Vlad tidings for Russia | india | Hindustan Times
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Vlad tidings for Russia

But the fact that Mr Medvedev has openly asked Mr Putin to continue as his PM suggests Mr Putin may have a strategy in place.

india Updated: Dec 17, 2007 02:34 IST
Hindustan Times

The guessing game about Russian President Vladimir Putin’s successor is finally over, with Dmitry Medvedev emerging as the Kremlin candidate for next year's presidential election. Mr Putin announced his backing for his protégé, legal advisor and first deputy prime minister last Monday. This should have ended months of speculation about who would preside over Russia’s future after Mr Putin’s second term in office winds down next March.

On the contrary, this seems to have ignited more debate — about the real reason behind Mr Medvedev’s elevation. It is no secret that anyone backed by Mr Putin in today’s Russia would be a shoo-in at the polls. Riding on a huge wave of popularity, Mr Putin knows that he can successfully project Mr Medvedev — never mind if he has no power base of his own — as Russia’s third elected president. Mr Putin is probably banking on the former head of the presidential administration — a loyalist — to return the reins of power to him at some point. True, the current Russian constitution prohibits a third presidential term for anyone. But the fact that Mr Medvedev has openly asked Mr Putin to continue as his PM suggests Mr Putin may have a strategy in place. This could be realised once Russia’s efforts at working out a grand reunion with Belarus bear fruit. For such an event would call for a new constitution, which could conceivably spell Mr Putin’s formal return to the helm with even more power.

Russia is not the bear it once was. A massive brain drain and demographic crisis have evidently left the country smaller — in terms of population as well as stature — and plagued by problems like alcoholism, Aids, racism, violence and xenophobia. Yet, President Putin’s rule has inarguably brought a relative economic prosperity to Russia — a new Russia that seems far more compact and amenable to effective strategic management. With its strategic assets intact, the economy was the only major constraint in Russia’s exercising its traditional countervailing role to balance the US. So the country’s economic revival can only spell good news for a world that yearns for a new order.