Russia 2012: Putin and Medvedev to Square Off?

Over the past couple of months, maybe even over a year, things in Russia have certainly been interesting to try to follow. As in the United States, Russia will be facing presidential elections in 2012. But it seems that there may be a face-off with current President Dmitry Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin for the top spot.

WallStreetJournal | Head to Head in Moscow Power Play

As much as anything can be sure in the world of Russian politics, there is no likelihood of Mr. Medvedev running off in open competition against Mr. Putin in next year’s presidential elections. The men are political intimates and have been for a decade. There is a bond of trust between them that would be remarkable in any country’s leading politicians.Another thing that is not changing is Mr. Putin’s seniority in the partnership, at least not immediately, and not to any degree that makes a jot of difference to the safety of foreign investments in Russia.

There is, probably, also no change in the relative realities of power and office in Russia. Mr. Putin, for the past four years, has not needed to be in the Kremlin to exercise effective supreme power. Whether, after 2012, Mr. Putin is in the Kremlin and Mr. Medvedev is in the White House, or the other way around, is of limited importance. They will continue to exercise real power.

The only change that one can be truly sure of is a generational one, and this will be a very gradual one.

Russian political cycles have tended to be longer than those in western Europe. Its transition from centrally-planned, autarkic and dysfunctional empire to a more pluralistic, modern and dynamic element of a multi-polar world is lasting decades.

Even if it has been inevitably buffeted by external events and retarded by misjudgments and creeping venality, that process is Mr. Putin’s life mission.

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