Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Russian Opposition Should Support Medvedev Rather than Try to Have Him Fired, Inozemtsev Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, August 9 – At a time when Dmitry Medvedev has become the object of snickers for his comments to pensioners in Crimea and to and when more than 250,000 Russians have signed a petition calling for Vladimir Putin to replace him as prime minister, Vladislav Inozemtsev argues opponents of the Kremlin have compelling reasons to support Medvedev.

            In an article on the Snob portal, the Moscow economist argues that “today, [Medvedev] is acting as the most serious leader of the Russian opposition” and that if something happened to Putin, he would have a better chance than anyone else of pursuing serious and necessary reforms in Russia and in Russia’s relations with the rest of the world (snob.ru/selected/entry/112022).

            Most of the others in Putin’s entourage would continue Putin’s course or even make it worse, while none of the self-proclaimed leaders of the opposition is credible either as a candidate to defeat Putin or as someone with a set of ideas and team that would allow him to do so, Inozemtsev says.

            Consequently, what should be happening in Russia today is the circulation of a petition in support of Medvedev and calling on Putin not only to retain him in office but to listen to his advice.  “But this of course could happen,” the Moscow economist says, “only if there were in Russia people who are rational. Judging from everything, they remain fewer and fewer.”

            While Inozemtsev concedes that the past is not necessary a guide to the future, he suggests that Medvedev’s policies when he served as president or at least his statements about what he wanted to do for Russia and with the rest of the world at that time provide compelling reasons why those who want a better future for the country should support him.

            First of all, he points out, when Medvedev became president in 2008, he stopped talking about “’raising Russia from its knees’” and “’affirming its statehood’’ and directly asserted that “an ‘energy superpower’ in fact is not in a position to compete in the contemporary world.” Moreover, he called for “an immediate modernization of the Russian economy.”

            Of course, given Putin’s power even then, Medvedev was not able to make much progress in that direction, “but who now would insist that Dmitry Anatolyevich was wrong?” Were he president after Putin left the scene, there is every reason to think he would pursue those policies rather than the ones of the current Kremlin incumbent.

            Moreover, Inozemtsev notes, “during his years in office, Medvedev showed himself to be a consistent supporter of rapprochement with the West.”  He limited the fallout from the Georgian war, and he improved ties with both Europe and the United States. And that had real consequences.

            “The level of political tension between Russia and the rest of the world was the lowest in the 21st century, and activity in the sphere of mutual investment and scientific and technical exchanges was the highest,” Inozemtsev says. And it was not unimportant that under Medvedev, words had their proper meaning: “Democracy was called democracy and dictators dictators.”

            Third, during his time in office, Medvedev significantly broadened the field of active politics in Russia. Without his actions, the demonstrations of 2011 would not have happened.  He “decriminalized dozens of economic ‘crimes,’ significantly weakened pressure on business, and sought to put the all-powerful state corporations on a market basis.”

            And fourth, the Moscow commentator says, he reduced corruption or at least eliminated most of its public flaunting.  There was nothing like the corruption now on public view.  In short, Inozemtsev says, Medvedev did what the opposition says it wants to do and has a better chance to do it again if he remains in his current office and ascends to a higher one.

            For that reason alone, the economist concludes, the current prime minister with all of his shortcomings should be seen not as a joke to be dismissed but as the man the opposition should support in the hope that he will eventually be in a position to achieve what he tried to achieve earlier. 

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