Two heads better than one?

Dmitry Medvedev and VladimirPutin have shown the meritof their political alliance overthe last two years

Dmitry Medvedev and VladimirPutin have shown the meritof their political alliance overthe last two years

As Britain goes from a two-party system to a twin-party leadership, can David Cameron unite his conservative values with Nick Clegg’s liberalism in the British version of Russia’s double-headed eagle?

For the last two years, Britain has been puzzling over how comfortable Russia really is with two men in charge of the country. Now the British people themselves have a chance to find out about the nature of a “tandem” arrangement in government.

In Russia, Vladimir Putin represents the values of the older generation, not too distant from the traditional values of David Cameron’s Tories, but with a Russian twist.

These include strong government, the preservation of political traditions and a cautious approach to applying European models of development to Russia. Mr Putin isn’t afraid of European integration, but he represents the significant portion of society that is sceptical about applying European models of development to Russia.

David Cameron and Nick Clegg have yet to be tested in a climate dominated by party politics

Putin and Cameron both represent the idea of “modernisation in accordance with national traditions”. Dmitry Medvedev, on the other hand, said during the first EU-Russia summit of his presidency in Samara: “I’m not afraid of European integration.”

He therefore provides a balance to Putin’s caution in his relations with Europe, just as Nick Clegg will balance Cameron’s Euroscepticism

Medvedev also speaks a lot about human rights and individual freedom, as does the Lib Dem leader.

Elsewhere, it will be intriguing to see how the Cameron-Clegg duet reflects the Medvedev-Putin double act.

In the Ukraine dispute, the Russian leaders’ traditional roles were reversed, the “softer” Medvedev becoming the tough guy who refused to negotiate with then-president Viktor Yushchenko. Putin, meanwhile, built bridges with prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko.

After the Georgian war in August 2008, Putin led the effort to rebuild South Ossetia and build ties with the existing governments (and the opposition in Georgia), while Medvedev explained to the outside world why his course of action was necessary. It is this interchangeability that has made Medvedev and Putin such a formidable partnership.

With Cameron and Clegg, it is a time for waiting and seeing. But there is much that they can learn from their near counterparts in Russia, despite the differences in the two political systems.

And the consensus in Russia is that two into one will go… with careful nurturing and some very clever juggling of different abilities.

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