08.02.2005
Manual Governance
№1 2005 January/March
Svetlana Babayeva

RIA Novosti Senior Analyst. 

Georgy Bovt

Georgy Bovt — a political scientist and a member of the Council for Foreign and Defense Policy.

A Russian political insider was recently heard commenting:
“Well, here we are! The whole system is being remodeled for just
one goal – 2008. Everything: business, media, government, all basic
decisions.” Another individual, who was equally well-connected,
added: “Perish the thought of any breakthroughs before 2007.” After
a pause, he said: “Or afterwards, for that matter.”

From these comments it would seem as if Putin were a lame duck
president whose goal is to survive until the end of his second
presidential term in order to earn two positions – the history
books for himself and the Kremlin for his successor. Yet things are
not at all that simple. Right before our eyes, “Operation
Successor” in Ukraine has slid off its designated track. The
incumbent Russian president has not yet put period to the
formulation of his own course. He has constructed a regime, but not
a course. Furthermore, the early start of “Operation
Successor-2008” seems to indicate that the organizers have little
confidence that they will eventually reach their goals. And there
are two questions that still do not have clear answers: “Who will
the leadership pass to?” and “What will be passed on to him?”

At first, the system repressed free thinking and free action,
since these activities bordered on sacrilege. Freedom survived,
however, but thinking and actions were eliminated. Then the system
produced a series of androids and placed them in key positions,
because it suspected the Homo sapiens and anthropoids that had
occupied these positions previously of being unreliable or having
oppositionist tendencies. The androids took the posts and said they
were ready to serve fervently, but they needed managers to govern
their motions. The governors’ typical comment was: “Well, what do
you want from androids?” Soon, others wanted to govern the androids
as well, not to mention the assets that had been placed under their
control; but they did not know how to govern. They did not know how
to put oil into the engine, what broken parts needed to be
replaced, or when maintenance tests should be taken. The system was
short of qualified operators to govern all the new android parties,
and the performing operators came from different schools. As a
result, the technology requirements for the workshops were eased
and simpler operators were hired. The end product was expected to
remain as sophisticated as before, however, and it was then that
the system went faulty.

A RIGID CENTER MEANS CHAOS IN THE PROVINCES

The mode of governance set up over the past four years was from
the very beginning aimed at maintaining a hierarchic subordination.
This stands in contrast to self-regulation that permits a certain
amount of internal freedom. This sort of freedom remained beyond
the vision of the “regulators,” who interpreted governability as a
meticulous control where all problems are duly kicked upstairs.
This stirred memories of the Soviet era, when the Communist Party’s
Central Committee and its Politburo supervised absolutely
everything, from the personalities of television commentators to
the appointment of directors of all, even small, manufacturing
enterprises.

Where did this come from? Was it rooted in a mistrust of
democratic institutions, embedded in the gene code of the elite,
especially the one that came to power in 2000? Did it stem from the
underdevelopment of civic society, which is desperately trying to
hatch out of a conglomeration of social leeches that were denied a
moral heritage from the past and the power to look into the future
with confidence? Was it caused by a mistrust of the man on the
street, who has for centuries been scorned by the authorities in
this country? Did it grow from an overt revulsion of the oligarchs
– the carryovers from the past who “lack the sense of social
responsibility and political (moral) scruples?” Or was it the
product of a homegrown myth that says people from among the closest
associates can accomplish great missions with clean hands, cool
heads, and enthusiastic hearts?

One way or another, it has happened – the country has been
switched to a manual mode of operation. From the very beginning,
the Russians were ready to sing – while substituting Lenin’s name
for Putin’s – Soviet-era songs about “youth, revolution and
spring.” Russia intuitively opted for “a strong arm” that would
spare it the horrible responsibility for adapting to the “harsh
times” associated with Freedom.

Many were glad to accept an “enlightened authoritarianism” that
had nothing to do with authoritarianism, much in the same way it
had nothing to do with a self-regulating democratic system. “Overt
rigidity of the centralized mechanism of governance generates chaos
in the provinces,” an architect of the regime confessed recently.
In Russia, such a mechanism has always presupposed lawlessness in
the regions, which the central government was always unable to
control. Recall 19th century historian Nikolai Karamzin’s
conclusion that “the toughness of Russian laws implies their
optional observance.” The atmosphere of what a political
technologist close to Putin has branded as “Totalitarianism Lite”
has not changed anything in that Russian tradition.

