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Medvedev’s assertiveness troubles Putin

Published: December 30 2008 17:51 | Last updated: December 30 2008 17:51

It was an innocuous sounding comment in what appeared to be a routine television interview. But in the six days since Dmitry Medvedev, Russia’s president, described his feelings about taking the oath of office in May, the corridors of power have been buzzing.

“The final responsibility for what happens in the country and for the important decisions taken would rest on my shoulders alone and I would not be able to share this responsibility with anyone,” Mr Medvedev told an interviewer.

Usually when discussing such matters he stresses his “consultation” with Vladimir Putin, the prime minister and former president, who all but installed Mr Medvedev in his job and is thought to take most of the big decisions. But this time Mr Medvedev stressed that he was the single constitutionally empowered decision-maker.

Kremlin watchers say this assertiveness seems to be part of a new pattern, with Mr Medvedev appearing frustrated that, in spite of his constitutional power as commander in chief, he is stuck in a subordinate role.

“An apprehension is growing on both sides, particularly the Putin side,” said Dmitry Simes, head of the Nixon Centre in Washington, who spent last week in Moscow.

“No one is quoting Putin as saying anything . . .  But several of Putin’s associates are uneasy about his [Medvedev’s] new assertiveness.”

Mr Simes said Mr Medvedev had summoned cabinet members and given instructions. “Clearly it was Medvedev reaching out to members of the cabinet on economic issues which normally would be considered Putin’s prerogative.”

A Putin adviser said Mr Medvedev’s remarks in the interview demonstrated a “cavalier” attitude. Mr Simes said: “Medvedev sounded very self-confident. He was not very deferential.”

Personal relations between the two men are warm, but most attempts by Mr Medvedev to pursue independent policies have been thwarted. Anti-corruption measures he championed were changed by Russia’s usually supine parliament in October. According to Russian press reports, plans by Mr Medvedev to appoint independent judges were thwarted by Putin allies.

Mr Medvedev’s big legislative success has been a constitutional change to lengthen the presidential term from four to six years, which has sailed through the approval process. The reason? “Everyone understood that this was Putin’s idea,” said the Russian-language version of Newsweek

Dmitri Trenin, director of the Carnegie Moscow Centre think-tank, said: “I don’t think he [Medvedev] is amused that. . . he is regarded as a junior partner.”

However, the economic crisis could test both men. Lilya Shevtsova of the Carnegie Centre said: “They both understand that the. . . system of power depends on them getting along.”

czwartek, 01 stycznia 2009, sublime86

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