News

    Medvedev or Putin: Who Holds Real Power in Russia?

    Multimedia

    Anya Ardayeva

    It has been more than four months since Dmitri Medvedev was inaugurated as Russia's new president, yet questions persist over who really wields power in Russia. Even before Mr. Medvedev's predecessor, Vladimir Putin, left office, he made clear he wanted to remain in power, and he was appointed Prime Minister by President Medvedev. In this post, some observers say Mr. Putin's leadership role in the country's political and economic decision-making has not changed since the time he was president. Anya Ardayeva reports from Moscow.

    On TV screens across the country, it looks like Russia has a new, young and energetic president - meeting world leaders, making important statements.

    His predecessor and now Prime Minister, Vladimir Putin, is on TV just as often. And political analysts say it is hard to tell the difference between the messages that the two men are delivering to the nation and the world.  

    "From Medvedev's policy that we saw inside of the country as well as from his foreign policy, one thing is clear: this is a total continuation of policies that were set by his predecessor, Vladimir Putin," said Evgeni Volk, an analyst at the Moscow office of the Heritage Foundation, a think-tank based in Washington. "Medvedev continues the course based on state regulation, on the state's strong role in the economic development. And in Russia's foreign policy, we see the same efforts to establish Russia as the new superpower of the same kind as the Soviet Union used to be," Volk added.

    That superpower ambition became apparent in August during Russia's successful military campaign against Georgian forces in Georgia's separatist regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Shortly after expelling the Georgian forces, Moscow formally recognized independence of the breakaway regions - and announced its troops are there to stay.

    Russia's goal is to expand its sphere of influence, says Pavel Felghengauer, an independent military analyst. "Our strategic goal was creating a big buffer zone, a sphere of influence that involves all the former Soviet Union: Ukraine, Belarus, trans-Caucasia, former Central Asia. That's where we want to dominate and we want Western influence out and no NATO membership absolutely for these nations. So it's not just a small annexation of land, which it sort of boiled down to, but the Russian strategic intent is very different and much bigger," Felghengauer said.

    Moscow's relations with the United States deteriorated sharply following the campaign. Russia denounced the Bush administration for training Georgian troops, and accused Washington of encouraging Georgia's attack on South Ossetia. For her part, US Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice accused Russia of becoming increasingly authoritarian at home and aggressive abroad.

    Underscoring the strained relations, Russia has announced it will send its warships to the Caribbean this November to participate in joint military exercises with Venezuela, which has been buying Russian weapons.

    And at home, President Medvedev has ordered a massive upgrade of the country's armed forces. Prime Minister Putin has announced a 27 percent hike in defense spending next year, to $53 billion.

    Analysts say while the West has a limited number of political tools to influence Russia's policies, the standoff with the West is likely to affect the Russian economy. In September and October, the Russian stock exchange fell sharply, resulting in a repeated shut down of trading. A combination of fears over foreign capital outflows, falling oil prices and the global financial crisis caused the stock market falls, and has led to a major loss of confidence in Russia among lenders.

    "Countries and international companies around the world will be taking a very hard look at Russia with regard to their risk calculations," Russian expert Rose Goetemueller said. Goetemueller is the head of the Carnegie Endowment's office in Moscow. "And Russia needs a lot of investments in order to repair its aging infrastructure, in order to build up its own international companies in order to modernize economically," Goetemueller added.

    The Russian government has poured in billions of dollars into the banking system in an effort to ease liquidity concerns.

    Yet Russia's massive foreign exchange reserves could help it weather the storm.

    David Azerkoff is the head of Equity Derivatives Research at Renaissance Capital in Moscow.
    "Russia has over $500 billion in foreign exchange reserves that it could convert to rubles and use it to stabilize the situation both in the currency market and the money markets," Azerkoff said. "And I think that it has the cushion many other countries don't have."

    While constitutionally it is the president, not the prime minister, who is in charge of Russia, the Russian-Georgian war underscored who holds the real balance of power in the Kremlin. During the first days of the war, it was Vladimir Putin who flew down to South Ossetia and met with the military - just as he did during Russia's military campaign in Chechnya when he held the post of president.

     

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Tech Startups Showcase Wares at Amsterdam Conferencei
    X
    Serginho Roosblad
    May 30, 2016 5:11 PM
    More than 20,000 tech enthusiasts, entrepreneurs and lovers of digital technology came together in Amsterdam recently at the Next Web Conference to discuss the latest developments in digital technology, look to the future and, of course, to connect. In recent years, there has been an explosion of so-called startup businesses that have created devices and applications that have changed the way we live; but, as Serginho Roosblad reports for VOA, there are pitfalls for such startups as well.
    Video

    Video Tech Startups Showcase Wares at Amsterdam Conference

    More than 20,000 tech enthusiasts, entrepreneurs and lovers of digital technology came together in Amsterdam recently at the Next Web Conference to discuss the latest developments in digital technology, look to the future and, of course, to connect. In recent years, there has been an explosion of so-called startup businesses that have created devices and applications that have changed the way we live; but, as Serginho Roosblad reports for VOA, there are pitfalls for such startups as well.
    Video

    Video US Military's Fallen Honored With Flags

    Memorial Day is a long weekend for most Americans. For some, it is the unofficial start of summer -- local swimming pools open and outdoor grilling season begins. But Memorial Day remains true to its origins -- a day to remember the U.S. military's fallen.
    Video

    Video Rolling Thunder Rolls Into Washington

    The Rolling Thunder caravan of motorcycles rolled into Washington Sunday, to support the U.S. military on the country's Memorial Day weekend
    Video

    Video A New Reading Program Pairs Kids with Dogs

    Dogs, it is said, are man's best friend. What some researchers have discovered is that they can also be a friend to a struggling reader. A group called Intermountain Therapy Animals trains dogs to help all kinds of kids with reading problems — from those with special needs to those for whom English is a second language. Faiza Elmasry has more on the New York chapter of R.E.A.D., or Reading Education Assistance Dogs, in this piece narrated by Faith Lapidus.
    Video

    Video Fan Base Grows for Fictional Wyoming Sheriff Longmire

    Around the world, the most enduring symbol of the U.S. is that of the cowboy. A very small percentage of Americans live in Western rural areas, and fewer still are cowboys. But the fascination with the American West is kept alive by such cultural offerings as “Longmire,” a series of books and TV episodes about a fictional Wyoming sheriff. VOA’s Greg Flakus recently spoke with Longmire’s creator, Craig Johnson, and filed this report from Houston.
    Video

    Video Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trend

    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Reactions to Trump's Success Polarized Abroad

    What seemed impossible less than a year ago is now almost a certainty. New York real estate mogul Donald Trump has won the number of delegates needed to secure the Republican presidential nomination. The prospect has sparked as much controversy abroad as it has in the United States. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Drawings by Children in Hiroshima Show Hope and Peace

    On Friday, President Barack Obama will visit Hiroshima, Japan, the first American president to do so while in office. In August 1945, the United States dropped an atomic bomb on the city to force Japan's surrender in World War II. Although their city lay in ruins, some Hiroshima schoolchildren drew pictures of hope and peace. The former students and their drawings are now part of a documentary called “Pictures from a Hiroshima Schoolyard.” VOA's Deborah Block has the story.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese Rapper Performs for Obama

    A prominent young Vietnamese artist told President Obama said she faced roadblocks as a woman rapper, and asked the president about government support for the arts. He asked her to rap, and he even offered to provide a base beat for her. Watch what happened.
    Video

    Video Roots Run Deep for Tunisia's Dwindling Jewish Community

    This week, hundreds of Jewish pilgrims are defying terrorist threats to celebrate an ancient religious festival on the Tunisian island of Djerba. The festivities cast a spotlight on North Africa's once-vibrant Jewish population that has all but died out in recent decades. Despite rising threats of militant Islam and the country's battered economy, one of the Arab world's last Jewish communities is staying put and nurturing a new generation. VOA’s Lisa Bryant reports.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora