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Generational Dynamics Web Log for 15-Nov-2008
Rumors abound in Russia of a palace coup by Vladimir Putin

Web Log - November, 2008

Rumors abound in Russia of a palace coup by Vladimir Putin

A new constitutional amendment leaves people wondering what he's planning.

The amendment to Russia's constitution, the first since the constitution was adopted in 1993, is being rushed through the Parliament at top speed.

The new law will extend the President's term of office from four years to six years, and the term of office of a member of parliament from four years to five years.

The amendment was put forth by Russia current President, Dmitry Medvedev, with the backing of former President and current Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. The amendment easily passed its first vote in the State Duma (the lower house of Russia's parliament), since Putin's political party, the United Russia party, is in control of the Duma. The Federation Council (the upper house) will approve it next week.

The vote in the Duma was 388-58. The only major objecting group was, ironically, the Communist Party.

Vladimir Putin <font face=Arial size=-2>(Source: Telegraph)</font>
Vladimir Putin (Source: Telegraph)

Putin served two terms as President, from 2000-2008, but was forced to step down because of a constitutional limitation to no more than two consecutive terms. Putin's hand-picked successor, Medvedev, won the Presidency for a term running from 2008 to 2012. Putin became Prime Minister, and the constitution will allow him to run for President again in 2012, since the three terms won't be consecutive.

Both Medvedev and Putin claim that the amendment doesn't apply to them. If that's true, then why are they pushing it, and why are they pushing it at top speed to get it passed within just a few days?

The speed certainly is related to the scheduled November 20 national meeting of Putin's United Russia party. Rumors are buzzing that Medvedev will step down, leaving the way open from Putin to become President again within a few weeks, after another election. Then Putin could be President for two six-year terms, until the 2020s.

This is all speculation right now, but if it happens, it will be completely consistent with all the game-playing that's been going on this year.

The United Russia party was formed last year to support Putin, who had not previously been in any political party, and on December 2, 2007, United Russia won the Russian Parliamentary election by a landslide.

Then Putin arranged a deal so that his ally Dmitry Medvedev. Medvedev would win the March 2 elections and become President, allowing Medvedev to appoint Putin as Prime Minister.

The assumption has always been that Putin would run again in 2012, but the worldwide economic crisis is forcing Putin to consolidate power very quickly. It was only ten days ago, on November 5, that Medvedev announced that he would be proposing the new amendment. Now, the entire Russian political landscape is apparently changing in the blink of an eye.

I've written about Putin many times, and about his rock-star cult status in Russia. Did Putin arrange to have Alexander Litvinenko poisoned with polonium? That's fine with the Russians. Did Putin arrange to nationalize Yukos and other Russian companies by the vilest means possible? The Russians love it. Did Putin have journalists killed? Did Putin arrange for a cyber attack on Estonia? That's great, according to the Russians. And it was just a few months ago that Putin shut down an entire newspaper, throwing all the employees out on the street, for committing the crime of reporting rumors that Putin was having an affair with a glamorous Olympic gymnast.

From the point of view of Generational Dynamics, it's impossible to predict Putin's future. Any prediction about a single person could be proven wrong by a simple traffic accident, for example. Generational Dynamics predicts the attitudes and behaviors of large masses of people, entire generations of people, as a group.

But what is clear is that the Russian people are looking for someone to lead the country through its worsening crisis, and Putin is the obvious choice. Russia is going through a major stock market crash, triggered by the collapse in price of its main export, oil, from a peak of $147 per barrel to a new low this week of $55 per barrel. Russia has been coming apart at the seams for two decades now, with increased xenophobia around the country, and terrorist activity in the Caucasus provinces of Chechnya, Dagestan and Ingushetia.

Putin was able to keep things under control by using the vast wealth generated by oil sales, but now that control is collapsing as the oil wealth collapses. According to some analyses, Putin's domestic situation is so bad that he'll be forced to manufacture an international crisis to unite the Russian people behind him.

There is a parallel that we can draw here with Iran. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's desperate domestic situation causes him to manufacture crises with Israel, with the US and with Europe. (For an extensive analysis of Iran's strategy, see "China 'betrays' Iran, as internal problems in both countries mount.")

However, although Putin's and Ahmadinejad's strategies may be similar, a Generational Dynamics analysis explains why they're having and will continue to have very different results.

Iran is in a generational Awakening era, which means that the Iranian people are "attracted away from" war. Ahmadinejad's attempts at unifying the Iranian people behind him only backfire, because the Iranian people, who are largely pro-American, blame him for making Iran look foolish in the world.

But Russia is in a generational Crisis era, which means that the Russian people are "attracted toward" war. That doesn't mean that they want war, but it means that they'll choose confrontation over conciliation and compromise, and that they'll support Putin in any international crisis.

In particular, it's very likely that the Russian people will support Putin in this palace coup, if it occurs. And those who believe that a new Obama administration will mean the end of international crises with Russia can expect those hopes to be dashed.

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the Russia thread of the Generational Dynamics forum.) (15-Nov-2008) Permanent Link
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