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Medvedev Might Well Learn Something From Obama

Will he soften up?
Will he soften up?
Over the last eight years, U.S. President George W. Bush has set the tone among world leaders. At least, it is obvious that he played a formative role for Vladimir Putin. It was Bush, in my opinion, who by his own example or his tacit approval laid out for Putin the limits of what is allowed in both domestic and international policy. And as usual, the student eventually outpaced the teacher.

And now we have Barack Obama. No matter that to a considerable extent he is a product of American political traditions (otherwise he wouldn't have been elected), it is obvious, that he is capable of bringing new standards to governing, standards that ultimately will trickle down to other countries. Once again -- we are much obliged to Bush that Putin is the way that he is. How will Obama change Russia?

First, his election creates problems for the Kremlin's political gurus. The old and relatively easy-to-find anti-Bush tendencies of the long-term anti-American campaign were blown away in one night. The propagandists, who have grown used to justifying Russia's foreign-policy aggression by saying "they started it!" have now lost their model of global evil.

Second, Medvedev will simply have to become -- at least a little bit -- something like Obama. Russia has become like a soldier who is marching out of step with the rest of his company. Analyst Emil Pain recently quipped about Putin's insistence on a multi-polar world by saying, "Well, now, who lives on our pole? Russia and Nicaragua?"

Now we can hope for better. Putin could never stand on the same level with Obama. He was made for Bush.

But President Dmitry Medvedev might be able to compare favorably with the new American president. His videoblog and his stated interest in the Internet in general -- this is a good start that gives hope that one day he might be able to break free of the totalitarian schemes that have too much characterized the Russian government. And now he has a good example right before his eyes.

-- A listener of RFE/RL's Russian Service

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Written by RFE/RL editors and correspondents, Transmission serves up news, comment, and the odd silly dictator story. While our primary concern is with foreign policy, Transmission is also a place for the ideas -- some serious, some irreverent -- that bubble up from our bureaus. The name recognizes RFE/RL's role as a surrogate broadcaster to places without free media. You can write us at

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