It says a lot about the kind of place Russia has become that just two minutes of mild mockery of the Kremlin could cause a political shock wave. But sure enough: when the state-controlled Channel One showed a short cartoon in January depicting Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and PresidentDmitry Medvedev dancing together in Red Square, singing a comic duet about the big news stories of 2009, liberals rejoiced.
Two years ago, Russia was one of the fastest-growing auto markets in the world--but few Western carmakers were willing to risk a partnership there. Then, in 2007, Renault purchased a 25 percent stake in AvtoVaz, whose Lada brand was famous for the wrong reasons: its plants were fitted with Soviet-era production equipment and its 100,000 employees produced just 130,000 cars annually.
Last month Dmitry Medvedev set out his bold new vision of a "more civilized" Russia, no longer prone to the "legal nihilism" that has rotted the fabric of Russian capitalism and turned the courts and police into tools for settling private business disputes.