Yaroslavl: the best venue for a presidential announcement?

Photo from kremlin.ru
Analysts are speculating that President Dmitry Medvedev will use this year's Global Policy Forum in Yaroslavl to announce his decision as to whether he will run in the 2012 presidential elections.

Although the participants of the Yaroslavl Global Policy Forum will be focusing on the question of “the modern state in the age of social diversity,” political observers will also be anticipating some sort of announcement by Dmitry Medvedev concerning his plans for the 2012 presidential elections. The campaign has sparked a lot of media attention since it will ultimately come down to the question as to who will be the next Russian president in 2012.

Thus far, President Dmitry Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin have been in no rush to reveal their future political plans. Indeed, both men were photographed earlier this month enjoying a fishing trip together along the banks of the Volga River. This mutual compatibility underscores a point the president and prime minister have stressed at every opportunity: there is no competition between them for the highest position in the country, and they will make the final decision together.

Meanwhile, both politicians are effective leaders in their own right and enjoy high popularity ratings among the Russian electorate. Putin, should he run, will enter the race with his legacy of delivering political stability back to the country, as well as refreshing Russia’s international reputation, stained as it was by the brutal post-communist years. Meanwhile, Medvedev has dedicated his presidency to eradicating corruption and "legal nihilism," as well as implementing widespread economic reforms, which are already beginning to leave their mark.

In many ways, the successes of both men overlap each other across the political and economic landscape, which makes both politically attractive to voters.

So can the world expect a long-awaited announcement by Medvedev at Yaroslavl?

In May, the Russian president told a large press conference inside of the Kremlin that such an event was not the appropriate place to make such announcement.

“You have to realize that political life is not just a show," he told a gathering of domestic and foreign reporters. "No matter how appealing and tempting, a press conference of this kind is not the right occasion for such an announcement.”

So now political observers are once again anticipating big news from Medvedev.

According to Igor Jurgens, a political strategist for the Russian president, the global gathering in Yaroslavl will be significant considering that a “number of very high-level experts have been invited, including former prime ministers, foreign ministers and Nobel Prize winners.”

Yet he did not go so far as to predict a major announcement by Medvedev.

“Considering that very important heads of states, including Turkish President Abdullah Guhl, have accepted their invitations (to Yaroslavl), we can say that the forum will see Dmitry Medvedev make some important conclusions,” Jurgens told Nezavisimaya Gazeta in an interview. “We know Medvedev’s general stance on domestic issues and on democracy-related questions, you can see it in the statements he made at the St. Petersburg forum.”

According to Igor Shatrov, a political analyst, Medvedev will use the international forum to announce his future political plans.

“The Global Policy Forum in Yaroslavl was conceived by the president’s ‘support group’ as a forum for the ‘political wing’ of the president’s electorate and a showcase of an up-and-coming Russia for the western observer,” Shatrov noted. “That is why I think September 7-8, 2011…could prove to be the right time, the right place and the right format for Medvedev to make some sort of an announcement.”

Meanwhile, Vyacheslav Nikonov, one of Russia's leading political scientists, and president of the Politika Foundation in Moscow, said politicians do not usually make announcements concerning their political careers at international forums.

“Usually large international forums are not used for important political announcements,” Nikonov told RT in an exclusive interview. “This is a very different format. There will be political analysts, economists, and important politicians from all over the world and they will be interested in conferencing, and discussing the ideas that are presented by great thinkers in today’s world who will be there in Yaroslavl.”

I would not expect anything sensational concerning the Russian elections, he added.

Nikonov then offered his general comments on the Yaroslavl Global Policy Forum, explaining its significance on the global stage.

“In distinguishing the main features of the Yaroslavl forum, its dialogue focuses on the present and the future,” he said. “It’s not so much practical as it is philosophical. It is a venue to discuss the future of democracy, multiculturalism and the global economy in the context of globalization.”

Yaroslavl, Nikonov said, is a place for the great minds to get together and discuss the most important issues of the day.

