You thought that Russia must be on its way to becoming a normal country, did you? Well, that was to reckon without Vladimir Putin. Once a KGB officer, always a KGB officer. He’s making sure that the old ways of obtaining and holding power are as applicable as ever they were. He sees to it that stooges are given the important posts. He invades neighbours, and absorbs their territory. It just happens that critics, especially in the media, and even if they are in exile, are murdered. It is commonly said that he is also the richest man in the country, perhaps even in Europe.
The constitution specifies that the President of Russia may serve only two terms of four years. That’s why Putin gave way to a clone, Dmitri Medvedev, and made himself titular Prime Minister while actually keeping control of everything. Only a matter of hours after Barack Obama’s election this team was threatening to place missiles to counter defence plans of the United States. And the wheeze of the moment would make Stalin proud of his successors. Medvedev has submitted a constitutional amendment to the Duma, the Russian parliament, to extend the four-year term of the presidency to six, and further manipulate things so that Putin returns as soon as possible as President for another twelve years. The Duma is rushing the amendment through by voting on all the readings of it in a single day instead of the usual weeks required for legislation. So Putin looks like being in the Kremlin till 2021, well after Obama is otherwise engaged.
I am reminded that when Hafez Assad, the Syrian dictator, died, his son Bashar couldn’t succeed him because he was 34 and according to the constitution the President had to be 40. Easy — it was less than a day’s work to change that constitution. But does Russia really want to be Syria with missiles?