The announcement that Vladimir Putin will run again for the presidency should not have come as a surprise to anyone. In reality, Putin never ceased to be president. The Medvedev presidency was a masquerade, a sound-and-light show intended to befuddle the gullible both at home and abroad. Medvedev’s closest associates never occupied anything but secondary positions, and Medvedev did not address a single one of Russia’s underlying problems.
Nonetheless, the Medvedev presidency was extremely useful to the Russians. The idea that it was real underpinned President Obama’s policy of “reset,” which would hardly have been possible if Putin had violated the Russian constitution in 2008 by running for a third consecutive term in office. By creating the impression that Russia is democratic, the Medvedev interlude facilitated a new treaty on strategic arms, the cancellation of U.S. plans to base an anti-ballistic missile system in Poland and the Czech Republic, and a decision to downplay Russian violations of human rights.
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