The Putin-Medvedev tandem does not exist in the same form it did throughout the presidency of Dmitry Medvedev. Medvedev swapped jobs with Vladimir Putin and became the prime minister, but he does not have the same influence or authority that Putin had as prime minister. In comparing Medvedev to his predecessors, it could be said he has a similar level of influence as Viktor Chernomyrdin under no less an authoritarian President Boris Yeltsin.
For the most part, the West has unflattering views of Medvedev’s current role. Many consider him Putin’s puppet, especially after he meekly surrendered his presidential chair to Putin. Some analysts even believe Medvedev is the Kremlin's liberal face for the West. Many in the United States and Europe have become disenchanted with his failure to liberalize the Russian political system. Hardly anyone in the West sees Medvedev as Putin’s successor in 2018. In terms of potential successors, seasoned political scientists are thinking in terms of other people at the top – Alexei Kudrin, Sergei Shoigu and Sergei Ivanov.
Western analysts simply believe that now the securocrats (siloviki) are running the show in the Kremlin after a short period of thaw under Medvedev. By way of example they cite Igor Sechin’s promotion to the rank of "grey cardinal” over the entire fuel-and-energy sector.
Some Western analysts view with interest and a certain hope the political initiatives of Arkady Dvorkovich – a young new heavyweight in Medvedev’s government -- to dismantle the monopoly in the Russian energy business. But how long will Medvedev be able, or, even more importantly, willing to support the appearance of liberal reforms in his government? Is he ready to defend people like Dvorkovich in the event of a real conflict with the securocrats?
Many analysts in the West think the securocrats will not forgive Medvedev for "waking up” and "letting loose” the Russian middle class. Before Medvedev wrote his famous critical articles like "Russia, Go!” the middle class was happy with its material blessings and did not have any political ambitions or even its own distinct opinion. Now the mood has changed, and it is very difficult to put the "genie of freedom” back in the bottle.
Medvedev will be subjected to more attacks – the denigration of his role in a video on the Ossetian-Georgian military conflict is just the beginning. There are influential forces in the Kremlin that don’t want to see another Putin-Medvedev swap in 2018 or in 2024.
Medvedev remains an enigma in the West. Who is he – a sincere liberal who wants to modernize Russia cautiously without making too many waves? Or is he loyal to Putin without any credo of his own? Medvedev will never hold the respect of the intelligentsia and the middle class – they no longer consider him the progressive he could have been in 2009. Yet, things could change as long as Medvedev remains the second man in line. For Putin, he remains the strategically important counterweight to the powerful securocracy.