Whose Nerves Will Fail First?

WTOControversy between President Medvedev and Premier Putin is clearly reflected in their different approaches to the issue of Russia joining WTO

President Dmitry Medvedev is eager to rule, and intends to demonstrate his increased influence. At a recent conference with his plenipotentiary representatives, Medvedev ordered that “all governors get from under their desks” and stop expecting that top authorities representatives would arrive from Moscow and settle local crisis situations.

That was another sign that the President was increasingly more eager to rule and would further demonstrate his increased influence to everyone. His team even started to copy some of his methods For example, Nikolay Vinnichenko, Presidential Representative in the Urals Federal District, set up his personnel reserve of 140 people.

Certainly, this situation will lead to some contradictions between the official state leader, and the moral state leader, Vladimir Putin. The controversy reflected in negotiations of our leaders on regarding Russia’s potential joining the World Trade Organization (WTO).

It is well-known that Putin announced that Russia would join WTO only within the framework of its Customs Alliance with Kazakhstan and Belarus. Since there is no such a mechanism of joining WTO, it is likely that the Premier was a mouthpiece of thiose structures that do not want to join WTO. They are primarily the Military Industrial Complex, the Fuel and Energy Complex, automotive industry and agroindustry that are being controlled by people from Putin’s team.

However, quite unexpectedly Dmitry Medvedev inflicted a blow at that decision. Recently he announced that Russia would join WTO unconditionally, all by itself.

There is no answer to that announcement yet, so it seems that President Medvedev put the Premier in an awkward situation. Additionally, there is no Customs Alliance yet. It will be launched only on the 1st of January, 2010. Before that, parliaments of the three member states will have to endorse that decision.


Russia has conducted negotiations on its joining WTO during the past 15 years. Two issues are still unresolved, namely state support of agriculture, and application of phytosanitary norms. So far neither Belarus, nor Kazakhstan has prepared any solution for these issues. Additionally, their laws considerably differ from the Russian law.

According to experts, in case of a growing controversy between Medvedev and Putin, the WTO issue may be used against the Premier, as it is obvious that his position has been poorly grounded. However, it is likely that the two leaders will not allow this tension to escalate. It is quite possible that we are viewing kind of a play inside a single tandem, where each player is waiting for the other’s nerves to fail him.

Argumenty Nedeli, 23 July 2009

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