Two weeks after Dmitry Medvedev succeeded to the Russian presidency, it is becoming evident to DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s Moscow sources that neither he nor his patron, outgoing president and incoming prime minister Vladimir Putin have cast him in the role of rubber stamp.
The handover was not just a ceremonial act, as the prevailing convention maintained, but the inception of a phased transfer of important strategic, military, economic and diplomatic spheres to the new president.
In fact this week, the Russian president chose to make his first foreign trips to Kazakhstan and China, clues to the areas which Putin has begun handing over to his successor. Our sources report that Medvedev has taken charge of the Kremlin’s ties with Central Asian countries and China – just for starters.
Putin will meanwhile retain the handling of Russian ties with the United Stats, Europe, India and the Middle East, as well as overall responsibility for the armed forces and intelligence services.
Putin and Medvedev are clearly in close sync and there is much curiosity about which areas of responsibility will be transferred next to the new man and how well he will handle them.
Thursday, May 22, he flew to Kazakhstan to sign two space accords and oversee the natural gas pipeline project along the Caspian coast which Russia, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan signed last December.
From Astana, Medvedev travels to Beijing, where he and President Hu Jintao will discuss strategic collaboration and sign economic accords which, together with the East Siberia-Pacific oil pipeline project, should expand the volume of Russian-Chinese bilateral trade to $80 billion within two years.
For now, Moscow sent planeloads of rescue teams, equipment and aid to Chinese earthquake victims as soon as Beijing invited foreign assistance. Russian teams dug for survivors in the rubble of the devastated Chinese cities, Miangju Dujiangyan, flew an airmobile hospital to Chengdu with 47 doctors, medicines and equipment, and dropped 150 tons of tents, blankets and rice to stranded Chinese communities.