POLITICAL IMPROMPTUS

The designers of the present regime did not have a systemic
restructuring plan. In the initial phase, the intellectual and
analytical bolstering of the future course was confined to the
liberal economist German Gref’s program. Presently, Gref is the
only remaining element of that project, and no one can tell how
long he will be left untouched. The community of experts is
complaining that its services are unneeded by the government and is
sending appeals to people in the top government offices in
variegated reports. But there is no reply. The authorities have
dropped their former habit of asking the experts and researchers
for any sort of analyses. The process resembles a street with
one-way traffic, i.e., analytical reports are sent to the upper
echelons and vanish there. The authorities either distrust the
research community or they fear that the researchers may suspect
something regarding their plans. The fear of information leaks is
imbedded in their subconsciousness. As regards the net of political
institutions, there is only the idea that they must be governable
and capable of reacting to the challenges of our times, but their
activity must not provoke too much criticism for being
undemocratic.

The lack of a plan forced the authorities to improvise. They
contemplated introducing the direct election of senators, something
given much publicity recently. But they thought it over again and
started appointing senators instead – and not the guys from your
own neighborhood but strangers.

They pondered a de facto appointment of governors. But what’s
the sense of it? Just because they got tired of propelling the
regional elections? They entertained with the idea of federal
districts. After just a few years it would become obvious that
something was wrong with that concept.

A government formed by parties? But this idea apparently ran
into the problem of assembling the cabinets and was shelved. How
about a two-party or one-and-a-half-party system? In order to have
an extra card up the sleeve, the masterminds bred a smaller Rodina
(Homeland) party in addition to the major United Russia party. But
how can you build a multiparty system if the upper echelons, or the
elite, who are devoid of all ideas and principles, proved equally
incapable of building a party as the grassroots? What is more, the
architects themselves do not know yet what role or form a party
must have, and they are unprepared to delegate whatever reasonable
functions and responsibilities to it.

For instance, what role will the parties (or a specific party)
have in nominating the Successor? Or in mapping out the
government’s new platform? What if something goes wrong and the
party breeds its own logic? What if it organizes primaries and
elects a First Secretary who will then become a General Secretary?
The thought of letting things slide sends chills down the spine,
and that is why everything has been switched into the manual mode
of operation.

“Indeed, Putin’s conduct is the one of an absolute monarch,” a
top official from the Kremlin remarked frankly. “But you have to
govern all that manually and on a daily basis if you want to keep
it under control. Forget about any system in the next 20 to 30
years, until the time when people who are 18 to 20 years old today
come to power.”

A few elements of that paradigm have been copied from the
Russian Empress Catherine the Great, who introduced a clear
administrative division of the country into provinces, but that was
in the 18th century. Some of the initiatives have been borrowed
from the times of Alexander II – trials by jury, army reform
(conceived in the wake of the Crimean War, which has parallels in
our days in the form of the Afghan and Chechen Wars). The system
also carries indicative traces of Soviet power, as ‘telephone rule’
(i.e. the strength of private connections and personal agreements)
dominates over formal legality which is democratic on paper. Even
the American experience has proven to support our case – there,
too, senators were not directly elected until 1912. Finally,
Russian officials cited France when they mentioned the importance
of setting up a Public Chamber.

Those constructs did not have an ideological backbone from the
very start. “The consolidation of the vertical power structure”
cannot be viewed as ideology, since it is a technological thing.
Outside observers may get the impression that someone is trying to
replace the farcical democracy of the 1990s with authoritarianism.
If that is true, the latter also smells of a farce, while many
political players acknowledge the presence of a restraining factor
(and worse, a factor that is decomposing the system from within) –
the absence of a new, non-Soviet ideology. The more aggressive the
jingoistic rhetoric becomes, the more deceitful it sounds when
aired by certain people in the midst of blossoming corruption.
There is no nationalization of the economy, and apparently there
never will be. Instead, there is a repartitioning of property in
favor of those who were less lucky at the previous stages of
privatization.

A CAR IN A SNOWDRIFT

Whether or not the goal of making Russia more governable existed
in the beginning – including the use of traditional Russian tactics
to scare the thievish elite – that plan has obviously flopped. The
first sensations of fear have passed, largely because the system
does not work. Difficult decisions were made, some initiatives
followed, stinging statements full of metaphor were issued, but
things failed to progress. The situation resembles a car stuck in a
snowdrift, where the driver steps on the gas with all his might.
The wheels are spinning, and the tires are giving off smoke, but
the car is only digging deeper and deeper into the snow.

