US Attitude on Elections in Russia: Ariel Cohen

US Attitude on Elections in Russia: Ariel Cohen

Baku, Azerbaijan, 1 March / Trend corr. A Gasimova / We are pleased to introduce you to analytic view of Ariel Cohen, Ph.D. , is Senior Research Fellow at The Heritage Foundation on the presidential elections in Russia scheduled for 2 March.

Last December Russian President Vladimir Putin chose Dmitry Medvedev, a first deputy prime minister, to succeed him in the country's presidency. March 2 presidential elections are anti-climactic, as they are going to ratify this choice, and as Medvedev is the only candidate likely to win.

Like in 2004, these are elections are without a real choice, in which one voter has cast his crucial ballot - Mr. Putin himself. The elections may have a democratic facade, but not substance.

Putin's great trust in Medvedev, who at 42 is 13 years younger than the Russian president, comes from a 17 years acquaintance and collegial relations with his successor. Medvedev was Putin's legal counsel, chief of staff, Chairman of Gazprom, and First Deputy Prime Minister. But he always was subordinate to his mentor and patron.

Putin's desire to remain in power while putting up Medvedev as a figurehead, has led the Kremlin to make sure that the democratic opposition would not pose a serious challenge. With liberal politicians Boris Nemtsov and Garry Kasparov maneuvered out of running, the Russian Central Election Commission disallowed Mikhail Kasyanov, the former Premier, to run.

Besides Medvedev, there are three other candidates for the presidency.  The two veteran post-Soviet politicians, the Communist Party's leader Gennady Zyuganov, and the Liberal Democratic Party's Vladimir Zhirinovsky, are "niche" politicians unlikely to get more than 15-20 percent of the vote each. Pro-Kremlin Andrei Bogdanov of the tiny Russian Democratic Party is not a serious contender.

The state's control of the media would ensure Medvedev would get lots of publicity. His 73% popular support in the latest opinion poll, together with Putin's high level of popularity, show the majority of the Russian people is content with the status quo, in which the state is allowed to flex its muscle, often in violation of the letter and spirit of the law and the constitution.        

Putin gave further indications that he wants to remain at Russia's helm during his press conference of February 14. He made clear that the Cabinet, led by the prime minister, will be dominant as far as implementing policy is concerned. Thus, he stated that "the highest executive power in the country is in the hands of the Cabinet. There are enough powers to go around and...[Medvedev] and I will divide them between ourselves."

Putin said that the "Cabinet" is in charge of running the economy, of dealing with the social problems of the country, and of "ensuring our country's defence and security." In terms of how long Putin might be staying in power, he said: "I formulated the objectives for the development of Russia from 2010 to 2020," and that "if I see that I can realize these goals in this position [of prime minister], then I will work as long as this is possible."

When asked if Putin would hang in his office President Medvedev's portrait or his own, Putin revealingly answered that as prime minister "I do not have to bow to [Medvedev's] portraits." Putin might be the prime minister in a President Medvedev administration, but he will be the senior figure in terms of political capital and the execution of government policy.

What about Medvedev's plans for Russia? Medvedev's speech at the Krasnoyarsk Economic Forum on February 15 has been widely hailed as liberal. He declared that his government platform is founded on the belief that "freedom is better than no-freedom" under the law. He stated that "ensuring that the judicial system is truly independent" is one of his policy objectives.

Medvedev outlined his reform priorities as the "four eyes": "Institutions, Infrastructure, Innovation, and Investment." Regarding Institutions, Medvedev proposed to reduce the number of government employees, to transfer tasks from the state to the private sector, and to combat corruption. Medvedev also stressed the need to lower the tax burden on businesses as part of his Innovation and Investment goals. 

Nonetheless, many experts and foreign diplomats are unsure as to how liberal Medvedev is. Inviting Deep Purple for a Kremlin concert may not be enough. As Chairman of Gazprom's board, he certainly used a hard-line approach when dealing with countries opposing Moscow's policies and energy interests. Claiming "free market price formation" Gazprom cut gas supplies to Ukraine in early 2006, interrupting, in the middle of winter, the flow of gas to a number of countries in the European Union.

The Russian gas monopoly's appetite for expansion into non-energy sectors of the Russian economy led German Gref, then Russian Economic Development Minister, to complain that "if all Gazprom's assets, which are already worth over $300 billion, ...are used across all economic sectors, we will find ourselves with the 19th century-style monopolistic state capitalism." Medvedev seems to back Putin's support for the "national champions," giant state-controlled companies with a decisive influence in the national economy.

The US and its allies will need to watch the Putin-Medvedev tandem carefully. Putin wants Medvedev viewed as a more liberal and independent player, who is more palatable to the West, in order to allow Russian companies to expand their investments in Europe and other OSCE countries.

However, unless there are clear signs that President Medvedev takes charge of Russia's defense and foreign policies, it would be safe to assume that Putin and the siloviki (the top power brokers from Russia's security services and the military) will continue business as usual. This includes a confrontational approach on Kosovo, opposition to missile defense deployment in Poland, abrogation of the Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty, heavy handed approach to Ukraine and Georgia, and an anti-Western campaign at home. Both the Bush Administration and its successor will have their hands full dealing with an anti-status quo Russia which remains under Vladimir Putin's control for years to come.

Subscribe to Trend in Google News! Subscribe
Iran's relations with Tajikistan to continue in full force – President of Iran
Iran's relations with Tajikistan to continue in full force – President of Iran
Kazakhstan unveils trade indicators with top largest CIS partners
Kazakhstan unveils trade indicators with top largest CIS partners
Uzbekistan shares COVID-19 data for November 18
Uzbekistan shares COVID-19 data for November 18
Loading Bars
On behalf of FIG, I express our sincere gratitude to all ones involved in organizing these two weeks of Trampoline Gymnastics in Baku - Vice President of Trampoline Technical Committee of FIG
According to preliminary results 6 parties may enter Kyrgyz Parliament
Saakashvili can attend tomorrow's trial on November 7 episode, doctor says
There should be no misunderstanding in Azerbaijan-Iran relationship - Iranian president
Position of all Iranian officials in state structures was that Azerbaijan's territorial integrity must be ensured - President of Iran
We decided that from now on, Iranian-Azerbaijani relations will develop in all areas - President Ilham Aliyev
Visit of President Ilham Aliyev to Turkmenistan ends
Azerbaijan, Iran and Turkmenistan sign swap gas supplies agreement (PHOTO)
Kyrgyzstan will strive to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050, president
Omicron variant spreads with cases detected in Netherlands, Denmark, Australia
Azerbaijan really succeeded in restoring country's sovereignty and territorial integrity - President of Turkmenistan
President Ilham Aliyev met with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (PHOTO/VIDEO)
Russian gymnast wins gold at FIG Trampoline Gymnastics World Age Group Competitions in individual trampoline jumping program
Three allies of Armenia in CSTO congratulate Azerbaijan on restoration of territorial integrity - opinion of Israeli expert
Next meeting of Azerbaijan-Pakistan intergovernmental commission to be held soon
President Ilham Aliyev met with Iranian President Seyyed Ebrahim Raisi (PHOTO)
Azerbaijan shares data on number of vaccinated citizens
President Ilham Aliyev met with Tajik President Emomali Rahmon (PHOTO/VIDEO)
Azerbaijan confirms 1,662 more COVID-19 cases, 2,391 recoveries
Iran wants to hold meeting of joint economic cooperation commission with Kazakhstan – FM
Iran reveals COVID-19 data for November 28
President Ilham Aliyev meets with Pakistani President Arif Alvi (PHOTO/VIDEO)
ECO must be ready for challenges of modern world - President of Kyrgyzstan
Iran interested in comprehensively developing relations with Pakistan – Raisi
Importance of Zangazur corridor is obvious - Turkish President
Iran's relations with Tajikistan to continue in full force – President of Iran
Azerbaijan's achievements highly appreciated by international institutions - President Ilham Aliyev
In total disrespect and hatred to all Muslims, Armenia destroyed and desecrated our mosques - President Ilham Aliyev
President Ilham Aliyev takes part in official dinner in honor of participants of 15th Summit of Economic Cooperation Organization
Over 60% of adult population in country received two shots - Azerbaijani president
Finalists in individual trampoline among women announced at 28th FIG World Age Group Competitions in Baku
Iran fully supports the ECO
Iran seeks to promote ties with Turkmenistan - Iranian President
Azerbaijani servicemen suffer in mine explosion in Fuzuli district
Problem loans in Azerbaijani banks decrease for year
28th FIG Trampoline Gymnastics World Age Group Competitions continue in Baku (PHOTO)
Number of client accounts in Azerbaijani banks increases
Turkey discloses volume of cargo transshipped via Zonguldak port in 9M2021
Iran eyes increase in exports via customs of Markazi Province
Finalists in individual trampoline among men announced at 28th FIG World Age Group Competitions in Baku
Close relations between Iran, Azerbaijan, Turkey are important – Iranian President
Presidents of Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan discuss current areas of bilateral relations
Azerbaijan provided financial and humanitarian assistance to about 80 countries to support their fight against coronavirus - President Ilham Aliyev
Azerbaijan to allocate at least $1.3 billion for building new cities and towns in liberated territories in 2022 - President Ilham Aliyev
Our strategic foreign exchange reserves exceed our state external debt by over six times - President Ilham Aliyev
Over past 18 years, economy of Azerbaijan developed rapidly - President Ilham Aliyev
Finalists in double mini trampoline among women announced at 28th FIG World Age Group Competitions in Baku
Today I can say that Zangazur corridor becomes reality - President Aliyev (FULL SPEECH)
Confident that ECO Member States will benefit from Zangazur corridor - President Ilham Aliyev
Azerbaijan achieved favourable investment climate as result of large-scale reforms - President Ilham Aliyev
Finalists in tumbling among men announced at 28th FIG Trampoline Gymnastics World Age Group Competitions in Baku
Australia confirms two cases of Omicron COVID-19 variant
Zangazur Corridor to contribute to economic development of region - Turkish FM
President Ilham Aliyev participating in 15th Summit of Heads of ECO member-states in Turkmenistan (PHOTO/VIDEO)
Azerbaijani Defense Ministry presents weekly review (VIDEO)
Final day of 28th FIG Trampoline Gymnastics World Age Group Competitions starts at National Gymnastics Arena in Baku (PHOTO)
President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev arrives in Turkmenistan for visit (PHOTO/VIDEO)
Azerbaijani, Iranian FMs meet at Economic Cooperation Council's meeting in Ashgabat
Georgia imposes new regulations for citizens from 8 countries
Turkey, Turkmenistan sign deals, strengthen ties in Erdoğan's visit
Indonesia bans arrivals from 8 African countries to curb Omicron variant
Volume of goods loaded/unloaded in Iranian ports up
Azerbaijan’s 10M2021 volume of loans issued to energy, chemistry and natural resources decreases
Kyrgyz president leaves for Turkmenistan for working visit
Kyrgyzstan adds 41 fresh COVID-19 cases
Access to finance remains major challenge for small businesses in Georgia - IFC
847 more COVID-19 cases reported in Kazakhstan
Parliamentary elections begin in Kyrgyzstan
Cooperation with regional countries, Iran’s top priority - İranian president
Spanish police march in Madrid to protest against 'Gag Law' reform
Storm Arwen: Third person dies as gale-force winds hit UK
U.S. imposes travel ban from eight African countries over Omicron variant
Israel to ban entry of foreigners from all countries over Omicron
Saudi Arabia allows entry of all travelers who received one dose of COVID-19 vaccine
Two workers die in accident preparing Spanish stadium for cup game
Iran's Energy Exchange announces products to be on sale on November 28
UK, Germany and Italy detect Omicron coronavirus variant cases
Results of Sochi summit fully reflect position of Azerbaijan - Russian expert
Awarding ceremony third day held as part of 28th FIG Trampoline Gymnastics World Age Group Competitions in Baku (PHOTOS)
Winners in synchronized trampoline jumping at 28th FIG Trampoline Gymnastics World Age Group Competitions in Baku determined
Baku names winners of World Age Group Competitions in jumping on double mini-trampoline for men
28th FIG Trampoline Gymnastics World Age Group Competitions: Russian gymnast takes first place in tumbling
Baku names winners of World Age Group Competitions in jumping on double mini-trampoline for women
Azercell announces contest on social network
Gymnast from Kazakhstan win gold in acrobatic jumping at 28th FIG Trampoline Gymnastics World Age Group Competitions
Best moments of third day of the World Age Group Competitions in Trampoline Gymnastics and Tumbling in Baku (PHOTOS)
World age group competition in Baku - Russian gymnast wins first place in individual trampoline jumping
Russian gymnast wins gold in individual trampoline jumping in Baku
Turkmenistan boosts imports of electrical goods from Turkey
Turkmenistan agrees to participate in Lapis-Lazuli project
Smoking to be banned in taxis in Georgia
Iran’s Bahar Azadi gold coin price rebounds
11,358 people received COVID-19 vaccine in Kyrgyzstan over past day
Prepared hard for the 28th World Competition in Baku - athlete from Denmark
Finalists in synchronized trampoline jumping among men and women announced at 28th FIG World Age Group Competitions in Baku
Finalists in individual trampoline jumping among men announced at 28th FIG World Age Group Competitions in Baku
Azerbaijan expects mutual steps from Armenia towards achieving peace - FM
Azerbaijani, Turkish FMs meet at Economic Cooperation Council's meeting in Ashgabat
Phone conversation held between Presidents of Azerbaijan and Belarus
Azerbaijan shares data on number of vaccinated citizens
All news