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Russian Presidential Transition: From Putin ... to Putin

Recorded on February 27, 2008

Location: The Heritage Foundation's Allison Auditorium

Russia's presidential election, set for March 2, already has a frontrunner - and winner.  Dmitry Medvedev may be President Vladimir Putin's chosen successor for the country's highest office, but few people believe he will be in charge.  Many think that the actual leader of Russia after the election will still be Putin, not Medvedev, a civilian bureaucrat, who lacks the corporate backing of the siloviki - the Russian secret services, law enforcement, and their veterans, the real power base of his mentor.  The support of the leadership of Russia's intelligence and security services, the military, and the military-industrial complex is essential for the current Russian political system of "managed" democracy to remain in place.  

Medvedev's anticipated victory will represent a continuation of "politics as usual" in Putin's Russia.  He will preside over an illiberal state rife with internal weaknesses, including a poor demographic profile.  As Russia may further expand state management of key sectors of the national economy, pervasive corruption will fester at high levels of the Russian state-corporate complex, and human rights abuses continue.  The foreign policy of the Putin-Medvedev administration will likely include escalating tensions with the United States and the UK, a divide-and-conquer approach vis-à-vis the rest of Europe, and continuing rapprochement with Iran, China and Venezuela.  Whoever resides in the White House will have much to do dealing with the resurgent Russia.