What's the Latest Development?

Despite the perceived political differences between current Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, the latter's announcement that he will again stand for the country's presidency shattered illusions many Russians had about democratic reform. "This makes it clear that Putin has always been at the top," says Nikolai Svanidze, a leading Russian TV personality and member of the Kremlin's Public Chamber, an advisory body. Just as Medvedev appointed Putin four years ago, Putin may appoint Medvedev as Prime Minister when he becomes President. 

What's the Big Idea?

In hindsight, it seems wishful thinking that Medvedev embodied democratic reform when he spoke of understanding the Russian youth and the importance of national modernization. But the openness with which Putin has admitted that Russia's national politics are highly orchestrated begs the question of whether democracy is a more just form of government or a historical contingency. Indeed, Putin is extremely popular in Russia despite his penchant for limiting free press and free enterprise. Even during Medvedev's presidency, Putin was seen as "the national leader".