Putin and Medvedev: The Last Tango in Moscow

The dance between Vladimir Putin and Dmitri Medvedev has finally come to an end. It has been decided that Putin will be the primary, perhaps only, candidate to be the president of the Russian Federation in the upcoming election. Instead of discussions about who will run for president, speculation will now turn to how the decision was reached, when it was reached and what it will mean for the future of Russia and international politics. While all capitals buzz with the ins and outs of changes in power - Switzerland is going through this process now building up to elections for the national legislature and the selection of Federal Councilors by the Parliament - predictions about the future leader in Moscow have had all the characteristics of rumor mills during the time of the czars. Certainly there will be an election, but the electoral process is secondary to the behind-the scenes manipulations. We know who will win the election; there is no longer any suspense.

There are those who will analyze which type of leadership President Putin will exercise. There are those who will analyze whether or not Medvedev will serve as Prime Minister. But I am more interested in what the process means for the future of Russia and democracy in general. Most people have accepted that democracy is the best form of government. What they haven't decided is what democracy means and how a country goes from being non-democratic to being democratic.

In his famous essay of 1795, "Perpetual Peace: A Philosophical Sketch," the German philosopher Immanuel Kant suggested that elements of democracy were crucial to avoiding wars. President Woodrow Wilson also expressed this idea in his vision for the twentieth century. The American political scientist Michael Doyle developed this idea further in two articles that appeared fairly recently, arguing that democratic countries don't go to war with each other, a theory that has come to be known as the Democratic Peace Theory. The acceptance of this theory was part of Francis Fukuyama's understanding of the End of History. Boutros Boutros-Ghali as UN Secretary General published An Agenda for Democratization. The argument seems to have won the day and became a bedrock of American foreign policy. Promoting democracy is part of UN agencies like UNDP and the World Bank.

But, and I cannot say this strongly enough, we do not have sufficient knowledge about the nature of democracy. Free and fair elections are administrative realities that do not necessarily reflect a democratic culture. With the collapse of the Soviet Empire, Communism has been so discredited, and the "End of History" so trumpeted, that democracy, like motherhood and apple pie, seems beyond criticism. However, at the same time that democracy is touted as the best political system, fewer and fewer people are turning out for elections in traditional democratic countries. And we are far from understanding how countries develop democratic cultures. Peacebuilding, like all social science architectural phrases, looks better on paper than in reality. Writing constitutions is so much easier than developing a functioning civil society.

As I was brutally reminded by a powerful politician in a newly independent country: "Dr. Warner, You have two passports. The United States has over 250 years of history. Switzerland has over 700 years. Do you really expect us to become democratic over night?"

The period of indecision about the primary candidate for the presidency of Russia has ended. There were no debates such as those between Republican candidates for the presidency in the United States. And we assume that the winner of the presidential election has also been decided, although there will be an election. What has changed in Russia since the end of the Soviet system? Does the semblance of democracy really make any difference?

October 3, 2011





Vous écriviez l'autre jour que vous appréciiez les débats politiques comme vous aimiez vous retrouver au théâtre.

En Russie, nous n'avons même plus droit au théâtre : la pièce est jouée d'avance. Elle pourrait s'appeler " les vieux démons sont de retour".

Écrit par : MIchel Sommer | 03/10/2011

Les commentaires sont fermés.