Sunday, March 02, 2008

Obscurest of blow-outs

Put it in the history books: Dmitry Medvedev is Russia's new President, and for the next 8 years, naysayers will keep on harking about the election being "rigged." Yeah, maybe Russians officials had the crazy idea of smuggling Chinese across the border to vote for Medvedev.

So what's the outrage? Medvedev was handpicked by Putin to be Russia's new President. Medvedev reciprocated, saying he wanted Putin to be his PM, to delay his political retirement. Foreign governments will call that foul, but they have more to lose if it isn't Medvedev.

More than 70 percent of the vote went to Medvedev, with between 55 million and 60 million people voting (50% of eligible voters). But what is a voter to do if the opposition is full of nutcases?

Guys like Vladimir Zhirinovsky (with his anarchist policies) or Gennady Zyuganov (USSR-type policies) should worry foreign governments even more.

Every election needs an circus clown, Zhirinovsky is that. He once stupidly suggested said that India conquer Pakistan to get rid of a menace. That's the war-mongeror in him, a crazy guy under whom Russia will implode.

And there's the evergreen curmudgeon who wants to go back in time. Zyuganov's policies take Russia back to its USSR days, without accounting for new world orders, like energy. Russia strikes fear into governments through Gazprom, a gov't controlled agency that controls part of the world's energy supply. Gazprom will lose its power and suffer under Zyuganov's reversal policies.

And Garry Kasparov as president? Please. Leave him to the chess table. Yes, his arrest may have been wrong, but giving the country to him is like asking for a death wish. He's pesky, but inconsistent and very moody. He's even worse than Zhirinovsky

Which brings us to Medvedev, a known quantity who will keep Russia's world status alive without floating crazy ideas.

One friend who doesn't hate the U.S. said he voted for Medvedev because he wants to be protected from the U.S. It's a tit-for-tat; Russians want to be protected from Americans, like Americans want to be protected from the Russians. Putin had a fan following with that, and Medvedev will continue to wield that stick, he said.

Like him, I don't have a proper read on Medvedev yet because he's an unknown quantity. But he's educated, sensible and is a hard worker. He will combat the U.S. with the somewhat twisted, but effective policies that Russia has in place today.

Where Medvedev becomes really hard to read is his plans to reform the Russia's political system, if he has any. Putin failed to launch a fledgling political system that would inspire and breed a competitive opposition, but will Medvedev develop that? Or will he lay waste on the private sector? It really depends on the people and how they conceive the economy to be.

Muscovites seem happy with their urban lifestyle, though students complain; villagers in remote parts of Russia complain because their nearest town draws talent away, a sort of internal brain drain. But supermarkets are expanding, the money is flowing in, the complaints from the country seems to be fewer than a few years ago. I'm not an economist, and it's hard to judge the metrics that reveal Russia's actual economic barometer.

All said and done, Putin is not dumb -- he is smart enough to remain in the background and exploit weak spots in int'l affairs to help Russia (like weapons sales, defense systems and oil). He will assist Medvedev until fading away. That is good news from countries like India and China, who need support to counter the U.S.'s growing geopolitical ambitions.

What about the U.S.? Both Democratic nominees -- Ms. Rodham Clinton and Mr. Obama -- don't even know Medvedev's full name yet, so that's even harder to judge. But neither expects much change in Russian policy, and that's a smart guess.

But the Russians have voted, and we have a winner. Life moves on. And Garry Kasparov will go back to jail 1000 more times if he can't work the political system a bit better.


Blogger Id it is said...

I hadn't given the Russian Election much thought until this post. After reading some more on it I too would go with you that Medvedev is perhaps Russia's best bet. As for the US being smug and unperturbed by this change, well Americans are not known for their astuteness so who knows...

11:57 AM  
Blogger Khakra said...

I'd like to believe that U.S. is smart in handling Russia, with the gov't advisors knowing the country well. They need to work with the media and boot that Cold War which represents Russia. Times have changed, the country has changed. And when the U.S. needs Russia, the American folks will not be ready to deal with the facts. If the facts are established, the people will be better prepared.

But for sure, Russia is not clean, and for the Americans to suspect them is a smart move. Locally, some Russian regions don't want change -- the government encourages that. Some could use change, some not, so it's a highly complex topic from a local and international perspective.

1:47 PM  

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