Medvedev's speech: breakthrough or decoy?

Russia’s president — that would be the guy who isn’t Putin — gave a truly remarkable speech to the country’s parliament this week, decrying the country’s decline, its “humiliating” reliance on natural resources, its sham democracy, its reliance on the Soviet legacy, its failure to make the transition to a knowledge economy. Vlad Putin squirmed in the front row as his nominal boss essentially called him a failure.

Most of the coverage has been like this Reuters piece, which points out all of Medvedev’s most provocative statements. Could this be a turning point? A power struggle at the top in a fragile and dangerous Russia? Maybe not. In Foreign Policy, Julia Ioffe suggests it was all for show. One example out of many:

And then came the real zinger. “Strengthening democracy does not mean weakening the social order,” he said, adding that “any attempts, under democratic slogans, to … destabilize the government and fracture society will be intercepted.” It sounded chilling enough to negate all prior talk of political thaw.

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