A not Very Successful Hero of the Kremlin Dmitry Medvedev

Dmitry Medvedev, the man who managed to become president (2008-2012) in Russia during the era of Vladimir Putin’s sole rule, who was also the Prime Minister (2012-2020), who is currently the vice-chairman of the Security Council of the Russian Federation, and who has been the leader of the ruling United Russia party (is he the actual or nominal one?) since May 2012, sits down for an article in the business daily Kommersant (11/10/2012). What does the article say?

It says that Ukraine, which is searching for its identity, for a special path, is creating its own separate history, but that its leaders, especially the first persons, do not have more stable identity and are therefore unhappy.

According to the assessment (categorical) of Dmitry Medvedev assessment, President Volodymyr Zelensky, who came to power, gave up his identity in order to stay in power. Although he has spoken Russian all his life and earned his living from Russia, he feels disgusted and simply hates the Ukrainian nationalists whom he now serves.

The current President of Ukraine is living in a permanent cognitive dissonance, forced to manoeuvre between different political forces – radical nationalists (“Nazis” is Dmitry Medvedev’s terms), a Muslim segment of the society, first of all the Crimean Tatars, moderate apolitical Ukrainians and Russians, and representatives of other nations. Otherwise, his neck would be snapped.

This is the ‚psychoanalytical‘ understanding of democracy of a politician, who has been the President in Russia.

Dmitry Medvedev concludes by asking how and whether it is possible to negotiate with the current Ukrainian leader in this situation. And the answer is: no way. As if it is absolutely pointless and even harmful to seek relations with the current Ukrainian government, when/because it is made up of ignorant, random people, who are constantly changing their position, regardless of the political conjuncture.

He therefore proposes a predictable government in Ukraine – not focused on total confrontation on the brink of war, but on equal relations with Russia (oops…). Because Russia knows how to wait and is patient. Without psychoanalysis, there is nothing else to add.

It is logical that Dmitry Medvedev ignores historical facts.

In 1997, the Presidents of Ukraine and Russia, Leonid Kuchma and Boris Yeltsin, signed the Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation in Kiev. ‚The Treaty is a guarantee that Russians and Ukrainians will continue to live as brothers, in peace and harmony. ‘- declared the former President of Russia.

In 1994, Ukraine, which had the world’s third largest nuclear arsenal (a legacy of the USSR), voluntarily relinquished it and handed over to Russia all its nuclear warheads, cruise missiles and eleven Tu-160 and supersonic Tu-95 MS strategic bombers.

In the same year, the denuclearisation of Ukraine in return for guarantees of security and territorial integrity was established in the Budapest Memorandum, signed by the leaders of Russia, Ukraine, the United States and the United Kingdom.

It is already known that the Memorandum guaranteed neither security of Ukraine nor its territorial integrity.

According to the Russian historian Boris Sokolov (who was trying to answer the question of the Ukrainian publicist Vitaly Portnikov about how long it takes for Russians to realise that Ukraine is no different from Poland, Finland, or Slovakia), under Boris Yeltsin more Russians ‚managed ‘to see Ukraine as an independent state. Already under the ruling of Vladimir Putin, especially after his second term as President, massive propaganda about Ukrainians and Russians as one nation began.

Ukraine had to start rebuilding of the state after 2014 in the context of actual Russian aggression in the east of the country, with 42-44 thousand dead and injured citizens (information from the United Nations (UN) High Commissioner for Human Rights). According to UNICEF, in October 2018, 149 children were killed by landmines in eastern Ukraine.

Facts that can never be shaken out of a nation’s subconsciousness. As President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky, who visited Lithuania at the beginning of July, stated grimly, for some countries the 14,000 dead are not proof that Ukrainians are fighting for their values.

The Ukrainians respond. From the comments on the internet: „It is the position of Vladimir Putin that has caused Ukrainian public opinion to shift in favour of NATO. In 2014 Ukrainians did not support joining NATO, now they do. Thank you, Mr Putin!”‘

This is why the text of this Kremlin hero in Kommersant is very much like a conversation with a mirror, a narrative of hope and despair at the same time.

By the way, this is not the first time that Dmitry Medvedev has written on relations between Russia and Ukraine. Many readers who read his first text ‘Russia and Ukraine: Life under New Rules ‘published at the end of 2014 in the Russian daily Nezavisimaya gazeta considered to be relatively moderate, and its content can be summarised by the thesis ‘Crimea is ours; the West is to blame for everything else’.

The opus of Kommersant can already be considered an evolution in the direction of, let’s call it, despair.

This may be the fate of this Russian political hero – to wait and lose his temper after waiting, even if he fulfils wishes of his ‘senior friends’ (a request, a wish, an order, etc.). This, however, is more in the realm of personal problems.

