January 5, 2023 Special Dispatch No. 10406

Medvedev's New Appointment: Putin's Glorified Postman Or Second In Command?

January 5, 2023
Russia | Special Dispatch No. 10406

Vladimir Putin's appointment of former president and prime minister Dmitry Medvedev to the post  of Putin’s first deputy in the Military-Industrial Commission of Russia, aroused interest in the Russian press that is still free to speculate on the political ups and downs of the Russian political elite. Mikhail Rostovsky, Moskovsky Komsomolets' lead commentator dismisses the importance of the appointment because Medvedev does not like to delve into details, a requisite quality for overseeing Russia's defense industry and assuring that it delivers what is needed for the war in Ukraine. Since Medvedev does not fit the bill for the job, Putin, to whom Rostovsky habitually ascribes supreme cunning, had a different purpose in mind. He wanted to elevate Medvedev into the world's most important postman to deliver messages from Vladimir that the West would take seriously.

An editorial in Nezavisimaya Gazeta has a completely different take. Medvedev, whose political career appeared to be in the doldrums to the point that friends advised him to accept a graceful retirement, was now back as a contender for power. He had revived his political fortunes by reinventing himself as a super hawk on Ukraine and the conflict with the West, thus displaying a facility for shedding his former liberal ideological skin.

MEMRI presents both articles below:

Medvedev and Putin at Russia's National Security Council (Source:

Mikhail Rostovsky, despite the title of his article that alluded to the "tandem" between Medvedev and Putin in 2008, where the two replaced each other as president and prime minister and ruled together, does not believe that Putin intends to revive that era. He wrote:[1]

Putin’s successor and predecessor at the president’s office of Russia, the only deputy to Putin at the Security Council, Dmitry Medvedev unexpectedly added to his already impressive collection of offices, posts and titles yet another job at the close of 2022. Now he is also Putin’s first deputy in the Military-Industrial Commission of Russia.

The Military-Industrial Commission is a highly specialized body with the right to set a budget for public procurement in the defense sector. Given the former president’s well-known dislike of "digging into details," it’s clear that this appointment is primarily of a symbolic nature.

But in the SVO era, Putin’s symbolic gestures often have a very important practical political purpose. Another Medvedev "promotion" is, clearly, one such gesture. The master of Kremlin has demonstrated that his former colleague from the ruling tandem is neither a flamboyant "blogger-commentator," nor a washed-up politician, who is formally kept in the fold in gratitude for his past merits. In the Kremlin hierarchy, which has been reformatted to suit the needs of the current most acute moment, Medvedev has a new main function. This is exactly what it seems to be.

In May of 2012, Dimitry ceased to be president of Russia and almost immediately, in the capacity of the country’s new prime minister and Putin’s personal representative, found himself meeting with the then US president Barack Obama.

During the public part of the rendezvous, the sensitive microphones of journalists picked up the words of the former Russian first person, which instantly became a meme. Reacting to Obama’s remarks, Medvedev uttered the English phrase, "I will convey this message to Vladimir."

To Vladimir: Prime Minister Medvedev meets with President Barack Obama (Source:

Over the ten and a half years since then, the landscape of global politics has changed beyond recognition. But at the moment, Dmitry Medvedev’s main Kremlin function is still to transmit particularly important political signals: only this time he’s doing it not "to Vladimir" but "from Vladimir."

From Vladimir: Medvedev, Deputy Chair of Russia's Security Council bears a message from Putin to China's Xi Jin Ping (

If you cast a cursory glance at the publicly available "communication device" through which the former Russian president fulfils his primary duty, I’m talking about his official Telegram channel this interpretation of events may seem exotic, to say the least. What practical political conclusion can be drawn in Washington after reading for example the following "futuristic hypothesis" about what in theory could happen in 2023, "Civil war in USA, secession of California and Texas into independent states. Creation of a union state of Texas and Mexico?" I suspect, none.

But such is the nature of the "cover-up operation." 90% of the content of Medvedev’s Telegram channel consists of rhetoric about the "phantom pains of the lost grandeur of the political greatness" of Western countries and "the British should get off Malvinas and return them to the Argentines."

However, it’s not these rhetorical exertions that really matter, but the remaining 10% (an important disclaimer: 10% is, naturally, a provisional figure, in fact the proportion of actually important action-oriented policy signals sent through Medvedev may be even smaller).

Take, for instance, the 16th December entry in the "twice Putin’s deputy" channel [i.e., Medvedev’s channel], "The question of legitimate military goals has been interpreted differently in the history of mankind... What can be considered legitimate military objectives today? Within the framework of the aforementioned rules of war, these are: 1) Any enemy troops... 3) Any targets that can be designated as military infrastructure, as well as civilian infrastructure contributing to the achievement of military goals... 5) The armed forces of other countries officially at war which are allied with the enemy country, as well as the targets referred to in sub-paragraphs 1-4 located on their territory."

As a lawyer by profession, has Dmitry Medvedev decided to speculate about the rules of a certain "abstract war" for the purpose of exercising his mind? 

Such a hypothesis, naturally, has right to exist: after all, we are not at war, as we know, but are engaged in an SVO. However, the sheer fact that Putin's deputy wrote these four points, prompts a very different interpretation, "Today, however, there is a central question: can the hybrid war, de facto declared upon our country by NATO, be considered the Alliance’s entry (sic with a capital letter – MK.) into a war with Russia? Can the supply of a huge number of arms to Ukraine be perceived as an attack on Russia? And, consequently, are the military objectives of the North Atlantic Alliance listed in paragraphs 1-4 of this note legitimate?"

This is no longer "propaganda and agitation." It’s already an emphatically calm transmission of an important political signal to the main adversary. Naturally, Medvedev’s Telegram channel is, certainly, not the only channel (pardon the unintentional pun) for transmitting such signals "from Vladimir." The same information (but in more detailed form) is, probably, being conveyed through the diplomatic channel, or via the special services and other channels, of whose existence we cannot even guess. But reiterate, reiterate and again reiterate - that's Putin’s style.

I also see the following as indicative of VVP's [Vladimir Putin] signature political style: the decree on Medvedev’s "promotion" (I put that term in quotes because there is no further promotion) is not just a confirmation of his status as the most senior and most important "political postman" on the planet. It’s also Putin's way of trolling of the West, a hint that in the eyes of Russia’s main person Medvedev’s "jokes and quips" about the West are at the very least harmless and have a right to exist.

Such is the interesting political "dialectic" we have approaching the new year 2023. Clearly, there is little chance of the new year being any calmer than the outgoing year 2022.

Nezavisimaya Gazeta's editorial argued in contrast that the appointments shows that Medvedev is again a player "in the intra-elite political competition'. The editorial stated:[2]

Dmitry Medvedev, Deputy Chairman of the Russian Security Council, continues to entertain and scare the readers of his Telegram channel (whose number is approaching a million). First, he put forward a prediction for 2023, suggesting a possibility of a major war and a new division of Europe, a civil war in the US and the victory of Elon Musk in the presidential elections in the "Republican states" of the US. Then he slammed the citizens who fled Russia, urging that they be recognized as "enemies of society" and their return to Russia be prohibited.

Simultaneously, Medvedev published an article of a programmatic nature in the "Rossiyskaya Gazeta" newspaper.[3] In his article, Medvedev promised to put an end to the "vile regime of the Kyiv nationalists," and claimed that there was no one to talk to in the West and that there was nothing to negotiate about. Medvedev believes that normal relations with Western countries can only be built, when a new generation of politicians comes to power there.

According to him, the ideological and philosophical collapse of the Western worldview is evident, and the Anglo-Saxons and "other countries that have sworn to darkness" will not succeed in splitting the Russian world. The Deputy Chairman of the Security Council of the Russian Federation proclaimed a change of economic and energy patterns in the countries allied under an "anti-Russian bloc." According to him, the world will balance on the brink of the third world war and nuclear catastrophe because Russia (which strives to avoid all this) doesn’t receive security guarantees from the West.

One could argue that Medvedev has set forth the philosophy of Russia’s "big pivot of 2022." President Vladimir Putin and representatives of the Russian Foreign Ministry say roughly the same thing, albeit not always as sharply. In turn, Medvedev comes to an end of the year with a new position, he has become first deputy to the Military-Industrial Commission of Russia, the role of which is now understandably quite important. Perhaps, one could speak of an institutional "renaissance" for Medvedev, who was essentially overshadowed in January, 2020.

It is difficult to clearly interpret the public activation of the ex-president and ex-premier in 2022, even based on the last appointment and the programmatic article. Everything indicates that he is not devoid of ambition, is not satisfied with the current alignment in power. In a changed conjuncture, has was consistently replaying a confrontational narrative, as if he were a populist politician struggling for votes. This came as a striking contrast to his previous reputation as a Kremlin liberal, a modernizer and a supporter of dialogue with the West. It could be an attempt to keep up at a time when warlords, rather than innovators, are playing an increasingly prominent role.

If this proves to be the case, the granting of a new office can be considered, as satisfying Medvedev’s request and ambition. But it may be a game with higher stakes. In 2007-2008 the government’s focus was on national projects and Medvedev, Putin’s successor and presidential candidate, oversaw them. Now the focus has shifted towards the special military operation [hereafter – the SVO]. Thus, it turns out that Medvedev is second only to Putin himself in the structure that is supposed to monitor compliance with all SVO needs.

It is premature to talk about a new "Operation Successor" mission with Medvedev in the leading role. An indirect sign that it has been launched could be the weekly VTsIOM [Russian Public Opinion Research Center] trust ratings. There, Medvedev has not yet demonstrated any noticeable positive dynamics, his ratings even "dropped" in comparison with that of the autumn [of 2022]. However, he is, definitely, taking part in the intra-elite political competition, demonstrating drive and evidently turning down a sinecure like the Constitutional Court, which many suggested to him. He has already been at the very top level of power, an experience that sets him apart from other figures.

And the ideological skin can be easily changed (whether one is putting it on, or taking off, as the situation demands).


[1], December 27, 2022.

[2], December 28, 2022.

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