“There are many great thinkers who attend – from Zbigniew Brzezinski to (Immanuel) Wallerstein to (Francis) Fukuyama to (Fareed) Zakaria, to many others,” he noted. “This is a meeting of the minds.”

The president of the Politika Foundation was careful to point out that, due to its international makeup, Yaroslavl has no political bias.

“What I would also like to stress is that there is no “pro-Russian” bias, nor a Western bias in Yaroslavl. Rather, there are thinkers and politicians from all over the world.”

Yaroslavl has a real global representation, he added.

When asked about the United States, and Russia's relations to it, Nikonov stressed that Russia addresses the world from an international perspective, not just one that is singularly focused on the United States.

“For Russia, it is interested not just in the United States, but with many other countries, including the Commonwealth of Independent States, the European Union, China and India,” he said. “I don’t think we should view the world as a place where only two countries exist: Russia and the United States. That is not the case anymore, at least since the collapse of the Soviet Union.”

Meanwhile, Nikonov said the health of the bilateral relationship depends a lot on Washington because “the frequent ups and downs in the US-Russian relationship usually do not occur from fluctuations in Moscow.”

When asked for his opinion on the upcoming 2012 elections in the United States, and who would be the best American candidate to advance the Russia-US reset, Nikonov responded diplomatically.

“I don’t think the Kremlin has any preferred candidates,” he answered. “It seems that Barack Obama is better in terms of Russia-US relations than his predecessor. But historically we know that the Soviet Union and Russia was dealing with the Republicans no worse than the Democrats. I don’t think this is a major difference between the two parties.”

The American election campaign is a big puzzle, he added.

“Obama may get elected, but his election will not be determined by foreign policy anyways,” he predicted. “That will be a function of the American economic situation and unemployment (to decide). On the Republican side, we don’t see a clear cut favorite at this time. We don’t know much about the foreign policy views of Mitt Romney, for example, or Governor of Texas, Rick Perry.”

“Whoever is elected in Russia and the United States,” Nikonov concluded, “they will have to deal with each other and find solutions to practical questions.”

Vladislav Inozemtsev, head of the Executive Directorate of the Yaroslavl Global Policy Forum, agreed with Nikonov on the question as to whether Medvedev would make an announcement on his decision whether or not to run in the 2012 presidential race.

“I think this is not the (venue) where the president would want to make any announcements like that,” Inozemtsev said. “It is mostly scientific and political and as I remember there has never been any…serious statements.”

This is a forum where Russian and foreign analysts are trying to find certain points for cooperation, he added.

Inozemtsev then shed some light on the significance of the Yaroslavl forum for Russia and the international community at large.

“I'm sure the forum is very significant for the president and for our expert community,”

he said.

“It's a unique opportunity for Russia to gather the top personalities in political science as well as to hear and talk to high ranking politicians – both Russian and foreign members.”

The head of the Yaroslavl Global Policy Forum noted that the participants would be addressing “the problems of multiculturalism, great variety of social structures and relations within different types of societies,” which means that “we are transferring the discussions now taking place in the west to Russian soil.”

Inozemtsev added that “since Medvedev was the one who initiated the forum I'm sure it's of major significance to him personally.”

Although some political analysts are speculating that Medvedev will make an announcement on his decision whether or not to run in the 2012 presidential elections during the Yaroslavl forum, especially considering that the Yaroslavl forum was inaugurated on his watch, only President Medvedev knows the answer to that question.

For the rest of us, we’ll just have to wait for Yaroslavl to find out the answer.

The Yaroslavl forum is organized by the Institute for Public Planning, the Institute of Contemporary Development and Yaroslavl's Demidov StateUniversity. The executive in charge of managing the event is Vladislav Inozemtsev, director of the Center for Post-Industrial Studies.

Entitled "The Modern State in the Age of Social Diversity," this year's forum will host a diversity of global political leaders, including Turkish President Abdullah Gul and former Latvian President Valdis Zatlers.

To visit the Yaroslavl Global Policy Forum website, click here.