Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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December 11, 2007
By: Kevin Drum

UNEASY LIES THE HEAD....Fred Kaplan, writing two months ago about the term limits that prevent Russian president Vladimir Putin from running for a third term:

It's worth recalling, given the present situation, how Putin became president. In August 1999, [Boris] Yeltsin appointed him prime minister. In December, Yeltsin suddenly resigned. Under Russia's constitution, the prime minister succeeds the president in such circumstances, so Putin rose to become acting president — giving him the presumptive lead in the election the following March.

Putin inherited the supreme presidential powers of Yeltsin's constitution. If Putin does run for parliament and then becomes prime minister, he might, as some speculate, pull the strings from behind the scenes, like a puppeteer, while the president — who will no doubt be handpicked by Putin, just as Putin was handpicked by Yeltsin — only pretends to make the decisions.

That's one scenario. There's another one, though, which would reprise his earlier path to the top: His handpicked president resigns soon after the election, and, to the cheers of hundreds of thousands who throng Red Square as witnesses, Czar Vladimir once more ascends to the throne.

The New York Times, today:

A day after President Vladimir V. Putin endorsed a loyal protege, Dmitri A. Medvedev, as his successor, Mr. Medvedev went before the nation today and declared that he in turn wanted to name Mr. Putin as his prime minister.

....Some analysts conjectured that Mr. Medvedev could even step down before his term as president ends — clearing the way for Mr. Putin to be elevated from prime minister to president, which would be possible under the Constitution.

Indeed. Of course, there are also other ways for a president to "step down." Mr. Medvedev might do well to keep his eye on the Russian supply of polonium-210.

Kevin Drum 12:12 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (12)

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I wonder if, in the face of the NIE, some of the Republican candidates will start making Russia the enemy. The arguments against that are: they aren't brown islamofascists, and that Bush knows Vlad's soul! But they need an enemy...

Posted by: Gore/Edwards 08 on December 11, 2007 at 12:21 PM | PERMALINK

@Gore/Edwards 08: And that is at least an area that Dr. Rice has some academic authority!

Posted by: Inaudible Nonsense on December 11, 2007 at 12:24 PM | PERMALINK

Ahh, but Bush looked into the eyes of Vlad the Impaler and found a soul he could trust.

Posted by: SocraticGadfly on December 11, 2007 at 12:29 PM | PERMALINK

It will be interesting to see what he does to reverse the demographic suicide (democide?) Russia is committing with its low birth rate. Maybe monthly sex days instead of yearly.

Posted by: SJRSM on December 11, 2007 at 12:48 PM | PERMALINK

So might Putin eye the Polonium. But Putin may have picked Medvedev because he doesn't want the job.

Posted by: Boronx on December 11, 2007 at 12:51 PM | PERMALINK

As Clinton said back in 1992, "it's the economy, stupid". As long as the Russian economy keeps humming along (and it will unless oil & gold prices collapse), the Russian people will be happy no matter what Putin does.

Westerners do not seem to get this. They are so focused on political freedom that they are overlooking the importance of economic freedom. under Putin, the standard of living for most Russians has improved tremendously, which is why there is no real opposition. Like it or not, most Russian's are perfectly happy with Putin as benevolent dictator, and will be as long the economy keeps humming along.

Posted by: mfw13 on December 11, 2007 at 12:55 PM | PERMALINK

Although I do not think a social conservative movie critic will be the best president Russia could have, he will do a much better job than W. Bush ever could.

Posted by: Brojo on December 11, 2007 at 1:02 PM | PERMALINK

My impression is that Putin isn't a great guy, but why believe what Kaplan at Slate, or the NYT tells us?

They hype all threats, either to move product or to sell their neo-con ideologies.

Posted by: luci on December 11, 2007 at 3:39 PM | PERMALINK

If Medvedev is really a puppet, then Putin doesn't really need to do anything. It is probably in his own best interest to pull the strings from behind the curtain for six years, and then run again himself when Medvedev's term ends. (Russia's term limits only apply to consecutive terms.)

Posted by: sburnap on December 11, 2007 at 5:08 PM | PERMALINK

Yeah -- Polonium! In the Good Ole Days of the NKVD they just used "9 grams of lead". It cured defeatism and counter-revolutionary tendencies.

Posted by: John G on December 11, 2007 at 10:34 PM | PERMALINK

For sure Medvedev is a decoy for the wild goose hunt later on the menu. No military contacts, small stature, pleasant and "nice"; all-round, new-age softie. The type Russians love to mock. There'll be some difficult internal troubles requiring a strong hand, he'll falter and a Putin Putsch will restore order to everyone's relief. Polonium won't be a worry. All Russia's Polonium is tracked and accounted for, since only a tiny amount is capable of being collected each year and notably being a key component of nuclear triggers. Only ahh... Israel has a supply that is beyond IAEA supervision..

Posted by: Daro on December 12, 2007 at 12:46 AM | PERMALINK
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