On 19 September, after three days of voting, the (actual, nominal?) leader of the ruling party United Russia Dmitry Medvedev, did not appear in public when Andrei Turchak, Secretary of the General Council of the ruling party United Russia, proclaimed a ‘clean and honourable’ victory in the parliamentary elections.

However, while there was no shortage of evidence of fraud, the non-public leader of United Russia urged his compatriots not to react to the doubts of the democratic world about the legitimacy of the elections and in his interview to the Kremlin’s propaganda TV channel RT told on 28 May that the dogs bark, but the caravan goes.

As if Russians give a damn about the opinion of the democratic world and its institutions, such as (especially?) the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe, which has refused to send observers (and which has refused to agree to the demand of Moscow to reduce the number of observers).

Something else from Dmitry  Medvedev’s rhetorical flows: ‘(…) when I was looking at Twitter recommendations on who I should subscribe to, naturally the first person they suggested was Alexei Navalny, who is serving a sentence for a criminal offence (if anything, the opposition leader Alexei Navalny was originally tried to be poisoned by the Kremlin last year in his homeland, and was treated by the Germans and sentenced after his recovery in January when he came back to Russia – A.S.). Is this not interference in the affairs of another country? Interference in its purest form.’

When Svoboda asked Andrey Illarionov, who had worked for five years as an economic advisor to President Vladimir Putin, on 28 September why Dmitry Medvedev was not now being considered for at least a slightly more serious position (there had been talk of presiding over the Russian Constitutional Court or the Central Bank), Dmitry Medvedev replied that it was a completely uninteresting question. Dmitry Medvedev meant nothing when he was President of Russia, and he means nothing now, and he is of no interest to anyone.

In mid-September, the Russian Service of BBC published an investigation about efforts of Dmitry Medvedev to return to the Russian mainstream politics after his resignation as Prime Minister on 15 January 2020. According to the authors of the investigation, the politician is indeed gradually losing influence in the Russian leadership.

The Vice-Chairman of the Security Council of the Russian Federation had hoped to lead the list of  United Russia (after all, he is the (actual, nominal?) leader of the party) in the elections and eventually to become the Speaker of the Russian Duma, but this was opposed by the staff of the President of the Russian Federation and, personally, by its deputy chief Sergei Kiriyenko, due to the extremely high anti-rating of Dmitry Medvedev.

According to BBC, although he has remained loyal to Vladimir Putin, Dmitry Medvedev has not been able to ‘reinvent himself’ in the Russian Federation Security Council, has not ‘signed up’ to the Kremlin’s persuasions to be a Senator for life, and is therefore looking at a political retirement.

Russian blogger Andrei Malgin reminds us that the anti-rating is also due to the investigation published by Alexey Navalny ‘He’s not Dimon to You’ about wealth of Dmitry Medvedev, which has been watched by more than 40 million people on You Tube.

But the investigation was published in the ‘distant’ year of 2017, and it seems it should no longer be dramatically influential now, especially when usually not much attention is paid to the opinion of the society in the Kremlin’s power-sharing process.

According to Andrei Malgin, this is also because the popularity of his comrade since the 1999 presidential elections (the diligent Dmitry Medvedev was running Vladimir Putin’s election campaign) has always been watched jealously by the leader of the nation.

Despite having served two terms under the (then) Constitution and ‘appointing’ a junior partner to the presidency, and Dmitry Medvedev even formally launching a war with Georgia as Commander-in-Chief in August 2008, Vladimir Putin, who has since become the Prime Minister, has never let the levers of influence out of his grasp.

Although he was formally supposed to leave the presidential residence in favour of Dmitry Medvedev in Novo-Ogaryovo in Moscow oblast, Vladimir Putin stayed there, arranged an apartment for the ‘younger’ president in a forest a couple of kilometres away, retained (and transported to the White House from the Kremlin) almost the entire propaganda team, and the Russian Prime Minister’s carriage has always been more powerful than that of the President. The traditional direct line to the Russian people was also led by Vladimir Putin, not by the new President.

Finally, it is the formal President Dmitry Medvedev, who has proposed to the Duma to extend the term of office of the next President from four to six years. The Duma obediently (not to Dmitry Medvedev, of course) extended it. Vladimir Putin, even after handing over the presidency to Dmitry Medvedev, had been thinking only about himself all the time.

Then everything went on – as it did, in other words, the algorithm just proved itself. The junior partner has been given (nominally) the reigns in due course, but it is an ungrateful fate to be always in the shadow of a patron with dictatorial tendencies. As a politician, Dmitry Medvedev looks more like a wind-up toy soldier.

In Ukraine, his last opus was greeted with predictable indulgence. Commenting on Kommersant publication, Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to the head of the presidential office, said that Kiev is only paying attention to the position of the President of Russia, and that Dmitry Medvedev has dropped out of the Russian political agenda.

I would say it is a very diplomatic statement.

Arūnas Spraunius

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