According to reports in British Sunday Times and Daily Mail, citing insider sources familiar with Russian leaders, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin decided to run for the Presidency in 2012 against “arrogant” and “cocky” Medvedev, as pro-Putin officials described the current President.
Once hand-picked by Putin who had served two consequence terms as President of Russia and had to resign from that post in compliance with the Russian constitution in 2008, Dmitry Medvedev is also reported to be determined to keep his Presidency to implement political reforms and liberalize the society.
At first the Putin-Medvedev tandem seemed intact, Medvedev trying to emulate his mentor’s macho style and speaking manners [personal note: this is something I can attest to as someone who can listen to Medvedev and Putin in original Russian], but the tension between Russia’s two most powerful figures has been growing for the last two years.
The sources quoted by British media say that Medvedev’s recent behavior made Putin suspicious and question the former’s loyalty. “Putin will run for president. He’s made up his mind for good. Rumors that he’s still weighing his options are false,” one source is quoted as saying.
“There’s mounting tension between Medvedev and Putin. The view in Putin’s camp is that Medvedev has started behaving with too much arrogance and wants to challenge him. Putin is starting to doubt his loyalty,” the source added.
Medvedev is said to be frustrated at the perception widely shared by analysts at home and abroad that he is a lame duck. His team thinks that it is time for “old man” [i.e. Putin] to retire. One source suggested that Putin is an obstacle to Medvedev’s plans to introduce sweeping liberalizing policies.
In what seemed to be a veiled attack on Putin, Medvedev last week criticized autocrats’ attempts to monopolize power. “A person who thinks he can stay in power indefinitely is a danger to society,” he said. “Russian history shows that monopolizing power leads to stagnation or civil war.”
“Make no mistake, Medvedev is an impressive leader who would be good news for Russia if he stays on,” said another Kremlin source. “There’s rivalry with Putin but they’re both too smart to get drawn into a nasty personal conflict.” The analyst, however, added that Putin is too powerful a force in Russia that if he asks Medvedev to step aside, the President will have no choice but to oblige.