German Chancellor Angela Merkel will meet with Dmitri Medvedev during his last visit before Vladimir Putin returns to the helm of Russia as their President. Medvedev will step down and assume a role as Russia's Prime Minister. The widespread hope that modernization of the Russian economy would lead to democratization and improved human rights has been all but extinguished. Germany lent massive support to a Russian capitalism conversion only to see little real change in the area of government.
European nations, and Germany in particular, bestowed limited aid and political favors with an eye on trade rather than real reforms. Western nations failed to approach the issues of judiciary independence and free speech. At the same time Russia looked at the resource and trade needs of Europe as a check against the bargaining power of those nations toward bringing the superpower in line with modern human values.
The past saw Germany and greater Europe forgo the use of soft power in trade as a means to urge that Russia work on legal improvements, that they reign in organized crime and separate the court systems from administrative micromanagement, among other things. Besides human rights violations Russia often ignores international accords on the environment in practice. The ruling structure remains solidly intact and notably remiss in spending money on the nation's physical needs. Roads, buildings, schools and hospitals crumble while money continues to flow into national coffers, but, more so, corruptly into private bank accounts and the pockets of politicians. The needs of the people are only slightly less ignored than the country's ecosystems.
Medvedev did nothing that would have diminished the role of senior government officials, in any sector, nor anything that would have impacted the earnings of the aristocracy. He functioned with minimal autonomy from former President Putin, who stepped aside from running Russia in title only. In the strictest sense Putin relinquished governance while Medvedev served, but very shortly Putin will take on full leadership in every way once more, not just as the man with all the strings.
The Russian military never suffered any lack of attention in Putin's absence, and the issue of nuclear weapons regulation also gave Europe nothing to find positive. Nuclear weapons wrangling will return to familiar patterns with Putin once again bearing the title of President. Those negotiations mostly take place with the United States, with Europe sitting idly and nervously on the sidelines. The U.S. and NATO's anti-ballistic missile defense system, planned with illegal nuclear weapons programs in the Arab world in mind, drew firm opposition from Russia. The Europeans divided on the issue depending on their interpretation of Russia's response and their trade status with the neighboring superpower.
Another situation that Europe hoped would gain steps to resolution was the Transnitria desire for independence from Moldova, a 20 year old affair. Europe hoped to establish a European Union-Russian Political and Security Committee to address civil and military matters with crises in mind, and believed membership in such an organization would be attractive enough to use as leverage on Transnitria. Mrs. Merkel proposed the initiative, but it accomplished nothing.
Even though nothing firmly progressive ever transpired during Medvedev's term he had, at least, a somewhat more open mind. Vlad is coming back, and all the hopes for change have vanished. Instead of Westernization analysts expect agitation over NATO and the small struggles for autonomy in the tiny former states of the USSR. Putin desires the exact opposite of what Germany and Europe wanted. He wants to expand his style of government further west, and develop the Eurasian Union from the European model. To the east of Europe leaders do not see the bright illumined faces accompanying a Russian Renaissance. Times are murky and gray as clouds roll back in, accompanying Vladimir Putin back to the peak of the Kremlin and Moscow.
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