Note February 2016. These were done for the Russia Profile Weekly Experts’ Panel which I cannot find on the Net now. Many were picked up by other sources and I have given links where I can find them.
This one made Wikileaks
To my mind the shock and disappointment was not that Putin would run for President but Medvedev’s admission that such had always been the plan. Was Medvedev ever truly President? Or was he only a seat-warmer? At the least Putin and Medvedev could have run against each other giving Russians a more serious choice than they have had between the Establishment choice and Zyuganov/Zhirinovskiy. But instead we have this hole-in-the-corner decision that makes a mockery of Medvedev’s oath of office. Will any President of Russia be taken seriously by anyone while Putin lives?
The next shock is the damage Putin has done to his own cause. Remember his famous statement that Russia should be a “dictatorship of the law”? I read this at the time to be an intention to build a rule-of-law state. Or at least a rule-of-rules state: clear rules for all to understand and clear and fair punishment for those who break them. But hasn’t he just shown that while there may be a written set of rules, they aren’t the real rules? His return shows that not even he believes that the political structure he erected on the ruins of the Soviet period and the 1990s can work without his hand on the tiller. To say nothing of making Russia look like another President-for-Life-istan; I thought Putin was more patriotic. It’s almost an admission of failure.
I know that many Russians welcome the decision and that some argue that, in possibly difficult times coming, both in Russia and outside Russia, it is better that Putin’s proven hand be at the tiller. Others argue that this will allow a new and more effective stab at the modernisation that Russia needs. Maybe. History does show a very few examples of leaders who never lost their creativity and authority and it seems that Putin thinks he’s one of them. But most Presidents-for-Life are a drag on their country: eventually they clog up with sycophants and complacency.
He will be elected, there’s little doubt of that. And it will be a popular choice requiring no fixing by the Kremlin. He is still extremely popular and for good reason. There will be no rioting in the streets and only protests from the people who protest anyway. Stories of mass emigration are fantasies. But what about six years later? Or twelve?
And the outside world will do business with him – some even relieved that they know who the real boss is. But the anti-Russia crowd, already weirdly obsessed with Putin, will be given a fresh wind and will go on shouting that Russia is just a dictatorship: always was and always will be. Will we see more NATO expansion? More “coloured” “revolutions”? More hysteria over the “energy weapon”? Missiles in the neighbourhood?
Putin could truly have been the George Washington of his country. Establishing it, settling it, guiding it and then setting the precedent that two terms are enough for any mortal. That would have been a true service to a country that has seen too much one-man rule. His successors, like Washington’s, would have respected the example for decades. Instead we have the rule that the Vozhd is the Vozhd until death carries him off.
It’s a disappointing and shabby decision.