Apr 21, 2008

Dissecting Putin’s Duma Gambit

Eternal Remont has long held that Putin’s move to Prime Minister is a tactical play designed to maintain his hold on the leavers of power. This will, of course, require some delicate maneuvering by way of in-coming President Medvedev. But with a constitutional majority in the Duma, all things are possible.

However, a counter argument is emerging which does not view the Duma gambit as a cunning tactical move, but rather an act of defensive desperation. As Russian commentator Vitaly Portnikov argues, “…Putin’s decision to head [the Unity Party] without even becoming a member of it is, in fact, more of a demonstration of his uncertainty about his future and, even more [a demonstration of] the uncertainty of his inner circle about its future.”

By comparison, Boris Yeltsin’s endgame was far less complex, since Putin’s first act as president was to grant his predecessor blanket immunity from prosecution. Unlike Yelstin, soon-to-be-former President Putin is not threatened with an angry mob at the Kremlin walls. Nevertheless, his siloviki courtiers could be growing sensitive to the possibility that their personal and political fortunes may undergo a marked reversal.

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