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Shared Agenda Of Gorbachev And Medvedev

It is very tempting to draw political parallels between President Dmitry Medvedev and former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev. Despite apparent differences in the political and economic circumstances in which they have had to act, the similarities in the objectives and the strategic direction of their key policy initiatives are inescapable.

Both tried to modernize the country after a period of decline and stagnation, realizing the “do-or-die” need to break outside the deadlocked economic framework that they inherited.

Both understand the inseparable link between greater political openness and media freedom and economic development on a qualitatively new level. Hence, glasnost and multicandidate elections in the second half of the 1980s and the video-blog democracy and small party protectionism now.

Both tried to end human rights abuses and police corruption in law enforcement agencies to combat the crippling atmosphere of fear that stifles innovation and entrepreneurship.

Both have realized the value of a pragmatic foreign policy and cooperation, not confrontation, with the West to reduce the defense burden, facilitate Western technology transfer and attract foreign investment in order to create favorable external conditions for the country’s modernization.

And both have tried to use the criticism of Stalinist legacy as a proxy tactic to criticize the system that they themselves were leading.

Both have relied on a narrow circle of intellectuals as their political support base, eschewing popular mobilization behind their cause.

For the baby-boom generation that came of age in the 1980s, watching Medvedev is like watching an old black-and-white movie that has just been released in color.

Approval and admiration is mixed with anxiety and disappointment.

We know that his heart is in the right place, but we are skeptical that he will be able to hold it all together once he unleashes forces that he cannot control.

Fortunately, Medvedev has been dealt a much better hand than Gorbachev. Russia is a functioning market economy, the state finances are a marvel of the International Monetary Fund, there is a burgeoning entrepreneurial class, and the country is not torn apart at the seams by nationalism.

The final parallel will play itself out in 2012 when, unlike Gorbachev, Medvedev will have the option of becoming more than a one-term president.

Vladimir Frolov is president of LEFF Group, a government-relations and PR company.

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