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Viewing cable 09MOSCOW2354, MEDVEDEV'S CALL FOR REFORM: ANYONE LISTENING?

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
09MOSCOW2354 2009-09-14 15:03 2010-12-01 21:09 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Moscow
VZCZCXRO5097
PP RUEHDBU RUEHFL RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHNP RUEHROV RUEHSL RUEHSR
DE RUEHMO #2354/01 2571501
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 141501Z SEP 09
FM AMEMBASSY MOSCOW
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 4797
INFO RUCNCIS/CIS COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHXD/MOSCOW POLITICAL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC PRIORITY
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC PRIORITY
RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHDC PRIORITY
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 MOSCOW 002354 

SIPDIS 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 09/14/2019 
TAGS: PGOV PREL PHUM PINR ECON EFIN RS
SUBJECT: MEDVEDEV'S CALL FOR REFORM: ANYONE LISTENING? 

Classified By: Ambassador John R. Beyrle; reasons 1.4(b/d). 

1. (C) Summary: President Medvedev's article "Russia 
Forward," released on the Internet with little fanfare 
September 10, launched a vociferous debate among politicians 
and analysts about the feasibility and probability of the 
kinds of reforms needed to implement his vision for a more 
diverse economy, healthier population and engaged citizenry. 
It also launched the fall political season, fueling 
speculation of divisions within the tandem and jockeying for 
position before 2012 elections. The article is not so much a 
break with the Putin past, as an attempt to moderate its 
excesses. Regardless of who wrote it, Medvedev has now 
linked his political fortunes to realizing its vision. End 
Summary. 

2. (C) In a lengthy essay entitled "Russia Forward," first 
released mid-day September 10 on the liberal Gazeta.ru 
Internet website, and later posted to the Kremlin's website, 
President Medvedev described a litany of ills that plague 
Russia: reliance on the export of raw materials as the 
primary source of national income; the decrepit state of 
infrastructure; the cancer of corruption; and the weaknesses 
of civil society and the institutions meant to channel 
citizen participation in government. It is a bluntly 
pessimistic assessment, combined with a vague call to action 
and an appeal to the public to support him in combating these 
ills and to rally, as they did in World War II, to defeat 
these new enemies that threaten their country's and 
children's future. Medvedev focuses on the imperatives of 
modernization, of economic diversification and of the 
involvement of an active, engaged citizenry, in fighting 
corruption. He is unusually pointed in identifying an 
"ensconced group of corrupt officials and do-nothing 
entrepreneurs" as the chief source of these problems. The 
article presents no solutions to the maladies outlined. 
Medvedev is fact eschews the more liberal path of the 1990's, 
repeating oft-used complaints against the "liberals" who 
brought political chaos and economic and financial 
destitution to Russia by the end of that decade. 

Reactions - Call for Action? Plea for Sympathy? 
--------------------------------------------- -- 

3. (C) Medvedev succeeded, if in doing nothing else, in 
giving political commentators ample material for policy - and 
political analysis. His manifesto answered the call of many 
elites who had been demanding a strong declaration of 
presidential views on the present situation. Others are 
connecting this article with his previous declarations, 
noting that, as in the past, the rhetoric comes without any 
concrete proposals for resolving these issues. 

4. (C) Speculation began immediately as to the author of the 
text. Some credit Medvedev with writing much of the article 
himself, noting that it elaborates on themes he has been 
publicly stressing during his presidency - his famous (if 
dormant) four "I's," the fight against corruption, poor 
infrastructure (roads, health care, etc.), demographic 
problems and the need for citizen participation. Some have 
focused on this exposition as a not-so-veiled critique of the 
Putin years - building on Medvedev's earlier comments after 
the dam disaster about the country lagging technologically. 
However, others see in the text the hand of Vladislav Surkov, 
Kremlin architect of Russia's "sovereign" democracy. Most of 
the article's main themes - Russia's backwardness, the 
do-nothing entrepreneurs, high-tech as an economic salvation 
- were previewed by Surkov in a July 28 discussion with 
Ambassador. The appeal for greater public involvement in the 
managed, strictly-defined institutions created by Surkov 
could only have been promoted by the "Grey Cardinal" himself. 