Those who should have been frightened have instead acquired the
widespread conviction that it is possible to buy over the
government for everything. The methods are simple and were already
well-tested in the 1990s. First, there are kickbacks. The
10-percent standard of a decade ago is gone, as 20 percent has
become the norm. Incredibly, it may go as high as even 50 percent,
formerly unheard of. Then, if the deal is especially large, it has
been reported that up to 80 percent of a cut is possible. Next,
there are “voluntary” contributions to non-budgetary funds existing
in virtually all government agencies, particularly within the
law-enforcement agencies. This ensures a level of affluence for the
top bureaucrats, which seriously reduces their interest in
administrative reform.

“Desirable” programs get sponsors on orders from above.
Corporations must include representatives of “shakedown”
organizations in their boards of directors, or simply enter them
into their payrolls. The institution of “assigned experts,”
well-forgotten since the Soviet times, is rising from the ashes.
“The state has ceased to exist as such,” says a Russian business
magnate who espoused the ideas of liberal enthusiasm until fairly
recently. “Law-enforcement officers are engaged in just two things
– political hounding and economic racketeering. The so-called
market of judiciary services – however insulting this term may
sound to colleagues of Constitution Court Chairman Valery Zorkin –
is thriving. I have ten cases in the Arbitration Court, and only
one of them is outside the realm of judiciary services.”
The problem is not just that corruption has leached U.S. $30
billion to 40 billion out of the normal economy. The problem is
that such “indulgences” have substituted for “political donations.”
This perverse practice has a motto: “Grease where required and
enjoy a sound sleep.” The huge group of people to whom “everything
is allowed” has not vanished – there has simply been a change in
its composition. Former fright has been replaced by a feeling of
impunity of the money-grubbers who rush to “settle all their
affairs before sunset.”

“Government as the main strategy planner must eliminate social
stresses and it has a duty of thinking in strategic terms,” says a
well-known Russian political functionary. But there is no such
thinking now, he admits. Even the most cautious people in the
Kremlin administration have stopped raising their eyes toward the
ceiling and communicating silently with the aid of handwritten
notes. Nor do they mince their words to describe what is happening.
This is obviously the main achievement of the past few months,
although a dubious one. Everyone has come to realize that neither
fear of some anger from above, nor presidential ratings, are able
to solve the country’s problems and make viable the system that is
entirely grounded in those ratings.

CHANGING TEAM OR PONDERING THIRD TERM OF OFFICE

Immediately following the Beslan nightmare in early fall,
experts and analysts wondered if that horrible moment would become
an abrupt turning point in the present political system, beyond
which it would be difficult to maintain political stability, high
ratings, and a sense of awe before the power machinery that was
oriented to them. Those assumptions are off the agenda now, as the
Beslan wound is beginning to heal. However, the sense of stability
will be getting increasingly weaker. People close to Putin say the
hostage crisis dealt a huge blow to him, especially when he saw all
of it with his own eyes.

None of the radical actions that his aides mulled over in the
first few weeks after the crisis was ever initiated. The
authorities did take some steps, but of a different nature.
Commenting on the events in Beslan and on the President’s
subsequent initiatives, a high-ranking government functionary said:
“Such risks erode the government’s viability. The recurrence of
similar crises subjects it to a test of strength which it may
ultimately fail one day.” “The inactivity – mere words, menacing
intonations or indecisiveness – wears out the supports of political
stability and turns them into a construct made of tin: it may be
glistening, but is very unstable.”
A leading political scientist who watched the Beslan tragedy, as
well as the President’s initial reactions to it, pessimistically
commented: “When you watched him speaking to the people responsible
for resolving the crisis, you could read in the look of his eyes
that the regime was almost crumbling.” But the expert was
apparently too quick to bury the regime. Countries do not turn
upside down and people do not change overnight, and no one is going
to overturn or change them coercively. And yet the political tunes
in the wake of Beslan contained some new notes. More importantly,
the President himself was aware of those notes. He admitted the
country had been unprepared for new challenges, the law-enforcement
agencies and the judiciary were corrupt, and society required much
work in order to make it more mature. Presently, there is no firm
proof that the new tunes will eventually make up a well-composed
melody, but the very fact that someone tried to produce them at all
deserves notice.

