Accessibility links

Transition Team

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and President Dmitry Medvedev in Sochi

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and President Dmitry Medvedev in Sochi

Gleb Pavlovsky chooses his words very carefully. He doesn't make accidental statements to the media. He doesn't commit gaffes. Everything he says in public is calculated to serve the political needs of the moment.

Which is why this comment, at the tail end of an interview Pavlovsky gave to "Russky zhurnal" (which, by the way, he owns) and published online at, caught my attention -- big time:

[Prime Minister Vladimir] Putin's leadership has already ceased to function and its standing has changed. Putin is now an extremely popular person and people trust him. But what has gone before has come to an end for him. He is actively seeking a new political role and image, but has not yet found them. I think that a new political Putin is possible but, of course, not at the expense of weakening the president. This is a fundamental point. As a strong man and successful leader Putin must give President [Dmitry] Medvedev the opportunity to be a strong and, who knows, maybe great president.

This does not of course mean that Putin should depart into the shadows and not show his face. I see a future parting of the ways here. Medvedev must become a strong president and Putin as a politician who is not old and is not weak must reform the inertia of his leadership into something new. For the moment this is an open situation.

In many ways, Pavlovsky, a longtime Kremlin spinmeister who heads the Effective Policy Foundation, is a barometer of the Russian elite. He is the consummate insider who knows where the political winds are blowing. In fact, he is one of a handful of people who makes the political winds blow.

And he is saying, very clearly and very publicly, that the political winds are no longer at Putin's back and that he needs to step aside and let Medvedev come into his own:

If the Putin majority suspect that in 2012 a prolongation of the status quo awaits them, they will mutiny and cease to exist in their current capacity. Moreover, if it feels in 2010 that it has been locked in for a long time in the current more and more dangerous situation, it will also become more active in an unpredictable manner.

Writing on the increasingly influential website, the blogger Konstantin Gaaze opined that "for those in the know, all the signs of a policy text are present" in the Pavlovsky interview. Gaaze adds: "Pavlovskiy's message is simple: the time has come for Medvedev to hire a team. And then the 'Medvedev Majority' will be formed."

Pavlovsky's interview leaves me with a few questions that I suspect we will see answered soon enough.

Is this a trial balloon or some kind a provocation? If not, are a critical mass of the elite actually on board with Medvedev becoming a "real" president? Is Putin? Are the siloviki? And if they are, what did Medvedev have to promise to get them on board?

And if everybody is not on board, is a decisive showdown looming on the horizon?

At the very least, this puts Medvedev's recent moves against Russia's powerful state corporations and his efforts to get an ally named Prosecutor-General in a whole new light. Not to mention, that little bonding session the president and premier had in Sochi.

-- Brian Whitmore

About This Blog

The Power Vertical
The Power Vertical

The Power Vertical is a blog written especially for Russia wonks and obsessive Kremlin watchers by Brian Whitmore. It offers Brian's personal take on emerging and developing trends in Russian politics, shining a spotlight on the high-stakes power struggles, machinations, and clashing interests that shape Kremlin policy today. Check out The Power Vertical Facebook page or


Latest Podcast