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Medvedev May Be Much More Than Putin's Puppet


From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.


And I'm Melissa Block.

President Bush has his first conversation with Russia's president-elect today, Dmitri Medvedev. He's often described as a puppet of outgoing president Vladimir Putin.

But NPR's senior news analyst Daniel Schorr says Medvedev may turn out to be his own man.

DANIEL SCHORR: Our presidential candidates could well envy Russia's Dmitri Medvedev. He made just a few campaign speeches and walked away with the election by winning more than 70 percent of the vote against three designated losers.

But it would be a mistake to dismiss the charade of democracy as a farce. It is one stage in the evolution of the sprawling land mass, energy rich and values poor, as it muscles its way back into the big power club. Since 1991 when the Soviet Union collapsed, Russia has been looking for respect. It was accorded some by the cold war victors adding a seat to the G7 circle of industrial democracies and a special relationship with NATO.

But there was a sense of Russia being treated as a somewhat backward poor cousin. President Bush proclaimed Vladimir Putin to a soul mate, but it didn't last. Mr. Bush signaled who was really the boss by backing out of the Anti- Ballistic Missile Treaty, and Russia responded by canceling another arms treaty, STAR Two.

The low point was probably reached in May of last year when Putin celebrated the anniversary of Germany's defeat in World War II with an (unintelligible) speech from the top of Lenin's tomb in Red Square. He suggested that the world faced a threat of a new third right. He didn't specify the United States, probably did NATO, for the troops massed in the square.

So what to expect now? With Putin guarding the hand of his protege president, there is a lot of emphasis on continuity. But in recent weeks, Medvedev has spoken of allowing more personal freedom, reducing economic controls, and turning a less confrontational face to the world.

He said that cooperation with the United States is inevitable. With the American presidency soon changing hands, there appears to be an opportunity for a cause correction between the two powers.

This is Daniel Schorr. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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Daniel Schorr
Daniel Schorr passed away on Friday, July 23, 2010. See an obituary, photo gallery and an archive of Schorr's commentaries for NPR.