Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Times of London (UK): Medvedev is Putin's puppet

A commentary from the Times of London's Bronwen Maddox:

The body language said it all. Dmitri Medvedev, Russia’s so-called President, meeting the French President in Moscow yesterday, looked tense and subdued, a pale face above a dead-white shirt, sitting cramped in one of the Kremlin’s gilt chairs as Nicolas Sarkozy took up the airspace with expansive hand gestures. In contrast, Vladimir Putin, the Prime Minister (the role he chose when appointing Medvedev as his successor), has been relaxed, leaning back in his chair, using long answers to shut out other speakers in chairing his Cabinet and in public appearances.

The past five days have answered the puzzle of who is running Russia. Putin is clearly in charge; Medvedev has seemed like his puppet. Putin flew from the Olympic Games to the border of South Ossetia, an action man dashing in to comfort terrified civilians. Medvedev has been confined to the Kremlin.

“I have taken the decision to end the operation to force the Georgian authorities into peace,” Medvedev was quoted as saying yesterday. At best (for Medvedev’s cause), he was offering the softer side of Russia, the conciliatory President to Putin’s hardline Prime Minister. But it is hard to see any signs of his independent action in Russia’s retaliation, so heavily flavoured with Putin’s old obsessions.

It is Putin who has believed that the dismemberment of the Soviet Union is a profound humilation, but perhaps only a temporary disaster that might one day – under a strong enough leader – be reversed. He has loathed the Georgian President since the two met in 2004. He made the crushing of Chechen separatists his own mission. And he found the recent Western rebuff to Russian wishes over Kosovo enraging.

Click here for the full article. Russia's bear continues to rear its ugly head.

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