MOSCOW -- Forget Clinton and Trump. Barack Obama has hatched an elaborate plot to ensure that Vice President Joe Biden succeeds him as president, allowing Obama to rule from behind the scenes in an American twist on the "tandem" that allowed Vladimir Putin to run the show in Russia despite a two-term limit on presidents.
It's the startling -- and somewhat far-fetched -- theory aired by Russian political scientist Vladimir Vasilyev in an interview in the current affairs weekly Ogonyok on May 14 under the headline: What If Obama Doesn't Say Goodbye?
The imagined scenario includes current front-runner Hillary Clinton crashing out of the race for the Democratic nomination due to a criminal case against her "ordered from the very top," after which Biden is "parachuted" in as a replacement at the 11th hour.
It is also reminiscent of the four-year ruling arrangement established between Putin and Dmitry Medvedev in 2008, in which Putin became prime minister and allowed Medvedev to take up office in the Kremlin for four years. The political maneuver meant Putin maintained power and influence through his close ally, while honoring the Russian Constitution, which prohibits presidents from serving more than two consecutive terms.
Vasilyev, head of research at the United States and Canada Institute at the Russian Academy of Sciences, listed three reasons for his conspiracy theory.
First, Vasilyev claimed, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) will soon open a criminal case into Clinton "or something like that," casting her campaign into question. "The order for that development of events has clearly been made at the very top," he added.
Second, Vasilyev drew attention to a reported comment by John Boehner, a Republican former speaker of the House of Representatives, in which Boehner "did not rule out" that there will be a "process" -- some kind of political operation -- to remove Clinton from the Democrat ticket two weeks before the nominating convention. Vasilyev asserted that this "process" would be managed by Obama and that "the objective of this process is to remove Hillary from the presidential race, and to 'parachute' in Biden in her place."
For his third point, Vasilyev zeroed in on comments made by Obama at the White House Correspondents Dinner on April 30 -- a mostly annual event since 1920 at which humor is the main dish and presidents have historically been the butt of jokes and served up their own humor -- in which he lavished praise on Biden while jesting about the two leading Democrat candidates, former Secretary of State Clinton and independent Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders.
Vasilyev's theory seems likely to get short shrift in the West.
But for Vasilyev, Obama's motivation for such a scheme is clear, even if directly at odds with U.S. history: It would allow him to stay in power.
"Obama can remain at the helm of the authorities on the condition that he can reach an agreement with his replacement. This is hardly a possibility with [Clinton], and with Sanders even less so, but with Biden, it really is."
"If Biden makes it to the finishing line of this election marathon, he will definitely know who he owes and how much."