The Malleable Mr. Medvedev

If one is selective with the evidence, a semi-reasonable case can be built for those desperate enough to believe that Dmitri Medvedev will be more “reasonable” and easier to deal with than Vladimir Putin. In fact, Medvedev has almost no room for maneuver, despite holding one of the most powerful presidencies in the world.

LONDON – As Dmitri Medvedev waits in the wings for his inauguration on May 7, the West is examining his every word, eager for the slightest sign that Russia’s new president will be more “reasonable” and easier to deal with than Vladimir Putin, the man who got him elected.

If one is selective with the evidence, a semi-reasonable case can be built for those desperate enough to believe it. Medvedev was in his twenties when the Soviet Union broke up, and thus is less “contaminated” by a Soviet mentality. He is a fluent English speaker who does not have a secret-service background and has been dealing with the West for almost a decade as the Russian energy industry’s leading figure. Moreover, he is a lawyer by training – presumably instilling in him at least some respect for the rule of law – and his pronouncements and interviews thus far have been largely moderate, even liberal­.

Unfortunately, however, words mean almost nothing in such a Byzantine country. In fact, Medvedev will be Russia’s most malleable leader since Tsar Nicholas II. While Medvedev’s liberal instincts are debatable, the forces arrayed against him not in doubt are: the Sechin clan, the Cherkessov clan, the siloviki of the military and security services, his rivals who he beat to the top job, and of course, his predecessor and mentor, Putin.

To continue reading, please log in or enter your email address.

Registration is quick and easy and requires only your email address. If you already have an account with us, please log in. Or subscribe now for unlimited access.


Log in;
  1. An employee works at a chemical fiber weaving company VCG/Getty Images

    China in the Lead?

    For four decades, China has achieved unprecedented economic growth under a centralized, authoritarian political system, far outpacing growth in the Western liberal democracies. So, is Chinese President Xi Jinping right to double down on authoritarianism, and is the “China model” truly a viable rival to Western-style democratic capitalism?

  2. The assembly line at Ford Bill Pugliano/Getty Images

    Whither the Multilateral Trading System?

    The global economy today is dominated by three major players – China, the EU, and the US – with roughly equal trading volumes and limited incentive to fight for the rules-based global trading system. With cooperation unlikely, the world should prepare itself for the erosion of the World Trade Organization.

  3. Donald Trump Saul Loeb/Getty Images

    The Globalization of Our Discontent

    Globalization, which was supposed to benefit developed and developing countries alike, is now reviled almost everywhere, as the political backlash in Europe and the US has shown. The challenge is to minimize the risk that the backlash will intensify, and that starts by understanding – and avoiding – past mistakes.

  4. A general view of the Corn Market in the City of Manchester Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

    A Better British Story

    Despite all of the doom and gloom over the United Kingdom's impending withdrawal from the European Union, key manufacturing indicators are at their highest levels in four years, and the mood for investment may be improving. While parts of the UK are certainly weakening economically, others may finally be overcoming longstanding challenges.

  5. UK supermarket Waring Abbott/Getty Images

    The UK’s Multilateral Trade Future

    With Brexit looming, the UK has no choice but to redesign its future trading relationships. As a major producer of sophisticated components, its long-term trade strategy should focus on gaining deep and unfettered access to integrated cross-border supply chains – and that means adopting a multilateral approach.

  6. The Year Ahead 2018

    The world’s leading thinkers and policymakers examine what’s come apart in the past year, and anticipate what will define the year ahead.

    Order now