Streetwise Professor

November 8, 2007

A Consensus is Forming on Putin’s Future Course

Filed under: Politics,Russia — The Professor @ 11:03 am

From the Moscow Times, an illuminating article by Yevgeny Kiselyov that echoes many previous SWP posts.

First, don’t believe a word Putin says about his future plans:

I wouldn’t attach too much significance to Putin’s numerous statements that he plans to leave his presidential post. He has frequently acted in direct contradiction to what he has promised on record. Recall, for example, how Putin said the direct election of governors would not be abolished or that the government had no interest in the bankruptcy of Yukos.

Second, Putin ain’t going anywhere, in part because if he goes anywhere it is likely to be nowhere:

It could very well be that Putin sincerely believed what he said at the time, but at the end of the day, he changed his mind. And with the question of a third presidential term, perhaps something hasn’t worked out as expected. For example, maybe Putin couldn’t find a successor who was satisfactory to all Kremlin factions.

Perhaps there is some doubt that Zubkov, the most probable successor, will manage to win this election. Even the huge pro-Kremlin media and administrative resources may not be enough to put a positive spin on Zubkov and turn him into a popular presidential candidate. In addition, Putin cannot be certain that even the most loyal successor will not follow his own, independent path once he samples the sweet taste of power sitting in the presidential chair.

Moreover, what exactly is a third term? What does it mean when people say, “Putin is leaving office”? Judging from Putin’s behavior, he will hardly want a life of retirement, watering the flowers in his dacha garden. His supporters are taking every possible opportunity to make it clear that the president intends to remain the top politician in Russia and to influence all of the most important political decisions directly, even if his official job is ostensibly nothing more than chairman of the 2014 Sochi Olympics commission.

In this sense, it is already clear that a third term is probably unavoidable, regardless of what Putin’s future job title might be after May. This means the country is doomed to live under dual power — something that has always ended tragically for Russians.

[Emphasis mine.]

In this context, it is interesting to speculate on the meaning of the Clan War. As I’ve said before, it is the most likely pretext for Putin remaining in control, which raises the possibility that it was fomented (or surreptitiously encouraged) by Putin. Perhaps he did not foment it, but it is pretty clear that he is exploiting it opportunistically. Either is something Machiavelli Would Do.

One final thought. In an earlier post, I commented on the development of a security monoculture in Russia, with the FSB overawing all the other security organs in Russia. In light of the clan war, it is clear that I overestimated the degree of the monoculture. There is at least a security dyarchy, with (of all things) the narcotics control service, Gosnarkokontrol, playing the counterweight to the FSB. In my earlier post, I expressed surprise that even Putin would permit the dominance of a single security organ. I am not surprised, therefore, to learn that he has not.

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