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Announcing "Medvedev, Putin, and Perestroika 2.0"

Dmitri MedvedevVladimir PutinDate: Wed, 8 Sep 2010
Subject: Announcing
"Medvedev, Putin, and Perestroika 2.0"

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I am pleased to announce my most recent article "Medvedev, Putin, and Perestroika 2.0", published in the journal Demokratizatsia, Vol. 18, No. 3, Summer 2010, pp. 228-259. The beginning of the article's introduction can be accessed at http://www.demokratizatsiya.org/issues/summer%202010/hahn.html

Gordon M. Hahn, Ph.D. is Senior Researcher, Terrorism Research and Education Program and Visiting Assistant Professor, Graduate School of International Policy Studies, the Monterey Institute for International Studies and Analyst/Consultant for www.russiaotherpointsofview.com. Dr. Hahn is author of the well-received books Russia's Islamic Threat (Yale University Press, 2007) and Russia's Revolution From Above, 1985-2000 (Transaction Publishers, 2002) and numerous articles in academic journals and other English and Russian language media. He has taught at Boston, American, Stanford, San Jose State, and San Francisco State Universities and as a Fulbright Scholar at Saint Petersburg State University, Russia. Dr. Hahn writes and edits the bimonthly 'Islam, Islamism, and Politics in Eurasia Report' archived at: www.miis.edu/academics/researchcenters/terrorism/research/Hahn/IIPER and manages the MonTREP database on CBRN WMD Terrorism.

For comments or questions, please contact me at ghahn@miis.edu.



Medvedev, Putin, and Perestroika 2.0
Gordon M. Hahn

Very few Russia observers have supported the view that Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, either alone or in tandem with Prime Minister and former president Vladimir Putin, intends or will be able to initiate a serious political thaw or "Perestroika 2.0" in the country. The present author, however, has been arguing for nearly two years that the Medvedev-Putin tandem is ushering in a new era of reform and that Putin will very gradually hand power to Medvedev if political stability is preserved. Over time, Medvedev is being unleashed from the confines of the "tandem" (or duumvirate), and could take the lead in launching badly needed economic and political reforms. This does not require a political split of the ruling duumvirate.

Even before Medvedev's inauguration as president, it was clear that a thaw would come during his administration, as various signals, Russian historical precedents and contemporary imperatives discussed further below suggest. A month after the inauguration, I reiterated that in the absence of any unexpected upheavals there would be a political thaw: "Medvedev is on a leash. If he learns to stay on the sidewalk and not wander into the traffic, Putin will gradually lengthen and very gradually remove that leash, fade into the premiership and perhaps leave it in a second Medvedev term. Barring a major jihadist attack, an assassination, or an overly aggressive Western Russia policy, an economic and political thaw will likely develop at the pace with which Medvedev takes control. Such a thaw will be very gradual­like watching an iceberg melt­but it will melt."

This view has been roundly rejected by almost all Western and most native Russia watchers­journalists, analysts, and academics alike. They have argued that Medvedev is nothing more than Putin's puppet, and the tandem no more than a vehicle for Putin to keep his supposedly neo-totalitarian hands on the helm until his return to the presidency in 2012. For example, Kathryn Stoner-Weiss, without even waiting for sufficient time to pass or evidence to appear that might mitigate the early signals of a thaw, argued: "Clearly Medvedev either cannot or will not diverge significantly from the path on which Putin set his country in 2000." Daniel Klimmage, in a Freedom House-Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty report, claimed Russia would become more authoritarian under the tandem: "The leadership has no discernable desire or incentive to alter its policies." "Expect things to get worse before they get better." The Russian elite "will likely respond by tightening the screws at home, stoking anti-Western sentiment, and provoking conflicts they feel they can exploit."

Similar analyses were reiterated across virtually the entire community of what might be called "Rusologists." Except for two defections and a few waiverers, this consensus has held. More recently, my view has been endorsed by a very few analysts.

The claim that a liberalizing thaw has begun cannot be confounded by those who protest that authoritarian excesses persist at this time. The obvious fact that reforms take time, and the tandem's goal of a slow, transitional mode of regime-transition rather than a revolutionary one ensure that such excesses will persist for a time but begin to abate. All immediate protests that Mikhail Khodorkovsky remains in prison, that another person has died in detention, or that a demonstration permit was not granted by the authorities hold no water for the present. Should authoritarian excesses persist for many years, however, then we can reasonably reject the reality or significance of the thaw.

I will demonstrate in this article that even as Putin's second term wound down, he and his future successor were signaling their intent to reverse some of the counter-reforms instituted during his presidential tenure and begin new reforms. Indeed, the first two years of Medvedev's presidency have seen a serious "reset" of Russian domestic policy and several reform initiatives­some more advanced than others, but nevertheless real reforms­in the social, economic, and political systems. Moreover, it appears that this will not be a passing Khruschevan political thaw, but rather a major liberalization that will perhaps lead toward a more democratic structure. A new era of great reforms may have begun; one that could rival and complete those of the Perestroika era. It is likely to be of longer duration and could see the tandem rotate in power for a decade or more before a transitional regime transformation, marked by the handover of power to a new leadership in fully free and fair elections....

The full text of this article is available by subscription only.

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