And the winna is? Dmitry Medvedev. Putin named the young economic liberal as his presidential favorite in a meeting with United Russia leaders today. What is interesting is not so much what Putin chose, but what he didn’t choose. Putin didn’t choose the siloviki. He didn’t choose the economic nationalists. He didn’t choose the hawks. In Medvedev, Putin has endorsed someone’s who’s young (he’s 42), more liberal economic minded (he considers himself a liberal patriot), clanless (he’s said to have little or no ties to other Kremlin power brokers), and loyal (his rise is solely reliant on Putin). By most accounts, Medvedev looks at the West as a shining guiding light, but shades his eyes enough so it doesn’t blind him from Russia’s national sovereignty.
But does Putin’s endorsement officially end “Operation Successor”? Hardly. According to the Guardian, conspiracy theories of Putin’s return are hard to shake. After all, what is a poor Russia watcher to do without Putin? Clearly, his endorsement of Medvedev is hardly enough to satisfy critics’ deep desire, yet ultimate fear that Putin might just be leaving.
For critics see a weak leader in Medvedev. One that as President will give Putin the Prime Minister a blank check to do whatever he wants. Well, that’s true. But by all accounts, Putin may be leaving the Presidency, but there has never be any indication that he will leave Russian politics.
In fact, as some see it, Medvedev’s nomination is merely part of Putin’s larger plan to return.”Putin’s plan may well be to return after a year or two once Medvedev has messed up. But I don’t think he will succeed in this,” Mikhail Delyagin, the director of Moscow’s Institute on Globalization Problems told the Guardian’s Luke Harding. On Ekho Moskvy, Duma oppositionist Vladimir Ryzhkov said that this is all part of the Putin strategy. “The strategy is as follows: Medvedev is a compromise choice because he will allow Putin to keep a free hand.” he said. “If Putin wants to gradually leave power, Medvedev guarantees him comfort and security and will continue to listen him.” He then added: “If Putin wants to return in two, three years… Medvedev will be the person who will without a doubt give up the path for him.”
This is still an unfolding story and more will be discussed in the coming days. However, even at these early stages, one thing is clear. No matter what Putin does to show that he’s leaving the Presidency, his very own critics just won’t let him go. As Michael Corleone declared in Godfather III: “Just when I think I’m out, they keep pulling me back in.”