What did Medvedev get out of the war?

VLADIMIR RODIONOV/AFP/Getty Images Oleg Shchredov, the Kremlin correspondent for Reuters, has an interesting analysis today arguing that the Georgian war has boosted the status of Russian President Dmitry Medvedev: Throughout the crisis, Medvedev appeared as a confident leader who made the key decisions, from ordering the invasion to signing a ceasefire deal. In a live ...

By , a former associate editor at Foreign Policy.
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592814_080904_medvedev5.jpg

VLADIMIR RODIONOV/AFP/Getty Images

Oleg Shchredov, the Kremlin correspondent for Reuters, has an interesting analysis today arguing that the Georgian war has boosted the status of Russian President Dmitry Medvedev:

Throughout the crisis, Medvedev appeared as a confident leader who made the key decisions, from ordering the invasion to signing a ceasefire deal.

VLADIMIR RODIONOV/AFP/Getty Images

Oleg Shchredov, the Kremlin correspondent for Reuters, has an interesting analysis today arguing that the Georgian war has boosted the status of Russian President Dmitry Medvedev:

Throughout the crisis, Medvedev appeared as a confident leader who made the key decisions, from ordering the invasion to signing a ceasefire deal.

In a live television address announcing the recognition of Georgia’s two breakaway regions as independent states, he spoke in clipped sentences and looked presidential beneath a gold-coloured two-headed eagle, Russia’s national symbol. […]



Medvedev’s double act with Putin — which some observers predicted would implode when the first crisis hit — not only held up but proved to be effective by allowing them to perform a diplomatic “good cop, bad cop” routine.

It’s interesting since this is not at all how the tandem’s operating procedure was perceived internationally. Remember, it was Putin’s terse statement, “War has started,” that signaled to the world that this was something more than the sporadic border clashes that had been going on for weeks.

And while it was indeed Medvedev who signed the ceasefire and pledged withdrawal, the fact that Russian troops stayed put for weeks afterwards only reinforced the perception abroad that Medvedev’s statements couldn’t be taken seriously. As for his tough words for Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili, those came out sounding like a second-rate Putin impression.

Shchredov is certainly in a better position than I am to judge Russian public opinion, but I still don’t really see how his logic adds up. Medvedev came into office promising economic reforms and better relations with Europe, both of which, Shchredov concedes, were badly damaged by the Georgian war. And if his word can’t be trusted by the likes of Condoleezza Rice, he’s not going to be a very effective diplomat either. So what besides the opportunity to “look presidential,” (and I’m not even so sure about that one) has the Georgian war done for Medvedev?

Some new polling would certainly be welcome.

Joshua Keating was an associate editor at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @joshuakeating

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