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Medvedev the Apprentice

A commonplace among Russia-watchers in the West is to see Putin's eight-year presidency as a retreat into autocracy after Yeltsin's chaotic experiment with freedom in the 1990s. Some hardliners even depict Putin, with his siloviki cronies (i.e. former or still serving members of the security services) as heir to the late Yuri Andropov, a KGB spymaster who went on to become Soviet leader.
Hugh Barnes
30 January 2008

A commonplace among Russia-watchers in the West is to see Putin's eight-year presidency as a retreat into autocracy after Yeltsin's chaotic experiment with freedom in the 1990s. Some hardliners even depict Putin, with his siloviki cronies (i.e. former or still serving members of the security services) as heir to the late Yuri Andropov, a KGB spymaster who went on to become Soviet leader.

The question is, how do you factor in Dmitry Medvedev to the scaremongering analysis? The president-to-be is not a silovik from the Soviet era, but a 42-year-old lawyer who first worked for Putin in the mayor's office in St Petersburg.

Unable to see the president as anything but a power-hungry autocrat, some Russophobes have interpreted the choice of Medvedev as a ploy by Putin to stay in power indefinitely through his "apprentice". A different view is expressed on the Our Kingdom blog by Clive Matthews, who points to deputy prime minister Medvedev's other role as the chairman of Gazprom, and warns that his inevitable election will exacerbate the European Union's dependency on Russian gas:

When Medvedev takes over as president, the interests of Russia and those of Gazprom will become even more closely entwined. You thought Dick Cheney's links with Haliburton in the US were bad? Russia will soon be headed by a man who's a combination of Cheney, Rupert Murdoch, Silvio Berlusconi and Richard Branson - and in the process it will become the world's first true corporate plutocracy. It's a development the impact of which can be neither predicted nor underestimated.

I don't agree with his analysis - yes, Medvedev is chair of Gazprom, just as his deputy Igor Sechin is chair of Rosneft, but only because Putin installed them as part of a plan to renationalise in the energy sector. However, it's certainly a measure of Medvedev's blank unknowability that, depending on your point of view, he can seem to be a KGB apprentice or a gas baron.

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