Once again, the world’s investors expressed their disagreement with the views of The Economist et al regarding Russia’s development trajectory. This time, they expressed their disagreement to the tune of $14.6 billion in deals made over last weekend’s conference. Also, the CEO of Citibank proclaimed that the stability and liquidity that has been achieved in Russia’s economy is nothing short of “extraordinary.” Even The Economist had some nice things to say about the tenor of the conference. Most importantly, President Medvedev gave a striking speech in which he proclaimed his strong support for liberal markets and transparency, and he even quoted Winston Churchill at the end, which must have gone over well with the crowd.
In the speech, Medvedev also obliquely took a shot at the U.S. for its role in starting the current economic and financial crisis. This speech, aside from showing that Medvedev is a serious and competent thinker on such economic issues, was also an essential restatement of Russia’s foreign policy strategy. In particular, Medvedev is making the argument that Russia could be a more able supporter of the ‘Washington Consensus‘ than Washington itself. This is in stark contrast to the Soviet era, where Russia offered an alternative system and worldview. Politicians, policymakers, and commentators in the U.S. often fail to grasp this and instead conflate any criticism from Russia with a return to a Soviet mindset. More importantly, the idea that other nations are rising in importance economically and politically (though not militarily) in the world has been gaining currency recently. Finally, observers should take into consideration the extent to which Medvedev is a more perfect vessel for this message than Putin. Putin gave essentially the same speech last year, but it was not received as well. Medvedev, with his legal and business background, appears to have more credibility on these issues and he is less rough around the edges in his delivery. Ultimately, this may make him a more capable advocate of Russia’s position than Putin was.
(Also check out Russia Profile’s Expert Panel on the speech)
Al-Jazeera did an in-depth story on Medvedev’s speech: