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Medvedev: I can be tough too

NATALIA KOLESNIKOVA/AFP/Getty Images There’s some interesting Kremlinology (or Moscvology as Blake might have us call it) from Anna Smolchenko in today’s Moscow Times. She notes that Dmitry Medvedev’s bellicose comments in North Ossetia yesterday — vowing a “crushing response” to future attacks on Russian citizens and referring to Georgia’s leaders as genocidal morons are sharply ...

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NATALIA KOLESNIKOVA/AFP/Getty Images

There’s some interesting Kremlinology (or Moscvology as Blake might have us call it) from Anna Smolchenko in today’s Moscow Times. She notes that Dmitry Medvedev’s bellicose comments in North Ossetia yesterday — vowing a “crushing response” to future attacks on Russian citizens and referring to Georgia’s leaders as genocidal morons are sharply at odds with the more conciliatory rhetoric he has used in the past. Smolchenko suggests that the president may be getting tough in an effort to reassert his own relevance.

This seems plausible to me. Last Tuesday I noted that it was Medvedev who declared a ceasefire while Vladimir Putin had been the one who effectively started the war. This seemed to be evidence of a good-cop-bad-cop approach from the tandem. But Russia’s continued operations in Georgia this past week while Medvedev has repeatedly assured the world that a withdrawal was taking place have only helped confirm what most already suspected: that Medvedev is a glorified PR guy with no power over a state still run by Putin.

Condoleezza Rice seemed to be not-so-subtly hinting at this over the weekend:

The word of the Russian president needs to be upheld by his forces or people are going to begin to wonder if Russia can be trusted.”

Members of the foreign press were barred from attending any of the events on Medvedev’s trip to the Caucasus which could suggest that the president — known to read several foreign newspapers every day on the Internet — isn’t happy with how he’s being portrayed in the international media.

He might be calculating that if he can’t actually influence the policy set by hawks like Putin and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, he might as well just out-hawk them at the podium.

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