“We’re past the point of no return,” goes one of the popular
opinions. “We’re close to that point,” say others cautiously. But
what is there after this? Many believe Putin has two options: to
reshuffle his team radically or to begin preparations for a third
term of office, since his present team will never let him abandon
his post after a second term. “Putin can’t fire anyone,” said a
highly placed politician, one of those always standing in public
view. “The problem is he has no system. The reason is because
formerly his closest allies and team members most commonly occupied
only top positions. There was always a layer of inconspicuous
people below, who made the system function somehow. But now the
grouping of allies and team players has become so populous that
they already occupy the second and third tiers of power, too. Their
real skills are vague, however, and the system has begun
faltering.”

Yet most experts agree that at this stage even those alarming
tendencies do not pose a major threat to the regime. The situation
in Russia does not remotely resemble what transpired in Georgia a
year ago or in Ukraine now, although the Kremlin’s response to the
events in Ukraine was grave. The threat of a different kind is
looming over the regime – it may simply stop functioning. After
all, weakness in power is never forgiven. “The weak are always
beaten,” was one of Putin’s favorite sayings. Weakness is what he
fears most of all.

This is a consequence of his unbearable loneliness borne out of
an almost pathological mistrustfulness; a lonely person at the top.
But such loneliness is suitable for a czar, a monarch who suddenly
realizes that his suite consists of personalities of secondary
importance who will never be his equal. In contrast, a person
elected by the nation is not a hostage of nature, the state system
or dynastic traditions. His strength lies in his team, the people
he finds trustworthy and can rely on to a greater or smaller
degree. He can treat some of his team members as his equals. That
is why rotations occur, as people who did not live up to
expectations are replaced. But what if there is only suspicion and
loneliness instead of trust? Does it matter who surround the
leader? That is how the vicious circle of loneliness appears – the
absence of equals one can rely on, and the growing apprehensions
that they may rise up one day (you never know who may have claims
to the top position). Downstairs there exists unto itself a hybrid
suite and team.

Putin places the blame for most dramas and misjudgments (or
allows others to convince himself of it) on weakness. He then opts
for a stronger stance and assumes an additional personal
responsibility for it. Such escalations can be justified only if
one’s subordinates are capable of fulfilling the tasks at a new,
tougher level, thus helping the leader, and if their efficiency is
not called into question. But this does not seem to be the case at
the present time.

EVERLASTING POLITICAL OBEDIENCE?

As if trying to clear away the undergrowth that has filled the
political arena, many government officials and their associates
suggest that an adjustment of the system has already begun in the
run-up to “Operation Successor-2008.”

Several years ago, a high-ranking Kremlin functionary, who
ventured to expound on the government’s plans, produced more
confusion than understanding, as his explanation seemed totally
unrealistic. “How do you hope to achieve all that?” he was asked.
He joked gloomily, saying: “Well, through bribing, blackmail and
threats of murder, of course.” A few years have elapsed, and here
we are: the methods he mentioned jokingly have been employed almost
in full. The political system is tuned to a wartime mode during
times of peace, but what if a really problematic situation should
arise? What methods will be enacted in that case?

Government officials admit that the system is shaky and that the
President’s rating remains the pillar of almost everything. “But
while the ratings grow exponentially, they may fall overnight,”
they must admit. Analysts fear that an unexpected dramatic event
may play the role of a rock, into which the stability may suddenly
disintegrate like a crystal vase. They have visions of a Russian
Watergate that will catalyze the outburst of a spontaneous or
accumulated disenchantment of different groups of the population.
This situation will play into the hands of one or another part of
the seemingly consolidated (but practically disunited) elite which
may be discontent with the current scheme of things. Its claims may
be variegated but they will add up to collective disdain, thus
signaling an end to political obedience.

That is why the authorities are seeking to protect themselves
against problems that may occur after 2007, rather than against
ones that may possibly arise within the next three years – a period
bearing no apparent menace. A system based on the condition of
“suspended uncertainty” is being built with exactly that goal in
mind. Uncertainty – primarily regarding the universal efficiency of
manual governance – is the main condition the Kremlin political
technologists aim to achieve as they lay the groundwork for a new
political construction. Uncertainty gives rise to fear, and fear
breeds a willingness to please. The latter must be done without
realizing any particular goals, which are a matter of personal
guesswork.

