Medvedev misses chance to disprove WikiLeaks label: 'Robin to Putin's Batman'
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, criticized in a WikiLeaks cable as marginal, avoided sensitive topics in his national address today.
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Perhaps the most colorful – and potentially damaging – observation can be found in a dispatch filed by the US embassy in Baku, which detailed a private conversation with Russia's close neighbor, Azerbaijani President Ilhem Aliyev.Skip to next paragraph
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"Aliyev said that he considers Medvedev 'a modern, new-generation intellectual,' surrounded by people whom he does not control," the cable reads. "He said that he has personally witnessed Medvedev taking decisions ... only to have [them] stymied by 'others,' presumably in the prime ministerial office. He added, 'Many high-ranking officials don't recognize [Medvedev] as a leader.' He said that there are signs of a strong confrontation between the teams of the two men, although not yet between Putin and Medvedev personally.
"'We have a saying in Azeri: Two heads cannot be boiled in one pot'," Mr. Aliyev is quoted as saying, apparently an earthy way of saying there will be trouble between Russia's tandem leaders.
Medvedev warns of an arms race with US
The president also spoke to Russia's foreign relations, which is a presidential prerogative – though Putin, whose job is officially limited to domestic policy, often speaks to international issues. Medvedev, who has championed a more West-leaning foreign policy, expressed concern in his Tuesday address that a potential failure to bridge differences between Russia and NATO over missile defense could lead to a fresh confrontation with the West.
"I want to say openly that in the coming decade we face the following alternative: Either we reach agreement on missile defense and create a fully-fledged joint cooperation mechanism or – if we do not reach a constructive agreement – a new round of the arms race will start." Medvedev said.
Experts fear that failure to bridge the gap between the Russian vision of a joint missile defense shield over which Moscow would hold veto power, and NATO's concepts of two separate systems that would share information between them, could put a swift end to the Russia-NATO honeymoon announced at a Lisbon summit earlier this month.
There are also concerns that the US-Russia 'reset' of relations could falter if the US Senate fails to ratify the START nuclear arms control treaty in the current lame duck session of Congress as Republican opponents of President Obama have threatened.