The nominal architects of the internal political machine must be replaced with operators: people who will manage the status quo without changing its fundamental principles. This is the role that Sergei Kiriyenko is going to play. It’s a case of the trends dictating the logic of the management, rather than the manager setting the trends.
The Russian authorities delivered a resounding victory for the ruling party in the 2016 parliamentary election after reaching the conclusion that they showed weakness in 2011 and the Russian opposition exploited that. This will shape their strategy for the next presidential election in 2018.
The detailed results of the forthcoming elections to Russia’s lower house of parliament are less important than the conclusions the Kremlin draws from them. Vladimir Putin’s system is less and less interested in old-style political competition. The new Duma can become a launching pad for those who want to make their careers in the new Putin elite that forms after the 2018 presidential election.
The 2016 parliamentary campaign isn’t just a test run for the 2018 presidential race. Russia’s political regime is in search of a governing model that will help it sustain the status quo for the foreseeable future.
The presidency is the only institution in Russia today that has not been hollowed out, so it is the president who will make all major political decisions. Everyone else is just a liaison officer.
In the past, business deals could be secured if Putin endorsed them personally. Now, the Russian president seems to have stopped making promises to anyone; no deal is ironclad anymore.
Putin won’t take all the members of the old guard with him in 2018. They will be replaced by a generation of special service operatives, security guards, and technocrat-apparatchiks in their forties and fifties, who will stand by Putin in 2018 and beyond
While the Erdogan-Putin summit in St. Petersburg on August 9 aimed to end the conflict between the two presidents triggered by Turkey’s downing of a Russian fighter jet last year, upbeat reports and promises of eternal friendship conceal a long list of problems that can’t be solved any time soon
Putin drew several conclusions from the mass protests of 2011-2012. They convinced him that the mandate he received from “the people,” is much more important than the views of the small and overly outspoken segment of progressive citizens.
The Russian political system is changing from within. As Putin continues to appoint new personnel—including a new chief of staff—the divide between insiders and outsiders is disappearing; everyone is becoming part of the system, cogs in the United Putin machine.