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Politicians, Pundits Divided On Apparent Medvedev-Putin Disagreement On Libya

Dmitri Medvedev and Vladimir PutinMoscow, 21 March: Co-chairman of the Right Cause party Leonid Gozman believes that the different assessments of the events in Libya made by Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and President Dmitriy Medvedev may be a sign of a personal confrontation.

"To me, it looks like a clear personal confrontation," Gozman told Interfax on Monday (21 March), commenting on Medvedev's statement that it was inadmissible to use words such as "crusades" to describe the West's actions in Libya, as Putin had done earlier.

Moreover, in Gozman's opinion, the situation should be seen in a broader context. "It is quite clear that the president and the prime minister to a large extent symbolize different parts of the Russian elite, which differ not only in their international attitudes but also on economic, social, and other matters," the Right Cause co-chairman said.

Gozman also stressed that "international politics is after all the president's prerogative".

Meanwhile political scientists are divided on whether Russian President Dmitriy Medvedev's and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's statements on Libya were a sign of serious disagreements.

"It is a sign of a long-running split in the tandem: different terminology, different approaches, not least to the choice of allies. For Medvedev, his ally is the West, while for Putin the West is something that makes him uneasy," Mark Urnov, dean of the department of applied political science at the Higher School of Economics, told Interfax on Monday. He said that the UN Security Council resolution had in effect been passed with the consent of Russia, which abstained in the voting. "Had it not been for Putin's tone, Russia's position would have looked more consistent," Urnov said.

"I would not view the president's statement as a kind of latent or open rivalry between two centres of Russian power," another political scientist, member of the scientific council of the Carnegie Centre in Moscow Andrey Ryabov, told Interfax on Monday. "Putin's statement (on Libya) pursued several goals. On the one hand, it is the first attempt to explain the motives of Russia's conduct, which started to be discussed and criticized in the foreign press. It clearly followed from what he said that in this situation Russia wants to retain a lot of room for manoeuvre, realizing that the Western countries' operation may drag out and face some difficulties, such as a change of heart by the Arab League or the African Union," Ryabov said.

"On the other hand, it was Russia, together with China and other permanent members of the UN Security Council, that gave the go-ahead to the resolution on Libya, and it would not like to create insurmountable obstacles to the Western coalition in Libya," the political scientist said.

"What is clearly discernable in Putin's statement is not disagreement but a kind of different approach to the political assessment of the Western coalition's actions. The Western press has already said that President Medvedev was taking a more consistent position on the situation in Libya, advocating closer cooperation with Western partners," Ryabov said. "The tough words that the prime minister used about Western countries' policy were aimed at a more positive perception of Russia in third-world countries," the political scientist revealed. "The president's statement may have been an attempt to put the Western partners at ease. One of the problems faced by the West is that it is unsure of the stability of Russia's positions, it is the shortage of trust. The USA and the EU have often rebuked Russia, saying that it is hard to trust, that it often promises one thing but then shifts its stance. It is possible that this was the opinion that formed in the Western capitals following the prime minister's statement.
The president's statement may have been an attempt to backtrack, even if at this symbolic level," Ryabov said.

("I can see no qualitative inconsistency in the stated positions. The only difference is in the rhetoric, but the essence is the same: neither Medvedev nor Putin accepts exercises that involve the death of real people," Gazprom-owned, editorially independent Ekho Moskvy news agency quoted Deputy Chairman of the State Duma's International Affairs Committee Leonid Slutskiy telling Ekho Moskvy radio.)

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