Letter From the Editors: Nov. 28-Dec. 11, 2016

Author: Laurence Bogoslaw

Hail to the Chief: Putin a Good Face on It

Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin has been the star of the Russian press these last two weeks. The reasons may seem obvious: He just delivered his annual Message to the Federal Assembly; and shortly before that, he approved a new Foreign Policy Concept and Information Security Doctrine for his country.

But that was just the beginning. A few days after his annual address, Putin traveled to Chelyabinsk, where he made the following resounding statement to a group of factory workers: "I want to successfully wind up my career." He also divulged his dream of traveling around the world and seeing sights other than airports and meeting rooms. These brief remarks set the Russian media on fire: Is Putin going to retire? Will he even run in the 2018 election? Does he have his eye on a successor? Experts interviewed by Ola Cichowlas and Mikhail Fishman for the Moscow Times say that Putin himself is ambivalent; in the words of an anonymous Kremlin insider: "He wants to stay and he wants to go." Political analyst Tatyana Stanovaya surmises that he is indeed planning an exit, but predicts he will serve out a full fourth term. Mikhail Khodorkovsky, in an interview with The New Times, does not venture to prophesy when Russia’s sole president of this millennium will leave office; he only says that the departure is inevitable, and that it’s incumbent on the opposition to counter any infighting among the elite, and to allow Putin to leave peacefully.

As for the global picture, Russian commentators have been focusing on recent trends in European politics - and their prevailing opinion seems to be that the new generation of Western leaders is friendly to Putin. They cite French presidential primary victory of Francois Fillon, who wants to end anti-Russian sanctions; the rise of Austrian right-wing politician Norbert Hofer, ...

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