Putin, Sticking it to Medvedev
Vladimir Putin’s English-language mouthpiece and bagman (and namesake) Vladimir Frolov has launched yet another of his vicious submarine attacks on “president” Dima Medvedev.
Putin has many reasons to root for the economy to fail. It weakens his oligarch rivals, it devastates the population and makes it even more craven and vulnerable, it justifies ever more draconian levels of state control and, most importantly, it allows him to scapegoat Medvedev, justifying his return to the formal corridors of power as “president” for life.
When last we met Frolov, he was blaming Medvedev for the total collapse of Russian foreign policy and the ripple effect on the economy. Now, in his latest Moscow Times column, Frolov continues the savage drumbeat:
At the 13th annual St. Petersburg International Economic Forum, President Dmitry Medvedev reminded the audience of his prophetic warnings in 2008 about the origins of the global economic crisis. But while Medvedev’s competence in economic matters is gradually becoming recognized around the globe, his prowess in foreign policy is being increasingly questioned in world capitals.
It’s perfectly clear what is happening here: Putin is scapegoating Medvedev so he can return to power as “president for life” without being tarnished by the total failure of the Russian economy and the endless debacles on the foreign policy scene.
He’s quite brutal, actually:
One year ago, Medvedev delivered his first major foreign policy speech in Berlin, in which he called for a complete overhaul of the European security system. Medvedev argued that the existing security system in Europe had become too fragmented and ineffective to handle 21st-century threats. Europe cannot rely on NATO alone for its security, he said, and should thus develop a security framework where all European nations could take part as individual members. NATO should not have the final say at the expense of other nations, he said, calling for a pan-European summit later in 2008 to develop the basic approaches to this new security architecture.
Yet a year later, this grand vision remains no more than a vague idea that Russia’s leaders elude to from time to time but never describe in detail how it is supposed to work. The vision has failed to generate much interest in European capitals largely because Moscow has been unable to put meat on the bones of its own proposal.
It is stunning that a full year later, Medvedev’s first major foreign policy initiative has not even been put on paper as a coherent policy document or even a draft agreement. All that the Kremlin has produced so far is a set of vaguely worded principles on which it wants to see the new security architecture in Europe to be based.
Medvedev’s foreign policy has been defined by its vacuous initiatives. Poor attention to detail and a lack of follow-up are the other two features that are beginning to adversely label Medvedev’s approach to world affairs. His proposals on energy security, for example, have been so sloppily prepared that it made almost impossible for European leaders to respond to them in a meaningful way.
Pronouncing nebulous foreign policy visions without doing much to make them a diplomatic reality will only diminish Medvedev’s standing internationally.
The word of the Russian leader should count for something.
Ouch! Did he just call Dima Medvedev a vacuous, nebulous, inattentive liar? You bet he did! Fact is, that indictment could easily have been written by this blog. We’re almost jealous!
And there is one and only one way to interpret rhetoric this acidic and merciless: Medvedev’s days are numbered. He’s going under the bus, and he’s going under soon. As pockets of protest boil up across the country and Russia prepares to face the second wave of its economic crisis, worse the the first, in the form of its very own subprime lending apocalypse, Putin clearly has the excuse to return to formal power while neatly avoiding blame for the crisis he caused. He can claim to be assuming a role akin to that of Barack Obama, cleaning up his predecessor’s mess, and he can justify an even more brutal crackdown on civil society the same way Obama justifies massive budget deficits.
Russia is sliding into the totalitarian abyss.