Dmitri Medvedev

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Prime Minister of the Russian Federation

Early Years and Education

You were born and raised in Leningrad (now Saint Petersburg), Soviet Union (now Russia) in 1965. Your parents are both college professors so adolescent life for you in the former Soviet Union was neither privileged nor difficult. You excelled in school, taking little interest in sports or other distractions. You were somewhat distracted, however, by your seventh grade sweetheart and future wife, Svetlana. Additionally, you developed a fascination for British hard rock music of the period, with particular interest in bands like Deep Purple and Pink Floyd. You joined many other youth in your generation at the time who ran the risk of "facing the music" with the ruling Communist Party authorities who strongly discouraged any Western influences. Speaking of the Communist Party, you never joined, as was encouraged until its fall (along with the rest of the Soviet Union) in 1991. To this day, you remain unaffiliated with any political party. You graduated from Leningrad State University in 1987 with a Bachelors in Law degree. Then you continued at the university, earning your Juris Doctorate in Private Law in 1990. This was a quintessentially defining time for you and your nation as the former Soviet Union was on the verge of breaking apart and many--including you--were looking to the West for guidance in recreating a Russian state and economy. One of your professors and mentors was Anatoly Sobchak, who was a key player in the movement to redefine Russia and eventually the first democratically-elected mayor of Saint Petersburg (guess who was a member of his election campaign?) In a country that was learning about democracy, you were an early pioneer. Next, you followed in your parent's footsteps and became a professor of law at your alma mater, the newly renamed Saint Petersburg State University. You remained in this position from 1991 through 1999. However, teaching was not enough for you. Throughout the 1990s, you moonlighted in the mayor's office (remember that your mentor was now mayor!) and worked with the city council of Saint Petersburg as an advisor. Here for the first time you met the man who would take you to the top of the Russian political system, Vladimir Putin. With Putin as your boss and new mentor, you leapfrogged throughout the halls of power in Saint Petersburg, and later Moscow, on a 15 year journey culminating in the presidency!

Public Life

Well, despite what some pundits express, you did not just suddenly become the leader of one of the most powerful nations on earth. Although your rise to power was meteoric in comparison to most of the world's leading politicians, it did not come without paying your dues and working very, very hard. In fact your work ethic and attention to detail are quite well-known even outside of the walls of the Kremlin. Yet, you are the first to credit your sponsor and mentor, Vladimir Putin, for your rapid ascension. After spending most of the decade working as an advisor in the Saint Petersburg city government, you followed Putin to Moscow. Putin at the time was being groomed by former president Boris Yeltsin to be his successor. The end of December 1999 brought Putin into the presidency (as "acting" president) as Yeltsin unexpectedly resigned from office. Putin appointed you his deputy chief of staff. You also served as Putin's presidential campaign chairman in the months leading up to the all but predetermined election in May 2000.  Your patron, President Putin, continued to look after you as he appointed you to the board of directors of Russia's state-controlled energy conglomerate, Gazprom, later in 2000. With Russia's immense oil and natural gas reserves and the rising prices of energy, Gazprom became the largest company in Russia and one of the world's most powerful multi-national corporations. You were there to oversee this tremendous expansion and success as a board member, and you twice served as chairman of the board. You remained on the board of directors until your election to the presidency in 2008. In October 2003, Putin replaced his chief of staff and appointed you to that powerful position, where you acted as one of his closest advisors, and controlled all access to his office. Then, in November 2005, Putin promoted you to First Deputy Prime Minister of Russia. This move is considered by many as Putin's first indication of who he wanted to succeed him as president. To increase the profile of the job, Putin put you in charge of "National Projects" where you were given almost unlimited resources to reform many of Russia's lagging social welfare institutions and rebuild decaying infrastructure. Talk about being set up for success--here you were the face responsible for improving the daily lives of Russians! In December 2007, Putin made the announcement many had long been expecting that you were his chosen successor. This all but assured you the presidency come the May 2008 elections. Indeed, you ended up receiving 79% of the vote. Yet, unlike Yeltsin's transition of power to his protégé Putin, there's a catch in this episode. Putin, an immensely popular president who repeatedly tweaked an already favorable Russian constitution to concentrate even more power in the presidency (via the legislative or judicial branches), probably could have revoked the constitutional mandate limiting presidents to only two terms in office. He elected instead to "give" the presidency to you while he would become prime minister (the president is responsible for appointing the prime minister but it is pretty clear that that decision was made for you). This resulted in your serving one term as President, ending with the March 2012 election that returned Mr. Putin to the presidency and you to the Prime Ministership. By all outward evidence, you handled the situation with competence and grace. Only you and Putin truly knew your relationship and who really "wears the pants" in the Kremlin. 

Domestic Issues of Concern

Until recenty, Russia enjoyed great prosperity. With a weak US dollar, energy prices advancing daily, and Russia's seemingly endless supply of oil, natural gas and minerals, few countries outside of the Middle East have enjoyed such a boom. The global fall in oil prices, in addition to international sanctions imposed after th annexation of Crimea, have to a considerable extent put the brakes on this growth, though after contractions in 2015 and 2016, continued growth in 2017 seems inevitable. Any world leader will tell you that a strong national economy will reduce domestic concerns tenfold. Rampant corruption in government and state-owned enterprises are easily overlooked by your citizens when they are benefiting from increased wages and standards of living. In your "campaign" for president, you did speak on numerous occasions of addressing said corruption, but it is likely that most dismiss those words as empty, given that you are a beneficiary of that same corruption, and your patron certainly did little, if anything, to curb it. You will support Putin's policies of strengthening the presidency, promoting state-controlled companies like Gazprom, and consolidating power in Moscow at the expense of the local and provincial governments in Russia.

