Meeting Medvedev: The Politics of the Putin Succession

An in-depth analysis of the political context of Dmitry Medvedev’s rise, focusing on the behind-the-scenes manipulation by ?political technologists’


This Policy Brief provides an in-depth analysis of the political context of Dmitry Medvedev's rise, focusing on the behind-the-scenes manipulation by ‘political technologists' and listing discarded scenarios of Putin's grand plan. The author, Andrew Wilson, who has written several books on the post-Soviet space, urges EU leaders not to rush to embrace Medvedev, but use the momentum to establish the foundations for a common Russia strategy and set a series of ‘tests' for the new president.


Wilson argues that while Dmitry Medvedev – Russian president Vladimir Putin's likely successor – might appear a business-friendly, liberal reformer, he remains the product of a political system that is shaped solely by elite interests and ‘political technologists'.

“A repeat of the experience of 2000, when European leaders rushed to establish their own ‘personal relationships' with Putin, would further hinder the development of a common EU policy on Russia,” Wilson says in the report.

The EU has a small window of opportunity to develop a unified strategy toward Russia, and to establish new foundations for its bilateral relationship, based on mutual respect for the rule of law. “We should take Medvedev, the lawyer, at his word when he talks about the importance of strengthening the rule of law in Russia,” Wilson says.

Wilson argues that EU leaders should put the following tests to Medvedev to see whether he is a willing interlocutor:

  • Russia should agree to negotiations with the EU and key energy transit countries (Ukraine, Belarus, Georgia) to resolve open questions regarding supply diversity, transit fees and pipeline theft;
  • On Kosovo, Russia should accept the EU's rule of law mission and the setting up of the International Civilian Office, UNMIK's successor.
  • On Iran, the EU should encourage Russia to support the so-called E 3+3 process (with France, Germany and the UK, plus China, Russia and the US) and keep the Iran dossier with the International Atomic Energy Agency.

The report also recommends that the European Union restart negotiations on the Partnership and Co-operation Agreement (PCA) and include another country, possibly Poland, into trilateral summits between Russia, Germany and France to emphasise the importance of a collective EU approach.

In addition, it proposes that inter-governmental organizations, such as the Council of Europe and the OSCE, should strive to keep Russia within their ranks but should strengthen mechanisms which can put pressure on Russia to meet its commitments.

Finally, the report compares the Medvedev succession with that of Putin in 2000, and reveals the full context of Medvedev's rise to the top, including listing 8 discarded scenarios that have emerged in “Operation Successor 2.0”

The European Council on Foreign Relations does not take collective positions. ECFR publications only represent the views of their individual authors.

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