By Andrew Roth
As Russia settles in for a third presidential term under current Prime Minister Vladimir Putin following elections next March, foreign leaders have expressed their readiness, if not enthusiastically, to continue cooperating with Russia’s returning leader. While fears that the next Putin presidency may mark a return to the strained relations between Russia and its foreign partners during the mid-2000s, analysts stress that the shift is more likely to be in the tone of Russia’s foreign policy rather than in its actual agenda.
While the long-awaited news has finally broken, there remain some unanswered questions about Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s inevitable return to the presidency. Foremost among them: what will happen now to President Dmitry Medvedev? Rumors circulated that the Kremlin’s effort to keep silent on a candidacy announcement was meant to prevent Medvedev from becoming a lame duck, but it seems as though that prospect is all but inevitable. Officially, Medvedev has been slated to replace Putin at his current post as prime minister, but unofficially, analysts say he should prepare for a backseat role like never before – one which he may already be assuming.
By Tai Adelaja
President Dmitry Medvedev headed north to Murmansk on Wednesday to witness a milestone in his continued efforts to achieve geo-political gains following a landmark border deal struck between Russia and Norway, which ended a long-running dispute over their maritime border in the Barents Sea. The president was joined by Jens Stoltenberg, the Norwegian prime minister at the signing of the treaty, which analysts say underscores Kremlin’s new policy approach to its neighbors.
Introduced by Vladimir Frolov
President Dmitry Medvedev, delivering a keynote address at the annual economic forum in his home town of St. Petersburg last week, told the world’s business leaders that Russia has already changed for the better and that it is serious about economic reform to secure a boom in foreign investment to modernize its economy. He also reshuffled the state’s informal hierarchy of adjectives, for the first time putting “flexibility, adaptability” ahead of the “stability” favored by Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. Does this signal a political reform to go alongside the economic change? Is this really change one can believe in?
Dmitry Medvedev (Дмитрий Анатольевич Медведев) was born September 14, 1965 in Leningrad (now St. Petersburg). A lawyer and politician, he was elected Russian president in March 2008, winning over 70 percent of the vote. In September 2011 he backed his predecessor Vladimir Putin to return to the Kremlin in 2012, and is now expected to be asked by Putin to serve as prime minister following his reelection.
Medvedev, whose parents were both university professors, grew up in the Kupchino suburb of Leningrad. Despite encouragement from his parents to follow his father Anatoly, who was a physicist, into science, he pursued a career in law.
In 1982 Medvedev started law school at Leningrad State University, studying under future Mayor of St. Petersburg Anatoly Sobchak. Sobchak became a mentor to Medvedev, as he was to his presidential predecessor Vladimir Putin.
Medvedev graduated in 1987 and three years later received his PhD, having specialized in private, corporate and securities law. In his youth, Medvedev developed an interest in foreign rock music and collected illegal copies of albums by groups like Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple.
While working toward his PhD, Medvedev worked on Sobchak’s campaign to be elected to the Soviet Congress of People’s Deputies in 1989. A democrat who advocated free markets, Sobchak proved unpopular with the KGB, who destroyed his campaign literature. Even so, Sobchak won the election.
Medvedev remained part of Sobchak’s team, which was to work on developing a new legal framework for modern Russia. In 1990 Sobchak was elected to the Leningrad City Council, introducing mayoral appointment by election. In the city’s first such election, held in June 1991, Sobchak won. Medvedev continued to advise him in this new position, and started working with the Committee for External Affairs, which was then run by Vladimir Putin.
This was to mark the beginning of long-term cooperation between Putin and Medvedev, culminating in their ruling tandem which came into power in 2008. While Sobchak was serving as mayor, he was also writing a constitution for the Russian Federation and laying the legal foundation for the new government. This gave his deputies, such as Putin, much of the day-to-day responsibilities of running the city. While Putin negotiated sale of city property and dealt with foreign officials, Medvedev continued to offer legal advice. This continued until 1996, when Sobchak was ousted by Vladimir Yakovlev, in an election that was mired by corruption allegations.
