The past 36 hours have proven to be a lesson in effective communication skills in the Russian political drama centered around three men – President Medvedev, Prime Minister Putin and Mayor Luzhkov (Moscow).
Medvedev is officially only the third President of Russia since the end of the Soviet era. There is often speculation as to whether or not there is a Co-Presidency, and recently, as to whether or not there might be a fracture in the relationship between the two — President (protégé) and Prime Minister/Former President (mentor).
Vladimir Putin has displayed effective communication skills when it comes to staging/messaging as indicated by the following picture from the front page of The New York Times. This picture from Mr. Medvedev’s inauguration, with the two men, surrounded by…..no one, certainly communicated a message. (Mr. Putin was not yet nominated to become Prime Minister – that happened later in the day).
The intense speculation surrounding what may happen in 2012 took center stage this week. President Medvedev, under pressure due to outspoken criticism from Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov, fired the Mayor yesterday.
Putin has been a long time supporter of the Mayor, mentor to the President and speculation runs rampant that he may challenge his protégé in 2012. Yesterday was a perfect opportunity to telegraph his intention….and he didn’t, instead saying, ” Yury Luzhkov has done much for Moscow’s development, and to a certain degree he is a symbolic figure of modern Russia…Meanwhile, the mayor is the president’s subordinate, and not vice versa, so [Luzhkov] should have taken the steps required to normalize the situation.”
In terms of communicating a clear message, Putin navigated murky waters very well, showing respect for the position of his protégé, showing support for his protégé yet falling short of saying the President made the right decision for residents of Moscow. 2012 may turn out to be as interesting an election year abroad as it is in the U.S.