News / Europe

    Putin Overshadows Medvedev's Democracy Meeting

    James Brooke

    Russia's president talked democracy Friday at an annual gathering of intellectuals and political leaders.  But more than half-way through his four-year term in office, some of those in attendance at the gathering say President Dmitry Medvedev's talk about democracy has made that a topic of national debate, but that has not been able to implement concrete change.

    While an autumn sun lit freshly painted white walls of this 1,000-year-old city, a long shadow was cast over the gathering by Russia's prime minister and former president, Vladimir Putin.

    Several foreign visitors here had a dinner meeting with Mr. Putin under the auspices of the Valdai Discussion Club, a group of foreign intellectuals.  They came away with the impression that Mr. Medvedev's time to establish an independent political profile is running out, with presidential elections 18 months away.

    Alexander Rahr, Russia director for the German Council for Foreign Relations, said of the group dinner with Mr. Putin:  "After seeing and speaking to [Mr.] Putin during the meeting of the Valdai Club, I think each of the members of the Valdai Club got the impression that [Mr.] Putin is not departing.  It remains to be seen if he will return as president, or stay as an even stronger prime minister.  Intentions are clear that he wants to form the strategy of Russia, and he wants to be an active politician."

    When Mr. Medvedev was elected and Mr. Putin assumed the role of prime minister, many in Russia and in the international community wondered whether the new president would have the blessing of Mr. Putin, his mentor, to pursue his own agenda and the strength to carry it through on his own terms.  

    In recent weeks, Mr. Putin has been cultivating his image as a man of action.  Night after night, Russians watched on the evening television news as their prime minister piloted a fire-fighting plane, shot an arrow into an Arctic whale, inaugurated a pipeline to China, launched construction of a space center and drove a bright yellow Russian-made Lada car across Siberia.

    Nikolai Petrov, political analyst of the Moscow Carnegie Center, said Mr. Putin's image contrasts with that of President Medvedev in the public's mind.

    "What is understandable for ordinary Russians is the fact that [Mr.] Medvedev is speaking, and [Mr.] Putin is doing. So [Mr.] Putin did manage to create the image of the guy who not only controls the situation almost entirely, but who is doing, who is acting, who is coming to ordinary Russians, who is visible on the ground, while [Mr.] Medvedev is sticking in his office and communicating with a few officials," said Petrov.

    In his meeting this week with the visiting intellectuals, Mr. Putin cited the case of Franklin D. Roosevelt, the wartime U.S. president who was elected to four terms in office.  No other U.S. leader had been in office that long, and the U.S. Constitution was later amended to limit a president's service to two terms.

    Russia's constitution limits presidential terms to two in succession. In 2008, after two consecutive terms in office, Mr. Putin stepped aside. His protégé, Mr. Medvedev, was elected to a four-year term.

    Because the Russian constitution only limits terms that are consecutive, Mr. Putin is eligible to run again in elections in March 2012.  If he were elected to two additional consecutive terms, Mr. Putin could conceivably serve as president through 2024.

    Anatol Lieven, a Russia expert at King's College London, also participated in the two meetings this week, first with Mr. Putin then with Mr. Medvedev.

    "I am not sure whether [Mr.] Putin will run for president in 2012," said Lieven.  "I am sure that, as long as he wants to be, he will remain the strong man in the state.  He may be content, it is possible, unlikely, but possible, that he will leave [Mr.] Medvedev to occupy the bully pulpit and to sort of move reform along in a limited way along the edges, while [Mr.] Putin retains the real power over the real institutions of the state."

    Russia's president complained recently that ministers and governors have checked their Blackberries and sent tweets during his meetings.


