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U.S. editorial excerpts -2-.

NEW YORK, Aug. 13 Kyodo

Selected editorial excerpts from the U.S. press:

TAKE THAT, MR. TANDEM (The Washington Post, Washington)

When he took office as Russian president for a third term in May, there was a bit of uncertainty about the course Vladimir Putin would choose. The streets were packed with angry protesters. Might he take a modernizing path, or would he stick to the authoritarian prickliness of his earlier years as president?

Each week, Putin demonstrates anew that he is locked in his old ways. In response to the demonstrations, he rammed through legislation sharply increasing fines for violation of the public order. Then came a law requiring nongovernmental organizations that get money from abroad and engage in political activity to register as "foreign agents." Opposition leaders were harassed.

Now comes a sign that Putin is preparing to turn his back on his one-time protege, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, who served as president in between Putin's terms. The iPad-toting Medvedev had come to symbolize hopes for a more open and liberalizing Russia. But the "tandem," as his partnership with Putin was once called, seems to be unraveling.

The latest evidence is a video posted Aug. 5 on YouTube. No one knows exactly who made the video, part of a longer film titled "A Lost Day," but the message is unvarnished: Medvedev was a coward at the outset of war with Georgia in 2008, when he was president. The criticism comes from, among others, a former chief of the general staff, Yuri Baluyevsky, a retired general who says Medvedev dithered and refused to give the proper orders until Putin delivered a "kick" in the pants.

Baluyevsky is biased -- he was forced into retirement by Medvedev before the war. But after the clip appeared, Putin dignified it with a public response. Medvedev has repeatedly insisted he acted alone in the early hours of the Georgia conflict. But Putin flatly contradicted him, saying that he telephoned Medvedev twice from the Olympics to discuss the war.

In his remarks about the video, Putin also reignited the long dispute about who started the war. Russia says that Georgia started shooting first. Georgia says that Russia provoked the conflict. Putin acknowledged approving a war contingency plan for Georgia in 2007, a year before hostilities began. He also confirmed that Russia trained separatist fighters in the breakaway enclave of South Ossetia, where the conflict first broke out, while also stationing peacekeeping forces there.

Putin's direction bodes ill for Russia and for Russians. The country desperately needs modernization, both political and economic, but Putin is going backward. There will probably be more bloody noses before he is finished.

(Aug. 13)
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Publication:Asian Political News
Article Type:Editorial
Geographic Code:4EXRU
Date:Aug 20, 2012
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