0000298 - RussiaRifkind-MC 4:14 pm Page 26...

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f OR A KGB MAN , V LADIMIR P UTIN HAS PROVED AN astute political operator. In declaring his successor to be Dmitry Medvedev, a youthful technocrat from outside the intelligence services, the Russian President has once again demonstrated the authoritarian nature of the political system. But he has also shown that he likes to spring surprises and wrong-foot those who think they know what his next step will be. Nobody can be sure where exactly the country is heading. Yet a rapidly ageing population, combined with an undiversified economy and shady business practices, will provide the new president with plenty to think about. Medvedev is unlikely to be pushed aside by Putin after a few months. Had Putin plumped for a technocrat, for example the current Prime Minister Victor Zubkov, then he would most likely have found some excuse to resume his presidency after a short period. Medvedev, however, will grow accustomed to the trappings of power and not want to relinquish his position. At first, he will be reliant on Putin for guidance, as he has been for most of his career. But after a while, it would not be surprising for the new president to begin to flex his muscles in an attempt to carve for himself greater independence. SECRET POLICEMAN’S MENTALITY That prospect should cheer up Europe. Medvedev is said to be an economic liberal and a believer in democracy rather than ‘sovereign democracy’, Putin’s favoured description. PAGE 26 THEWORLDTODAY.ORG FEBRUARY 2008 RUSSIA - THE PRESIDENCY MALCOLM RIFKIND CONSERVATIVE MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT AND FORMER BRITISH FOREIGN AND DEFENCE SECRETARY Opaque as Always The new man has arrived in the Kremlin as unexpectedly as his predecessor, who made the selection this time. With the Russian political season only half over – the formal presidential election is next month – thoughts are already focused on the decisions ahead.
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