ROAR: “Modernization is not only computers and robots”

Vladimir Kremlev for RT
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev’s assessment of the results of 2009 and his plans for the future are “restrained, but optimistic,” analysts say.

Despite the fact that many expected heads of TV channels “to ask formal questions, the answers to which are well known to everybody,” they asked “about practically everything” during a live interview with Medvedev, Lenta.ru noted.

Mainly two groups of questions were covered, said Pavel Salin of the Center for Political Conjuncture. The first group concerned the results of the year. They were considered at the beginning and took little time, the analyst said.

“The second block that concerned the perspectives of the country’s development absolutely dominated in the interview,” Salin said. “Thus the president has confirmed the agenda for the next year and the future, rather than summed up the results,” he added.

Mentioning the situation in the political sphere, “the president distinguished between the opposition inside the political system and the opposition outside it,” Salin said. The president “is ready to carry on a dialogue and discuss the perspectives of the development with the former,” the analyst said. As for the opposition outside the system, the head of state “has only recognized its right to live as it wants,” he added.

Dmitry Orlov, general director of the Agency of Political and Economic Communications, believes that “the tone and contents of Medvedev’s assessments” of the political and economic situation “were close” to the assessments made recently by Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.

Moreover, speaking about regional elections held in October, Medvedev even “gave a more conservative assessment” than he did at the congress of the ruling United Russia party in November, the analyst told Nezavisimaya Gazeta daily.

Leonid Polyakov of the Higher School of Economics thinks that the president’s assessment of the situation was “restrained, but optimistic.” The head of state noted that “the federal level of our political system has been significantly strengthened” since 2008, the analyst said. Now Medvedev is trying to develop the political system at the regional level, he added.

At the same time, the analyst believes that Medvedev does not consider the question about the direction where the political system should be developed as “absolutely solved.” The president thinks that the question about parties, their number and the role in our political life is not an issue to be solved somehow by the authorities, but rather a choice of the Russian people themselves,” Polyakov said. Thus, the president sees “the potential of people to fulfill the modernization,” he added.

The media stress that Medvedev had to answer some “unexpected questions” about politics and judicial systems. At the same time, the president showed during the interview that “he is well aware of many Russian problems, and he believes they could be solved,” Kommersant daily said.

“Medvedev called the preservation of economic stability during the economic crisis the main achievement of the year,” analyst Dmitry Absalov noted, adding that the president “has supported the economic policies of the government.”

Vremya Novostey daily said that the word “modernization,” mentioned in the interview, was not “accidental.” It has become “the main word in the Russian political vocabulary in 2009 following the president’s example,” the paper said.

During the interview, Medvedev also announced his decision to reform the Interior Ministry. The decree that was published later has been widely covered in the media. The president is beginning to fulfill his strategy of modernization, indicating that this policy will not be implemented by force, Gleb Pavlovsky, head of the Foundation for Effective Politics, said.

This president’s strategy “rules out the interference of law-enforcement organs in public, political and business life,” Pavlovsky told Expert magazine. “This is a policy that should be implemented by legitimate political forces – by the state and society, not under pressure from law-enforcement structures,” he noted.

These structures are a subject for the modernization themselves, Pavlovsky stressed. “When we speak about modernization, some see it as endless lines of computers and walking robots, he said. “The question concerns a deep fundamental reform of law-enforcement structures and their return to implementing constitutional duties,” he noted.

Interior Ministry personnel will be downsized by 20% before 2012, police structures responsible for public security will be financed from the federal budget, and a new system of selection of new personnel is expected to be introduced.

Gennady Gudkov, deputy chairman of the State Duma’s Committee on Security said that “Medvedev is making a step in the right direction.” At the same time, the announced plans to reform the police “are not sufficient,” Gudkov told Vedomosti daily.

“These are spontaneous decisions,” the deputy said. He described them as “a reaction to a strong public discontent” with the recent incidents involving police officers. The changes will not work “if the police reform itself without proper control from the civil society,” Gudkov said.

Lawyer Igor Trunov welcomed the Medvedev initiative “as a first step. He said it would be successful only if the reform “will continue.” The Interior Ministry actually needs reducing its officialdom that has nothing to do with fighting crime,” the lawyer told the daily. “But if the decree is not followed by [concrete steps], there will be a zero effect,” he stressed.

Analysts also noted the light side of Medvedev’s interview. Political scientist Vitaly Tretyakov described the president’s statements as “the most successful” he has made during the year.” It is partly explained by the company of the three heads of federal TV channels, in which the president “felt comfortable and free,” Tretyakov said.

The most interesting questions were about Medvedev’s reading habits. The president reads books of Russian historian Vasily Klyuchevsky. He also likes “romantic and sentimental [Erich Maria] Remarque, but he also reads [Viktor] Pelevin,” Tretyakov noted, adding that the writers make an “absolutely antagonistic pair.”

Sergey Borisov, RT