Who Really Wears the Pants in Russia?

By Caitlin Taylor

Jul 6, 2009 3:11pm

ABC News’ Sunlen Miller reports:  Shortly after arriving in Moscow President Obama hunkered down in the Kremlin with President Dmitri Medvedev. The two leaders emerged three hours later touting their agreements reached to limit nuclear warheads and cooperate on Afghanistan. The two young leaders, standing side-by-side in front of Russian and US flags afterward, were faced with a question that many inside Russia want to know: who does President Obama really believe is in charge of the country: the new president, Medvedev or the former president Vladimir Putin? Putin, now Prime Minister, is set up in a position that some believe still secures him the power, just behind the scenes. “My understanding is, is that President Medvedev is the president; Prime Minister Putin is the prime minister,” Obama answered at today’s press conference, much to the delight of the President standing to his left, “And they allocate power in accordance with Russia’s form of government, in the same way that we allocate power in the United States.” Obama said his interest is in dealing directly with his elected counterpart, President Medvedev but that he can also reach out to Prime Minister Putin, as well as other sectors of Russian society so that he can get the full picture of Russia’s needs. And attempting a positive spin, “My strong impression is, is that President Medvedev and Prime Minister Putin are working very effectively together.  And our interest is dealing with the Russian government as a whole in order to achieve the improved bilateral relationship that I think can be accomplished.” Some reports indicate that beneath the surface though, fractions and tensions do exist between the two leaders inside Russia, contributing to Russia’s recent problems. On Tuesday, Mr. Obama will meet with Prime Minister Putin for the first time when the two leaders share breakfast together. — Sunlen Miller

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