect resources, to form groups of support inside elite. As well as now two parties started forming in management. One supported preservation of status quo and toughening of the mode a la Antropov saw as the way out. Other supported controllable democratisation hoping to freeze old guards out under its slogans. It is considered that the way things started developing further is connected in many respects with Gorbachev personal qualities.

Though it is a bird's eye view. Further trajectory was more likely defined by that fact that neither that, nor other agenda looked convincing enough to receive critical weight of support. In situation when it became impossible to get such support, the conflict of the staff inevitably started extending.

Problem is not that there are as though two leaders in Russia. The problem is that perception that something should be changed has been ripened in society. It couldn't be blow off by PR ideas. Movement back (Putin) looks for society more and more historically unpromising and it kindles animosities of the prime minister to his protege. At the same time appeals to move forward (Medvedev) look for the large part of society unpersuasive for now. As a result the car slips and starts overheating gradually from within.


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