Four years of non-suspense ended Saturday. Vladimir Putin will return as president of Russia in March. This decision does not bode well for Russia, the West, or for those who wish to do business in Russia. In fact, nothing much will change. Only the election of a new president could change the status quo, and this is not going to happen.
Putin’s maneuvering within the constitution has restored the Soviet practice of lifetime tenure of the top leader. He became president at age 48. When he retires at age 72 (if he does not choose to serve longer), Putin’s quarter century tenure will match that of Joseph Stalin.
Let’s go back to the events of Saturday’s United Russia convention: First, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin rose to nominate protégé and current President Dmitry Medvedev to head the party list in the December parliamentary elections. As party head, he will replace Putin as Prime Minister. Newly lame-duck Medvedev, purportedly near tears, then proposed Putin as the party’s presidential candidate for the March 2012 elections. United Russia delegates approved both proposals unanimously and with enthusiasm. (All that was missing was the “stormy and sustained applause” of the Stalin era).