The Oil and the Glory

Last day: vote in the Kremlin Contest

What do a big oil deal and the arrest of an alleged murderer suggest about presidential politics? In Russia, where just one man will determine who rules for the next six years, they are among the only bits of evidence that political junkies can cobble together for insight into the country’s next election. In the ...

AFP/Getty Images
AFP/Getty Images

What do a big oil deal and the arrest of an alleged murderer suggest about presidential politics? In Russia, where just one man will determine who rules for the next six years, they are among the only bits of evidence that political junkies can cobble together for insight into the country’s next election.

In the case of the first, Reuters’ Doug Busvine writes that ExxonMobil’s coup in the Russian Arctic this week suggests that Prime Minister Vladimir Putin will return to the Kremlin in March. A raid by masked police on BP’s premises does imply that Russia still favors Putin’s tough-guy approach to dispute settlement.

But can’t this simply mean what we all know — that if you want to talk to the guy in charge, that would be Putin?

After all, we also have Russia’s arrest of a ringleader in the 2006 murder of crusading Russian writer Anna Politkovskaya. If Russia’s dark side were truly ascendant, we are similarly seeing adherence to the views of President Dmitry Medvedev, who has publicly advocated the rule of law. Does Medvedev look unhappy in the photo above, taken a few days ago?

Putin will rule regardless of where he sits, even if it is Moscow mayor. But we are accustomed to such figures keeping their cards close to their chest until the last moment — it does not behoove them to tip their hand. What do you think — will Putin return, or will Medvedev remain in place?

It is not a requirement to be a Russia expert to make your guess in the Kremlin Contest. Today is the last day to vote. Send an email, using the link above my postage-stamp-size photo to the right on this blog. Name Russia’s next president, prime minister, and the date that Putin makes the announcement. Identify your small non-cash wager (current bets are a t-shirt, a mug, a book and glasses of wine).

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