    You May Like

    Top US General: Turkish Media Report ‘Absurd'

    General Dunford rejects ‘irresponsible' claims of coup involvement by former four-star Army General Campbell, who led NATO forces in Afghanistan before retiring earlier this year

    Video Saving Ethiopian Children Thought to Be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at efforts of one African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children

    Protests Over Western Troops Threaten Libyan 'Unity' Government

    Fears mount that Islamist foes of ‘unity' government plan to declare a revolutionaries' council in Tripoli

    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.
    London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunitiesi
    X
    VOA News
    July 25, 2016 5:09 PM
    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video Recycling Lifeline for Lebanon’s Last Glassblowers

    In a small Lebanese coastal town, one family is preserving a craft that stretches back millennia. The art of glass blowing was developed by Phoenicians in the region, and the Khalifehs say they are the only ones keeping the skill alive in Lebanon. But despite teaming up with an eco-entrepreneur and receiving an unexpected boost from the country’s recent trash crisis the future remains uncertain. John Owens reports from Sarafand.
    Video

    Video Migrants Continue to Risk Lives Crossing US Border from Mexico

    In his speech Thursday before the Republican National Convention, the party’s presidential candidate, Donald Trump, reiterated his proposal to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border if elected. Polls show a large percentage of Americans support better control of the nation's southwestern border, but as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from the border town of Nogales in the Mexican state of Sonora, the situation faced by people trying to cross the border is already daunting.
    Video

    Video In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movement

    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video Calm the Waters: US Doubles Down Diplomatic Efforts in ASEAN Meetings

    The United States is redoubling diplomatic efforts and looking to upcoming regional meetings to calm the waters after an international tribunal invalidated the legal basis of Beijing's extensive claims in the South China Sea. VOA State Department correspondent Nike Ching has the story.
    Video

    Video Four Brother Goats Arrive in Brooklyn on a Mission

    While it's unusual to see farm animals in cities, it's become familiar for residents of Brooklyn, New York, to see a little herd of goats. Unlike gas-powered mowing equipment, goats remove invasive weeds quietly and without adding more pollution to the air. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this is a pilot program and if it proves to be successful, the goat gardener program will be extended to other areas of New York. Faith Lapidus narrates.
    Video

    Video Scientists in Poland Race to Save Honeybees

    Honeybees are in danger worldwide. Causes of what's known as colony collapse disorder range from pesticides and loss of habitat to infections. But scientists in Poland say they are on track to finding a cure for one of the diseases. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Wall Already Runs Along Parts of US-Mexico Border

    The Republican Party’s presidential nominee, Donald Trump, gained the support of many voters by saying he would build a wall to keep undocumented immigrants and drugs from coming across the border from Mexico. Critics have called his idea impractical and offensive to Mexico, while supporters say such a bold approach is needed to control the border. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from the border town of Nogales, Arizona.
    Video

    Video New HIV Tests Emphasize Rapid Results

    As the global fight against AIDS intensifies, activists have placed increasing importance on getting people to know their HIV status. Some companies are developing new HIV testing methods designed to be quick, easy and accurate. Thuso Khumalo looks at the latest methods, presented at the International AIDS conference in Durban, South Africa.
    Video

    Video African Youth with HIV Urge More Support

    HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, is the top killer of teens in sub-Saharan Africa. But many youths say their experience with the virus is unique and needs to be addressed differently than the adult epidemic. VOA South African Correspondent Anita Powell reports.
    Video

    Video Pop-Up Art Comes to Your Living Room, Backyard and Elsewhere

    Around the world, independent artists and musicians wrestle with a common problem: where to exhibit or perform? Traditional spaces such as museums and galleries are reserved for bigger names, and renting a space is not feasible for many. Enter ArtsUp, which connects artists with venue owners. Whether it’s a living room, restaurant, office or even a boat, pop-up events are bringing music and art to unexpected places. Tina Trinh has more.
    Video

    Video Scotland’s Booming Whisky Industry Fears Brexit Hangover

    After Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, Scotland’s government wants to break away from the United Kingdom – fearing the nation’s exports are at risk. Among the biggest of these is whisky. Henry Ridgwell reports on a time of turmoil for those involved in the ancient art of distilling Scotland’s most famous product.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora