Who is Mister Medvedev?

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In the wake of Russian President Dmitri Medvedev’s first year in office, Russia’s pundits have discussed the changes in Russia’s political system at length.  Many have pointed to certain steps taken by Medvedev -such as meeting with human rights activists and granting an interview to the openly critical Novaya Gazeta newspaper- which seem to indicate that a liberalization is on the horizon.  Questioning this conclusion, commentator Irina Pavlova compares these fleeting signals with actions taken on Medvedev’s watch that have already had a profound effect on Russia’s future.  The article first ran in the Grani.ru online newspaper.

Who is Mister Medvedev?
May 27, 2009
Irina Pavlova

Plenty has been said and written about the recent anniversary of Dmitri Medvedev’s presidency.  The apologists sing their praises for the appearance of a tandem, seeing in it the signs of a new style of Russian politics and the seed of a future separation of powers.  The critics, both in Russia and the West, conversely lend the heaviest meaning to any hints of division in the tandem, still hoping that Medvedev will become a monocratic leader and start to modernize the country (although truth be told, the patriot-defenders see modernization in one way, and the liberals in another).  “The process of political modernization of the Russian government”, writes one author of the Yezhednevny Zhurnal [online newspaper], “needs a leader.  Will President Medvedev have enough courage, political will and public liability to have a clear break from the corrupt bureaucracy?  In many ways, Russia’s future depends on it.”

And so, hope still nurtures those who are ready to speak out with calls of “Premier Putin must resign!,” “All authority to President Medvedev!”  In reasoning this way, however, it is a good idea to keep in mind what is really happening in the country, so as not to be too surprised later.  I’ve had the occasion to write more than once that the current system of power works by the rules of a conspiracy.  Major decisions are made by a secret Politburo, and most of these decisions, which lead to some movement in the “gears” of the vertical of power, are secret.  We only learn of them when they start to materialize.  Aside from that, I have conjectured that the most unpopular decisions of this regime would be connected with Medvedev, and furthermore that he himself would have to cover them.

In such a system of rule, the right words about freedom and lack of freedom, about justice in a law-based state, about the necessary battle with corruption, as well as actions like meeting with human rights activists, an interview with Novaya Gazeta, and so forth, turn out to be nothing more than disinformation.  This is a strategy particular to a covert regime, taken both to disorient public opinion and cover up for its own actions.

In order to get an insight into the core of Medvedev’s presidency over the past year, I propose to recap not his words, but those acts which have come to the surface during this time.  One must admit that the Russian president has been very active.  Kommersant counted the number of staff appointments during the last year.  It turns out that from May 7, 2008, Medvedev signed off on 373 appointments, while Putin only signed off on 241 in the first year of his presidency.

Thus, without claiming that it’s complete, I’d like to bring attention to the following actions, which have already affected the country’s fate or will affect it in the future:

– clandestine preparations for the armed conflict with Georgia in August 2008.  The formation of the “independent” entities of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.  Occupation of part of Georgia’s territory.  An informational war.  All these actions have already been written into history on account of President Medvedev.

– the creation of a department for countering extremism in the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MVD) in September 2008.  Centers for  countering extremism (the “E” Centers) have been created across the whole country under the jurisdiction of the Central Internal Affairs Directorate (GUVD) and the Department of Internal Affairs (UVD) as part of former branches of the Directorate for Combating Organized Crime (UBOP).

– reinforcing the system of politically motivated investigations in the country.  Under the cover of the work and resources of the criminal investigation department of the Russian Federation MVD, a “Watchdog Surveillance” (storozhevoy kontrol) database has been created, which is used for political purposes.  This has been confirmed, notably, in a court session in Nizhny Novgorod, as well as in an [official] message that [youth activist] Roman Dobrokhotov managed to photograph.

– stepping up the technical resources of the intelligence agencies.  In the words of Vice-Premier Sergei Ivanov, “regarding the intelligence agencies – FSO, FSB, SVR – they are equipped fully, 100 percent.”

– under the president’s initiative, implementing changes to the Constitution that increase the term limits for the president from the current four to six years, and the State Duma – from four to five years.

– waiving elections of the chair of the Constitutional court (KS).  Now, the KS chair and his deputy will be approved by the Federation Council at the president’s proposal.  In other words, they will be dependent on [the president].

– introducing a draft bill “On countering the rehabilitation of nazism, nazi criminals and their supporters on the territory of independent states– the former Republics of the USSR” into the State Duma, as well as the creation of a Presidential Commission for countering attempts to falsify history to the detriment of Russian interests.  Both the future law and the new commission are clearly intended at blocking the way for “incorrect” (in the eyes of our current authorities) interpretations of Soviet and Post-Soviet history.  These initiatives have already been backed both by official historians and the majority of the public, who the authorities have essentially managed to disorient in the last decade.

– taking the course of militarizing the country.  The amount of the state defense order in Russia amounts to 1.3 trillion rubles ($50 bln or €36 bln) in 2009, of which more than 300 billion will go towards purchasing military technology.

– covert preparations for new conflicts with Russia’s neighbors, who do not wish to comply with Moscow’s policy.  Launching a new round in the information war against Georgia.

In my mind, there is enough information to think about.  But let each person make their own conclusions on where the country is headed and what role President Medvedev will play in this process.

translation by theotherrussia.org