Friday, April 27, 2007

Operation Successor

My thoughts on the question posed this week on Russia Profile's experts group, on who is likely to be Putin's successor as president:

A "cohabitation" between Dmitry Medvedev as prime minister, handling domestic affairs and economic policy, and Sergei Ivanov as president, in charge of Russia’s foreign and defense policies – and also providing a balance among Kremlin factions – is certainly a logical scenario for solving the succession question. Whether it would work – since Ukraine´s attempt at cohabitation between the "two Viktors" has now failed – is another question.

But in one respect – and I would limit my response to this particular question – who the next president of Russia turns out to be will not have much impact on Russia´s key foreign relationships. Whether Hillary Clinton, John McCain or another U.S. presidential hopeful will end up being introduced to a president Medvedev, Ivanov, Yakunin or Sobyanin won’t have much impact on reversing recent negative developments in the relationship between Moscow and Washington. In the absence of a color revolution in Russia itself, official Washington and some of the states of Eastern Europe will consider the next leader of Russia to be no more than the continuation and clone of the current undesirable incumbent. At the same time, the Western Europeans, led by Germany, will continue to invest in Russia and to work for more symbiotic economic relations no matter who sits in the main Kremlin office – although they might be somewhat more reassured to see Medvedev as one of the top leaders. And Italians, Germans, Indians and Chinese, used to having the state play a leading role in a country’s economic life, will adjust to the limitations on foreign investment. And the Anglo-Americans will continue to complain.

I thought that one purpose of Putin´s speech at Munich was designed to "lock in" Russia´s overall foreign policy direction for his successor, just as current economic arrangements are being forged with an eye to enduring beyond the 2008 elections. Who the next president is is less important than the fact that it will continue to be "Putin apres Putin."

Putin for US President in 2008!
We could do a lot worse, and did, in 2000 and 2004...

What do you make of Ian's view that there is a strong case to be made for Prime Minister Putin and a greatly weakened president's office?
That would take a new constitution, which wouldn't be bad at all, since the present constitution rammed through by that "great democrat" Yeltsin is an atrocity of unchecked presidential power. Putin has been a "good Tsar" who has used the collossal powers the present constitution gives him for the good of his country.

But not all Tsars are "good Tsars".
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