Sitting in Glasgow airport’s Burger King (everything else was closed!) yesterday, this Times interview with President Putin caught my eye. Actually, it’s not a transcript of an interview, more a number of quick quotes that summarise Putin’s view on pretty much every major issue facing Russia today.
This, in particular, was interesting – simple, and to the point:
No, I am not going to run for president in 2008. No, we are not going to amend the constitution, he insisted.
I’m noticing that Putin has become more and more blunt over the last few months when responding to questions about whether he will run for the Presidency again. From an early enigmatic silence, moving on to hinting that he’d quite like to, but the current constitution wouldn’t allow it to this blunt denial of any intention to run or – in answer to many analysts concerns – any intention to change the constitution to allow him to run.
I’ve been on the fence for quite a while about whether Putin would run for a further term, but I’m beginning to believe that he really won’t run. I think he – and the team around him – have calculated that it simply isn’t a practical option. There isn’t enough public support for something as drastic as changing the constitution, and there is a risk that Putin – and, more importantly, those strongment, those siloviki, around him could end up with egg on their faces. Far better to follow Boris Yeltsin’s lead, find an amenable candidate during the next couple of years and begin promoting him. Sergei Ivanov, perhaps?
A couple of years are an eternity in Russian politics, though, so don’t go betting the house on anything…