Letter From the Editors: Nov. 27-Dec. 3

Author: Xenia Grushetsky

PM Medvedev’s Booby Prize, Why Russia Lacks Political Debate, and China’s North Korean Dilemma

"It was a computer glitch" - who hasn’t heard (or used) that phrase at least once? But the word "glitch" predates computers and other high-tech gadgets, its first known use dating back to 1958. Perhaps it can also apply to the political realm, which lately seems so full of glitches, that if it were an iPhone, it would be recalled.

One such glitch happened during the All-Russian Civic Forum this week, titled "Russia’s Future: The Federation, Regions and Cities." Former Russian finance minister Aleksei Kudrin pointed out several serious impediments to Russia’s future development (a technological lag, staggering poverty once you get outside the Moscow Ring Road) and engaged in a very public debate with another Putin team darling - Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin.

Republic.ru commentator Oleg Kashin points out that such public debate is unprecedented in Russian politics. This has been the case ever since Yeltsin, who abolished the tradition of the ruling party’s candidate debating anyone. Ever. (Apparently due to his own bad experience during a discussion with philosopher Aleksandr Zinovyev on French television in 1990.) Since then, the Russian opposition and the government have existed in two parallel worlds, never engaging in direct polemics. Is this an indication that the carefully constructed power vertical is showing some chinks in the armor, wonders Kashin?

This time of year is prime for bigwig interviews, and Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev was no exception. He sat down with representatives of five leading TV networks to answer some tough questions about the state of the economy. Medvedev elucidated several economic achievements, including low inflation and rising GDP. At the same time, he did note that a lot of Russians are living below the poverty line (20 million, according to the prime minister), but tried to pad this with ...

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