Policies and Beliefs Pertaining to the Middle East

You have actually said very little about your policies and beliefs on the Middle East. Again, it is likely that you will continue Putin's foreign policies in general. Like Putin, you often stated that you believe Russia should occupy a position of greater prominence in the world. This is a statement that Western leaders find rather chilling as it sounds reminiscent of what they often found to be the former Soviet Union's aggressive and antagonistic foreign policy during the Cold War. You are at the center of Russia's complex foreign policy pertaining to the Middle East. First, Russia is a member of the "Quartet" with the United States, the European Union (EU) and the United Nations (UN). This entity came into existence in 2002 in response to the advent of the Second Intifada's renewal of violence and bloodshed in Israel and the Occupied Territories. The Quartet's reason for being is to provide a common voice among the world's leading nations with interest in resolving the Arab-Israeli conflict. Although you are a member and support the Quartet in essence, Russia--like many of the other member nations including the US--has also pursued diplomacy and actions outside of that body. Second, Russia sees itself as the international counter to the United States. Perhaps a legacy of the foreign policy of the former Soviet Union, your policy seems to be in lockstep. To be sure, you do not always oppose initiatives of the US or its NATO allies but your country has a penchant for, at best, voicing disapproval and, at worst, completely blocking such initiatives. Examples include your support of the regimes in Iran and in particular Syria, as counterweights to US-allied states such as Israel and Saudi Arabia. In addition, you and Putin expressed great dismay over President Bush's proposed "missile shield," which was to be deployed in the former Soviet satellite states of Poland and the Czech Republic. You believed that such an act was a threat to Russian sovereignty and would provide the US far too much political and military clout in your sphere of influence. While the Obama administration ultimately dropped this plan during the so-called “Russian reset,” in 2009, recent NATO buildup in Eastern Europe following Russian intervention in Ukraine means that the spirit, if not the substance, of this tension is still very much in play. Third, as an extension of the previous policy above, the Soviet Union earned a reputation during the Cold War of supporting Middle Eastern regimes that for various reasons did not like the US. Usually, this stemmed from the United States' blanket support of Israel. In particular, countries like Egypt and Syria--Israel's arch-rivals in the 1967 and 1973 wars--chose to align themselves with the Soviet Union. Some of these relationships are still very close even after the reincarnation of Russia. Israel, almost exclusively supported by the US in those years, was largely shunned by the Soviet Union (though relations have improved somewhat over a shared interest in fighting terrorism). In the end, it is unlikely that Russia's long-standing apprehension toward Israel and its general support for anti-American Arab regimes will dramatically change during your prime ministership. 

Role Playing Notes

You, Prime Minister Medvedev, are a pragmatist, an analyst, and an incredibly intelligent man. You understand your place in the world and for the time being, at least, it is highly unlikely that you will do anything outside of the boundaries Putin has set for you. To wit, you and Putin will determine Russia's path together, with your patron holding the final word. Given Putin's iron grip on the Russian political machine, to say nothing of your profound and well-deserved loyalty to him, you will not dare to cross him. While staying the course with the Quartet (you are not too keen about rocking the boat too much), continue to develop your relationships with the likes of Iran, Syria, Hezbollah and Hamas. You do not agree with all of their policies and actions, but in general they keep things unsettled which keeps the US and Israel off balance. You are NOT against peace and a successful resolution to the Arab-Israeli conflict, but suffice it to say that--contrary to any public announcements you may make--it is not high on your priority list. Try to keep things lively without letting anything spiral out of control. A delicate balancing act of foreign policy to be sure, but one in which you and your countrymen are quite proficient.

References


1. Profile: Dmitri Medvedev, http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/7136556.stm, BBC News, 07 May 2008.

2. Dmitri A. Medvedev, http://www.nndb.com/people/164/000168657/, NNDB.

3. Dmitri Medvedev is sworn in as Russian president, http://www.iht.com/articles/2008/05/07/europe/08russia.2.php, International Herald Tribune, 07 May 2008.

4. Dmitri Medvedev in His Own Words, http://www.nytimes.com/2008/02/28/world/europe/28medspeeches.html?_r=2&pagewanted=1&oref=slogin, The New York Times, 28 February 2008.

5. Dmitri Medvedev, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dmitry_Medvedev, Wikipedia, last modified 18 August 2008.

6. For Russia, a Second Center of Power, http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/story/2008/05/07/ST2008050700900.html, The Washington Post, 08 May 2008.

7. President of Russia, http://www.kremlin.ru/eng/articles/D_Medvedev.shtml, official website of the Russian Federation.

8. 'Puppet President' Dmitri Medvedev takes power in Putin job swap, http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/europe/article3882798.ece, Times Online, 07 May 2008.

9. Putin, Medvedev, and Israel, http://www.metimes.com/International/2008/02/06/putin_medvedev_and_israel/3116/, The Middle East Times, 06 February 2008.

10. A Second Gorbachev?, http://www.prospect-magazine.co.uk/article_details.php?id=10084, Prospect Magazine Online, March 2008.

11. Dmitry Medvedev: Russia's new Kennedy?, http://www.worldsecuritynetwork.com/showArticle3.cfm?article_id=15527&topicID=30, World Security Network, 27 February 2008.

Photo Source: World Security Network, http://www.worldsecuritynetwork.com/showArticle3.cfm?article_id=15527&topicID=30, no copyright listed.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Russian_reset

http://www.cnbc.com/2016/07/13/russia-expected-to-return-to-growth-in-2017-imf.html

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-33238004

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