Total mistrust produces the desire to extend personal control
over everything. In 1917, the Bolsheviks sought control over the
postal services, telegraph and telephone networks, and bridges.
Today, these are replaced by financial assets (revenue-generating
industrial sectors and corporations), administrative resources
(levers of power of different categories), the mass media, and last
but not least, the institutions that may become channels of public
sentiment. The latter group includes political parties,
nongovernmental organizations, the election system in general, and
those mediums that reflect singular instances of public approval or
protest – meetings, manifestations, marches, etc. Furthermore, one
must control appointments to all more or less crucial positions and
business transactions. It seems as if the fears of the Yeltsin
epoch, which have taken the form of obsessive nightmarish images of
“anarchy, permissiveness, and the ruining of statehood,” have
returned to haunt us; they are perceived as the main menace to the
country and its future. However, “the rescue of statehood from
ruin” cannot serve as a program of action for a long period of
time. This policy is defensive in essence and not a creative
one.

READINESS LINE-2008

The masterminds of “Operation Successor-2008” keep the focal
point on the state system rather than society as such.

A system of layers.

The first layer consists of financial resources. They are
plentiful, since nothing poses a danger to the global oil market at
this time. Businessmen have finally been explained the ideology of
communicating with the government. There is no faith, however, in
the reliability of this layer, despite “pledges of commitment to
the name of the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs.”
One manager from a resource corporation stated: “This means, in
fact, that the government will be gradually taking over the key
corporations and spheres of business so as to accumulate
controlling stakes in them, or the most faithful people will be
delegated to executive positions there.” These businesses include,
first of all, the top revenue-earning companies, such as Gazprom
and RAO UES, oil companies, defense manufacturers, and partly the
machine manufacturers. Gazprom’s ongoing expansion into the oil
sector, its merger with Rosneft and the takeover of YUKOS assets
fall in line with that tendency.

The tendency of personal loyalty has become the main principle
for selecting cadres to executive corporate positions, as opposed
to professional skills. This tendency has a reverse side, too: it
has an immediate impact on corporate efficiency which, at the very
least, is not growing. Furthermore, tension between the government
and big business spoils the economic climate in the country.

In 2004, business activity in Russia – primarily in the realm of
investment – decreased against the background of a favorable world
market situation. Investment in the oil sector fell 20 percent. The
GDP grew a mere 6.7 percent versus the possible 9 percent – a
realistic figure given the high crude prices. The stock market
stagnated, as many blue chips slid to the status of trading
instruments in the hands of speculators with access to the
government’s insider information. “Scared money” continued to flee
the country. Capital flight grew by a factor of several times to
U.S. $8-9 billion. The problem concerning the legitimacy of
privatization, far from being resolved, has deteriorated still
further. The two cornerstones of any market economy – the
effectiveness of contract law and guarantees for private property
rights – are subject to permanent politically motivated
manipulation. “I’m quick in thinking and will get even quicker,” a
sophisticated Russian businessman said about whether or not the
YUKOS scheme would be applied to other businesses. He also said
many businesspeople are fervently attempting to answer the question
concerning where they should live – in London, Paris or Zurich.
Executives of medium-sized businesses are following in the
oligarchs’ footsteps in that respect.

A federal minister said the other day: “It’s not YUKOS as such
that worries the investors, it’s the changing vector of the
government’s involvement in the economy.” He added after a pause:
“The problem of how the political situation will develop is far
more serious now than how the economy will develop.”

The second layer is the administrative resource. The reaction to
Putin’s “September political revolution” was a far cry from a
harmonious chorus of approval. Dissonance was heard for the first
time since Putin became president – not so much in outward
objections as in doubts expressed. The Kremlin even sent a weak
signal that corrections to its proposals were possible. These
corrections were included in the final draft of a bill on the
“appointment/election” of governors. Sources close to the President
said his allies had no unanimity on the feasibility of the
September initiatives. What is more, the watershed line did not
coincide with the former, habitual division between the Yeltsin
Family and Putin’s St. Petersburg associates.

A reasonable question comes to mind: Will the state machinery be
as monolithic in a couple of years from now as it seems to be
today? People close to the Kremlin say that processes have begun in
the presidential team, testifying to its non-uniformity. At this
moment, they have the traits of “petty griping,” as one politician
put it, but rumors are circulating that contentions, albeit
practically imperceptible at the moment, have appeared among
important players on the Russian political scene.
Putin’s closest aides have been showing signs of their displeasure
with the president, namely with the absence of clear-cut decisions
on his part. Add to this the fact that no one can be confident that
the allies, now being largely placed to executive posts in various
corporations, will not defend only their own interests when the
zero hour arrives. Or that those interests will be in line with
“the party line.”