5. (C) For the most part reaction among leading political 
commentators - on editorial pages of major newspapers, on the 
radio talk show circuit and on the plethora of 
politically-oriented blogs - has been politely welcoming of 
Medvedev's intentions, but critical of the clear disconnect 
between his stated ideals, and the very different reality 
which he plays a role in sustaining. XXXXXXXXXXXX
described Medvedev's perspective as a "Soviet way of looking
at things;" the reality, and what those in power paint as the
reality, do not correspond. XXXXXXXXXXXX argued
that it was hypocritical of Medvedev to talk about political
competition when in Moscow opposition parties are denied
the right to participate in elections. He belittled the calls for 
political engagement by citizens in the current Putin-made 

MOSCOW 00002354 002 OF 003 

system - of which Medvedev is a direct beneficiary - a system 
that has in fact dismantled pluralism and restricted 
political involvement. 

6. (C) XXXXXXXXXXXX emphasized that the article is a trial
balloon for  Medvedev's annual address to the nation (poslanie),
planned  for late October or early November. It was reported weeks 
ago that Medvedev and a team of consultants had already begun 
work on a draft during summer holidays in Sochi. While his 
2008 poslanie centered on political reform, his 2009 address 
is said to focus on economic reforms. XXXXXXXXXXXX
charged that  the article - perhaps one basis for the poslanie - is an 
appeal for ideas, but not a clear call to liberals trumpeting 
their goals and aspirations. Rather, it charts a middle 
course, and will be used by both liberals and conservatives 
for their own purposes. It is a political document, intended 
not to advance the goals he speaks of, but to bolster his 
position among both camps. XXXXXXXXXXXX criticized the
article  for not having outlined solutions and for its sharp
rejection  of any constructive lessons that could be gleaned
from the  so-called liberal ways of the 1990's and be applied to 
address Russia's problems of today. 

Medvedev in 2012? Tandem Tensions? 
---------------------------------- 

7. (C) XXXXXXXXXXXX has warmed to giving him the benefit
of the  doubt in recent months, told us that he appreciated the 
sentiments that motivated the article, but was frustrated 
that there was no plan outlined for action. XXXXXXXXXXXX
argued that the kind of development envisioned by Medvedev
is hindered by an alliance between business and government
bureaucracy -  business pays off the bureaucracy and bureaucracy
defends  business from real competition. Until that bond is broken, 
real economic reform based on innovation will be impossible. 
Medvedev's indictment of the judicial system was also on 
target, he told us, but would require a long-term commitment 
to fighting entrenched interests if it is to be reformed. 

8. (C) XXXXXXXXXXXX called the article's ideas "Putin 2.0," 
modifications to the general principles that have guided Russia
over the past decade, but  not a rejection of them. Combined
with Putin once again  publicly toying with the idea of running
for president in  2012, Medvedev's article revives speculation
 that the two  leaders do not see eye-to-eye on major issues,
and that  should Medvedev not build momentum for the
changes he  espouses, Putin may step forward to present a status
quo  platform more to the liking of the oligarchs and possibly 
more appealing to average citizens. While the Internet is 
abuzz with commentary on the article, state-run television 
has accorded it minimal coverage, focusing more on Putin's 
annual performance before the Valdai Group. 

9. (C) Kremlin-sanctioned opposition political parties (KPRF, 
LDPR, Just Russia and Right Cause) issued mildly supportive 
statements about the President's appeal for national 
dialogue, though KPRF Deputy Chairman Melnikov argued that 
the call will fall on deaf ears given that "the state has 
worked hard to switch off the peoples' minds in recent 
years." Yabloko leadership issued a scathing rebuke, calling 
the article nothing but empty words when judged against 
Medvedev's ineffectiveness in defending basic freedoms and 
democracy during his presidency. 

Where to from Here? 
------------------- 

10. (C) While the initial disappointment over the absence of 
concrete proposals may be understandable, Medvedev himself 
cautioned that change would be evolutionary, not 
revolutionary. Taken with the results of a recent Levada 
poll that shows regional leaders more disposed toward Putin, 
Medvedev may be taking a slow approach, connecting with his 
"base" - urbanites, better-educated elites and the 
Internet-connected middle class - seeking their support for 
processes which will have benefits not for them, but for 
their children. Having responded to the growing uneasiness 
among his "base" that he had not yet used his "bully pulpit" 
enough to put forward an agenda to correct the political 
deterioration and economically-myopic policies of the Putin 
years (fixated on the export of raw materials), Medvedev has 
sparked a national debate - at least among those with access 

MOSCOW 00002354 003 OF 003 

to the Internet (33 percent of Russians). Given that Putin's 
support is the main source of Medvedev's hold on power, it is 
hard to imagine that the article could have been released 
without general agreement with its content by Putin himself. 
Whoever wrote the actual article, it is a first-person 
Medvedev document, and his political credibility depends on 
follow-through -- with citizens, in his poslanie and in 
taking on entrenched bureaucratic and business interests. 
Beyrle