In addition to his work in government, throughout the 1990s Medevedev published textbooks and a guide to the civil code, while running his own private legal practice. He also played an active role as advisor to businesses, such as; pulp and paper firm Ilim Pulp, which he joined in 1993 as legal director; and Bratsky Forestry Complex, where he was appointed chairman of the board of directors in 1998; as well as the Rus insurance company, where he was a consultant to Vladislav Reznik, who would later serve in Vladimir Putin’s government. With former colleagues from Leningrad State University, Medvedev also set up a consultancy firm called Balfort.
In 2000 Medvedev capitalized on his experience in government, business and law to become chairman of the board of directors of Gazprom. During his time at Gazprom, the company took control of the television channel NTV, and was at the center of gas wars with neighboring Ukraine and Belarus. During his tenure Gazprom also considered a merger with Rosneft, which went on to buy up defunct oil company Yukos’ assets.
When Putin became prime minister in 1999, he invited Medvedev to join him in Moscow as head of the government administration. One month later, following Yeltsin’s resignation and Putin’s promotion to president, Medvedev was appointed deputy head of the presidential administration. Medvedev also ran Putin’s 2000 presidential election campaign.
In the early years of Putin’s first presidential term, Medvedev headed a commission which oversaw drafting legislation to overhaul the civil service and judicial system. Medvedev avoided in-fighting in the Kremlin between security service officials and Alexander Voloshin, Putin’s chief of staff and one of Yeltsin’s key associates. When Voloshin resigned in October 2003, Medvedev replaced him.
Two years later, Medvedev was made deputy prime minister in charge of the National Priority Projects. These included wage increases and investment in education and health care, which was to boost Medvedev’s profile and win him media attention.
By the middle of Putin’s second term, speculation about who would replace him as president was widespread. Alongside Medvedev, fellow Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov and Prime Minister Viktor Zubkov were touted as contenders.
In December 2007, Putin publicly backed Medvedev, and he was formally nominated by the United Russia party two weeks later. Medvedev immediately announced he would ask Putin to serve as his prime minister if elected.
Medvedev was elected president on March 2, 2008, winning just over 70 percent of the vote. Some election monitors pointed to the disparity in media coverage granted to the candidates as unfair, but most pronounced elections free and fair. The OSCE refused to monitor the elections.
Medvedev is seen as a more liberal leader than his predecessor, stressing modernization of the economy and the need for improvements to Russia’s human rights record. He brought a few key allies to his administration, including Minister for Economic Development Elvira Nabiullina, and Minister for Regional Development Dmitry Kozak, and has pushed development of hi-tech hub Skolkovo as one of his pet projects.
The first year of Medvedev’s presidency, 2008, was dominated by two major issues: the economic crisis which hit Russia; and Russia’s involvement in the South Ossetian War. Following the end of hostilities in the South Ossetian War, Medvedev recognized the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia by presidential decree.
In November 2008, Medvedev passed amendments to the duration of presidential and State Duma terms, increasing them from four to six and five years respectively. Already in force, the amended terms will apply to those elected to office in parliamentary elections in December 2010 and presidential elections in March 2012.
In March 2009 Medvedev announced plans to reform the civil service in line with his mission to stamp out corruption. He has also pushed for the removal of state officials from major state-controlled corporations. He increased presidential influence over the Constitutional Court in summer 2009, amending the law so that the chairperson of the Constitutional Court and his deputies would be nominated by the president, rather than elected by fellow judges as was previously the case. In May 2009, Medvedev set up the Presidential Commission of the Russian Federation to Counter Attempts to Falsify History to the Detriment of Russia's Interests. He also created the Department of Counteraction to Extremism in 2008, a subdivision of the Interior Ministry.
On September 24, 2011 during the United Russia party conference, Medvedev announced that he will back Vladimir Putin for president in 2012 elections. In turn Putin then announced that he would appoint Medvedev prime minister in a new government if his bid to return to the presidency is successful. In the wake of this announcement, Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin tended his resignation, saying that he would not work in a government under Medvedev, partly due to his plan to significantly increase military spending.
Medvedev is married to Svetlana, whom he met in seventh grade and the couple has one son, Ilya, who was born in 1996. Medvedev was baptized into the Orthodox faith at the age of 23. Medvedev continues to listen to the music of bands such as Deep Purple, and in contrast to Putin, is more often pictured with the latest gadgets than Russia’s endangered species or in hard-man poses.