Streetwise Professor

February 4, 2008

Medvedev, Liberal?

Filed under: Politics,Russia — The Professor @ 9:48 am

There is much (hope inspired?) speculation that Dmitri Medvedev is a “liberal” (in the European/classical sense). The basis for this speculation is, as far as I can ascertain, is: (a) he does not have a security service background, (b) he likes Deep Purple, (c) he is a lawyer, and (d) he is short. I made up “(d),” but the rest seems to represent the sum and substance of the Medvedev-is-really-a-liberal case. To say that I am skeptical is an understatement. It seems all to redolent of the Andropov-is-a-liberal-because-he-likes-Jazz-and-Scotch BS circa 1982-1983. Moreover, against this rather thin gruel, I have one word in response: Gazprom.

Gazprom is the antithesis of a liberal company. A creature of the Russian state; a state protected monopoly; an instrument of Kremlin policy, including its policy to stifle the free press in Russia (through its purchase of independent media outlets). Classical liberalism believes in free markets, and opposes state mandated monopolies; it prizes freedom of expression and media freedom. Gazprom is the anti-liberal company.

Not to mention that a closeted or out-of-the-closest liberal is highly unlikely to have been chosen to be Putin’s heir. A dedicated anti-liberal such as Putin would never, never, choose a true liberal as his successor. Putin despises liberalism. He has built an anti-liberal state and government. He has done so because he believes that liberalism is anti-Russian. Who could ever believe that he would anoint a liberal to succeed him? I guess one is truly born every minute, if not more frequently.

Indeed, if anything, Medvedev was chosen because he can plausibly play a liberal on television; that is, he can dupe the credulous because he does not look like or talk like a silovik from central casting. But he would not be chosen if he were not a reliable agent of the Russian power structures. So, if anything he is more dangerous because of his seeming mild manner and patina of liberalism.

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