The third layer is the mass media. The population is being
entertained, attracted and instructed – but never really informed.
Foreign news reports on television have been reduced to details
about U.S. losses in Iraq and the retelling of marginal stories.
The audience is not told about life abroad anymore, but about the
pleasures of living here. Developments abroad are limited to
explosions, fires, and floods. Developments here range from
harvesting to the commissioning of new apartment blocks. They talk
about the re-emergence of peaceful life and the construction of a
water park in Chechnya. Or they broadcast a presidential meeting, a
presidential visit, or someone giving accounts in front of the
president. Also, there are concerts, quiz programs, and reality
shows. On really big occasions, we will see Ukrainians (most
commonly described as a “mob”) in orange scarves “destabilizing the
already tense situation” instead of “working or continuing their
studies.”

A new trend – presenting documentaries about the recent or
distant past – has appeared on the federal television channels in
the past few months. An outsider may get the impression that they
are tapping historical fact in a search for foundations that can be
turned into new symbols of a renewed country, thus helping to build
bridges to the future. Back in the 19th century, philosophers would
urge the Russians to look for their country’s future in its past,
but this advice does not work well somehow. Either the researchers
are ill-furnished, or their choice of past material is simply
wrong.

The media are obedient to the degree of being sterile. This
brings up a reasonable question: Will sterility be instrumental in
performing key functions, like the promotion of the next successor?
Sociologists have begun pointing to new tendencies in public
opinion, however, proving that the sterile media have limited
opportunities.

Public opinion researchers say in private that the voters have
“grown somewhat tired” of their leader, and if the ratings were to
become unstable, bringing a future successor into office would
prove difficult since the slogan “Putin supports him” may not work
then. These details may seem to have secondary importance, but they
may grow over into a tendency. Let us recall that Putin failed to
act as a pre-election enticement in both Abkhazia and in Ukraine.
Moreover, the Putin factor had the opposite effect. This happened
for the first time throughout the post-Soviet space, and it appears
that the Kremlin political technologists have noticed it, too. That
is why Putin is expected to address a major news conference in the
Kremlin upon the outcome of the year, but there will be no
nationwide online question-answer segment, when his communication
with the people is broadcast on outdoor screens across the country.
The people behind the Kremlin walls have apparently decided to be
less obtrusive in communications: the President can answer any
question, but people have realized that his answers are not always
translated into life by his subordinates.

HERITAGE

Putin’s rule may go down in history as a time of lost
opportunities or as a replica of the 1970s, a period of quiet and
moderate affluence. In fact, those options are quite similar.

At present, there is no answer to the question “Who the
successor will be?” More importantly, however, there is no answer
to the question “What will he inherit?” The authorities have not
offered a single nationwide program to date that could be hailed as
a change of the economic structure and the very paradigm of life
which still remains Soviet life in essence. To date, the basic
reforms that the President made landmarks of both presidential
terms have not acquired tangible forms. The political stability and
high ratings mostly repose on high oil prices, which generate a
consumer demand growth and a per capita income increase by six to
eight percent a year. But this is largely due to imports. None of
the key reforms launched after 1999 have reached a degree that
would make it possible to show any concrete results to the
voters.

The resource of global markets, together with Putin’s own
popularity, may last until the end of Putin’s presidency, but
economists suggest that the next leader will inherit a complex
legacy: too many solutions are put off “until a suitable moment”
for the sake of stability. Putin cannot but realize this, and this
may predetermine the search for a successor along the following
guidelines.

First, the successor must embody the continuity of course, on
the one hand, and the guarantee that he will not change the elite
abruptly, on the other.
Second, in the case that the political or economic systems should
develop problems, the successor will have to refrain from blaming
his predecessor and cope with them on his own. Attempting to choose
a strong successor on the one hand, and an obedient successor on
the other, may be Putin’s main dilemma.
The President and his associates may be unable to find a way out of
that systemic trap, and many experts believe the presidential
office will not let him go in that situation, insisting that “the
gains made between 2000 through 2008” be defended. He will be
forced to stay – perhaps, as the head of a government formed along
the party principle, if not as president. In Ukraine, where
“Operation Successor-2004” slid off the predetermined track, a
similar decision has just been taken. But if Putin wants to leave
the presidential post in a dignified way, he will have to change
all his people in one stroke, like Yeltsin did in 1996, and take
risks with totally different people – of a different mold, age,
professional and mental orientation. “Putin won’t do it, though, he
is not that type of a person,” said a well-known political
analyst.
Meanwhile, most of the Russians who voted for him do not believe
the stories about a naked king. They go on thinking that he is the
person they need and that his weighty word will get into the annals
of history. Some time in the future, surely.