Gazeta, Russia

Obama and Medvedev: A Tale of Two Leaders


"The new presidents of Russia and the United States addressed the public on the same day. Obama addressed 50 million supporters who voted for him, while Medvedev spoke to a thousand legislators, governors, and bureaucrats. To Americans, Obama's words, 'It can't happen without you' seemed quite obvious. But Medvedev couldn't have said in the Kremlin 'It will not happen without you,' even to his select audience. Because even this narrow circle would have been too wide ... Decisions here are made by a far smaller number of people."




Translated By Yekaterina Blinova


November 8, 2008


Russia - Gazeta - Original Article (Russia)

Russian President Dmitriy Medvedev: He uses the language of democracy, but behaves like a technocrat. And it appears that some in the Russian press aren't afraid to say so ...


RUSSIA TODAY VIDEO: Russian President Dmitry Medvedev speaks to French newspapaper Le Figaro about President-elect Obama and the global economic crisis, Nov. 12, 00:17:24RealVideo

The new presidents of Russia and the United States addressed the public on the same day [videos below]. But despite any textual similarities, they showed radically different views of the world and approaches to politics.


It so happened that the first post-election speech by Barack Obama and the first presidential address of Dmitriy Medvedev were delivered on the same day. Comparisons readily emerged - at least among us. And our commentators didn't hesitate to quip and compare.


And as far as the outside world goes, millions empathized with Obama's winning rhetoric, while Medvedev's speech was quoted, generally with disapproval, only with regard to the events surrounding the missile defense system in Europe.


Both the Russian and the newly-elected American presidents look rather unusual in their positions.


Obama is unusually young for a leader of a great power, and Medvedev is four years younger. Both are intellectuals and were previously attorneys. Both have had meteoric careers. Just a few years ago, hardly anyone could have imagined that either would have had any chance of leading his country.


But for all the similarities, their speeches reflect radically different views of the world and different approaches to politics, although their textual similarities are greater than one would imagine.



Both frequently appeal to the people and a sense of patriotism. And both pay special tribute to populist sycophancy, each in the spirit of local tradition, of course. In his address, Medvedev castigated top officials over our bureaucracy. In his Chicago speech, Obama appealed to the American dream in the most heartfelt terms.


The Russian president used the word "freedom" half a dozen times - almost as frequently as the word "democracy" and "justice." The American leader pressed "opportunity" and "hope." In a very un-detailed way, both quite categorically promised to deal with the crisis. Both called for renewal and change.


Except that Obama addressed 50 million supporters who voted for him, while Medvedev spoke to a thousand legislators, governors, and bureaucrats.


When Obama repeated time and again, "we," "us," "our climb," "our goals," regardless of how sincere these words were, his listeners believed them: "we" - this is the people, the citizens of the United States. It is the citizens, the regular people that the new leader appeals to. They're the ones who now have "the chance to make change." And the words that "it can't happen without you" seemed quite obvious.


But Dmitriy Medvedev couldn't have said in the Kremlin "It will not happen without you," even to his select audience. Because after all, even this narrow circle would have been too wide for such comments. Decisions here are made by a far smaller number of people.



His frequent repetition of the word "we" meant: "We, the authorities." The citizens appeared in Medvedev's address only as objects of paternalistic care; citizens who, under the wing of the government, need not worry about salaries, pensions or investments. The states will take care of everything without them.


The individual opinion of an ordinary person (unlike his abstract "rights and freedoms") is definitely not about to be taken into account by those at the "top."


The most recent reform of the political system in all of its aspects leans toward reducing even the current, extremely modest participation of ordinary people in the political process.


For example, the reform meant people vote for president and members of the Duma [Parliament] less frequently. And mayors elected by the people can now be more easily fired from their posts without voters' consent.


All the liberal indulgences (or those that appear to be) are merely a milder way for the bosses to oversee the servants - for instance, in regard to the judiciary. And these are indulgences directed not at average people, but various segments of the "top."


For instance, parties that "receive from 5 to 7 percent of the vote" are promised "1-2 percent of the legislative mandate." With these figures, which carry nothing less than a chemist's precision, one can instantly guess what parties are being referred to, even the particular individuals these mandates are being designed for. [The measure is aimed at marginalizing smaller, mostly opposition parties and politicians]. However, even on this count, restrictions are added to the privileges awarded to some. "It's necessary to amend the Law on Parties to require the apparatus of party governance to adopt a system of rotation, under which one person is barred from holding office from occupying the same position beyond a specific period of time ."


Who knows, perhaps Obama, too, would like to institute a "rotation" of the leadership of the Republican Party of the United States. But the notion of legalizing such a procedure would never enter his mind - to put it mildly, no one would understand. As for us, the majority of Russians consider the fact that the government dominates political parties to be completely normal, and already a number of party veterans have announced their intention to retire.


The technocratic approach in all spheres of life is not merely a pillar of Medvedev's presidential address, it is the prevalent way of at the upper echelon of the government. Only those at the very "top" know and decide for everyone.


This is why there are no politics - there is only management. Every governor, every businessperson and every party is designated a place in the order, which one is not recommended to leave.



The country as a whole has subscribed to the "concept of the "Four Is" - institutions, investments, infrastructure and innovation. This approach is reinforced in the conception of development up to the year 2020. And this plan must be realized in full. Add to this the fifth component, intellect." So everything has been decided and planned for many years ahead, stacked neatly on the appropriate shelves with no room for dissent - even a simple initiative that would be welcomed in the abstract is in fact punishable.


Such is the technocratic system which, of course, has never before nor will it in the future, accommodate real life. One may add, if you like, that neither is a more democratic or populist system able to overcome the vicissitudes of life. However, America's new leader understands that: "There are many who won't agree with every decision or policy I make as president."


In every country and at all times, not all actions of the government are favored by the majority, and not all of its decisions are dictated from below. But that freedom is better than captivity, and therefore the fact that democracy is better than technocracy is known to Dmitriy Medvedev. And everyone knows that he knows.


































[Posted by WORLDMEETS.US November 15, 7:12pm]