Putin and the Kremlin Contest

Vladimir Putin’s announcement today that he is returning to the Russian presidency is risky — as Russia continues its roller-coaster economic ride over the next six years, wholly subject to the whim of oil and natural gas prices, Putin and Putin alone will be the hero or the dog in the view of his citizens. ...

Sergei Karpukhin  AFP/Getty Images
Sergei Karpukhin AFP/Getty Images
Sergei Karpukhin AFP/Getty Images

Vladimir Putin's announcement today that he is returning to the Russian presidency is risky -- as Russia continues its roller-coaster economic ride over the next six years, wholly subject to the whim of oil and natural gas prices, Putin and Putin alone will be the hero or the dog in the view of his citizens. I had thought that, for the reasons of populism -- the ability to duck blame or claim responsibility when it suited him -- Putin would keep Dmitry Medvedev as a proxy in the Kremlin. But the lack of clarity in power -- the talk that Medvedev might be moving to establish his own power base - may have finally persuaded Putin to push his protégé back into the bleachers. Medvedev will be prime minister.

For the last three months, O&G has been running a betting competition called the Kremlin Contest. We have two winners. I am trying to reach them, and when I do I will announce their names. Congratulations to them, and thanks to all who participated and gave me their thoughts on Russia's always-murky politics.

Update: I have reached the two winners by email. They are Michael Perice, a fresh political science graduate of Temple University, and Theo Francis, a writer from Footnoted.org, a digital news service. Both correctly guessed that Putin and Medvedev would swap places. Both also selected Dec. 8 as the day that Putin would announce his choice, which was the closest to the correct date. I will write more about the winners in a Monday post that analyzes the news. I will also announce how the pot will be split between them. For now, congratulations to the winners, and also to everyone who participated.

Vladimir Putin’s announcement today that he is returning to the Russian presidency is risky — as Russia continues its roller-coaster economic ride over the next six years, wholly subject to the whim of oil and natural gas prices, Putin and Putin alone will be the hero or the dog in the view of his citizens. I had thought that, for the reasons of populism — the ability to duck blame or claim responsibility when it suited him — Putin would keep Dmitry Medvedev as a proxy in the Kremlin. But the lack of clarity in power — the talk that Medvedev might be moving to establish his own power base – may have finally persuaded Putin to push his protégé back into the bleachers. Medvedev will be prime minister.

For the last three months, O&G has been running a betting competition called the Kremlin Contest. We have two winners. I am trying to reach them, and when I do I will announce their names. Congratulations to them, and thanks to all who participated and gave me their thoughts on Russia’s always-murky politics.

Update: I have reached the two winners by email. They are Michael Perice, a fresh political science graduate of Temple University, and Theo Francis, a writer from Footnoted.org, a digital news service. Both correctly guessed that Putin and Medvedev would swap places. Both also selected Dec. 8 as the day that Putin would announce his choice, which was the closest to the correct date. I will write more about the winners in a Monday post that analyzes the news. I will also announce how the pot will be split between them. For now, congratulations to the winners, and also to everyone who participated.

Further update: This is awkward. Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin has made a post-game play to upend the Putin-Medvedev swap.  There is a conceivable chance that he could succeed. We have standing bets for a Putin-Kudrin ticket. Therefore, we are withdrawing the declaration of winners pending clarification. Both Perice and Francis agree that this approach is best.

<p> Steve LeVine is a contributing editor at Foreign Policy, a Schwartz Fellow at the New America Foundation, and author of The Oil and the Glory. </p>

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