Editor’s Note: In an interview on Ideas in Action, Clifford Gaddy discusses the recent announcement that Vladimir Putin intends to become Russia’s President once again. Gaddy outlines what this decision will mean for Russian politics, economics and relations with the United States.
JIM GLASSMAN, IDEAS IN ACTION: It’s been 20 years since the end of the Cold War but what’s old is new again in Russia. Vladimir Putin has announced that he will take over the presidency again. The corruption by the ruling class during Soviet times has become corruption by the new ruling oligarchy. The Obama administration is pursuing a reset, or normalization, of relations with Russia. Can Russia get back on track to developing its democracy? Cliff, could U.S. policy makers have predicted that Putin would once again seek the presidency?
CLIFFORD GADDY: Oh absolutely that’s been the discussion for the past four years; what role would Putin play, would he come back again? I think people have gone back and forth about whether he would let Medvedev serve out two terms and to some extent I think this is a surprise. Although by the time he made the announcement a couple of weeks ago I think the consensus was that Putin was not going to let Medvedev continue he was going to assume the presidency himself again.
GLASSMAN: The Russians have been engaging in a lot of really bad behavior by any kind of normal moral standard and are we kind of encouraging that or at least not discouraging it? Or should it even be a matter of interest to us in our foreign policy?
GADDY: It should be a matter of interest but it has to be balanced with other interests. I have a lot of criticisms of the current administration and in many respects including aspects of the relationship with Russia but I think it’s unfair to say that we’ve swept all of this under the table, that we’ve turned a blind eye to crimes and so forth. It’s a matter of balancing interest and that’s what the reset was all about it. I think it’s a bit of pretence. It’s a face saving measure for both sides. Locked in a confrontational sort of a situation you know both sides had important issues they’d like to deal with and by calling this a reset you say ok let’s just temporarily pretend that these issues that we were in confrontation about maybe we can put them aside and let’s get down to real issues. But that doesn’t mean that either side thought that this was drawing a blank slate, that we’re not going to remember grudges and protest and complaints on either side, and they continue to come up.
[Trump] didn't say one word about Ukraine and he had to be briefed on this stuff. The only person to say that the United States says the annexation of Crimea wasn't legal and disagrees with Russia was the president of Russia. The overall contrast [with Trump's criticisms of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, British Prime Minister Theresa May, and the EU earlier in the trip] coupled with Trump's inability to say Russia had done anything to contribute to the downturn of US-Russia relations, either way it's scary. Either he forgot there's a problem or he wasn't willing. He would have had no problem listing his grievances against Germany, but against Putin, he's not capable of saying anything.