The war in Georgia, ironically, is creating a war of words inside Russia as President Dimitry Medvedev is now challenging Prime Minister Putin in making clear to the fighting men of their nation who is in charge. Medvedev made a surprise visit to Vladikavkaz, near the border with South Ossetia in order to give Russian soldiers a pep talk and make his presence known to those on the front lines. “In Tskhinvali, ou didn’t think about yourself,” he told them, “and in fulfilling your soldierly duty well understood that you were essentially the last hope for defenseless people.” He told them their actions in Georgia would “become one of the glorious pages in the history of the armed forces.”
There are reports his visit was part of a campaign of damage control to wrest the limelight away from Prime Minister Putin whose face and image have dominated Russian response to the Georgian attack. Prime Minister Putin is not the sort of person who welcomes competition when it is a matter of letting the world know who really is in charge of Russia, and Medvedev may have finally realized there is need on his part to be more publicly present in the lives of the Russian people.
It is interesting to note the change in language used by Medvedev who has been known for his calm and scholarly manner of speaking. Now, he throws around words such as “bastards” and “hooligans” to describe the enemy. He made clear in recent speeches his determination to be the one telling the West they must respect his nation.