This is one in a series of post cards from Reuters reporters across Europe, Middle East and Africa.
Global News Journal
A poster at the entrance to the World War One exhibition at London’s Imperial War Museum depicts the heir to the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife, minutes before they were shot dead as they toured the streets of Sarajevo in an open topped car. The two bullets triggered World War One. Alliances quickly came into play and an argument between Austria and Serbia drew in Russia, Germany, France, Belgium and Britain.
The temperature at the United Nations Security Council hasn’t been this high in years — and it’s not because the U.N. management raised the thermostat slightly to cut electricity costs. It’s due to the heated exchange of insults and accusations between Russia and the United States, which has reached a fever pitch reminiscent of the Cold War years.
Russia’s angry response to an accord between Washington and Prague on building part of a U.S. missile defence shield in the Czech Republic is reminiscent of the rhetoric of the Cold War. Although Russian President Dmitry Medvedev says Moscow still wants talks on the missile shield, his Foreign Ministry has threatened a “military-technical” response if the shield is deployed.
What makes Russian President Dmitry Medvedev tick? How independent is he of his predecessor, Vladimir Putin?
Medvedev gave Reuters a chance to find out more about his plans, and get some clues about the questions being asked by Russia watchers, analysts and diplomats, by granting us an interview in the Kremlin.
During a 90-minute question-and-answer session he played down differences with Putin, his long-time ally who is now prime minister, and portrayed himself as a continuity figure but the contrast in style and tone between the two men was striking.
Medvedev made none of the harsh attacks on the West that became Putin’s trademark and used considered, lawyerly phrases that sounded quite unlike Putin’s more direct and earthy language.
Medvedev said Russia’s foreign policy would not be swayed by criticism from abroad, but added that complaints about its policy were normal. He avoided echoing Putin by making charges of Western hypocrisy and double standards.
But he did sound more like Putin when discussing Russia’s media, saying television channels, newspapers and websites were “absolutely free” and dismissing any possibility of special controls on the media in Russia.
Some analysts think Medvedev is a deliberately more liberal choice than Putin who can usher in an era of greater freedom, private property and foreign investment. Others view him with suspicion as little more than a Putin puppet.