This has been a terrible week for Dmitry Medvedev. First, of course, he was dumped as Russia's president. Then there was the blowup with the finance minister. Finally, he had to endure the revival of all those mortifying two-guys-go-into-a-restaurant jokes, the kind in which Medvedev always features as the "vegetable" and Putin as the "steak."
To all this, I say: Buck up, Mr. President. The past four years have not been a total waste. Medvedev did more than keep the presidential seat warm. He changed the country's politics in ways that will make Putin's job as president much more challenging. For this, anyone who cares about where Russia is headed should be grateful.
The open secret of the long succession drama was that a large portion of the Russian political elite, even people in his direct employ, did not want Putin to return as president. To them, he felt like yesterday's man -- someone who many said had served the country well in the past, but whose work was done. Who could not possibly take the country forward. Who would, in fact, make the country feel like Central Asia.