Putin goes after the Constitution
January 15, 2020 8:44 AM   Subscribe

Russia's Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev and his government have resigned. Medvedev has agreed to take a new role in overseeing defence and security. This comes after President Vladimir Putin Putin 'said Parliament should have the power to choose the country's prime minister - but that the president should still have wide-ranging powers. Protests calling for political reform erupted last year after opposition politicians were barred from running in local elections. Putin said he would hold a referendum on any changes to the constitution.'
posted by Harry Caul (31 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
I don't know how to interpret this, and I am looking forward to this thread showing me what it means. All I know is that it is unlikely to mean a serious setback for Putin, who seems to have a deep root system set in the world.
posted by Countess Elena at 8:48 AM on January 15 [3 favorites]

I've been following this news story today fairly closely but literally can't get a bead on what's really happening here. Some are saying that it's Putin making sure the next post-2024 President doesn't have his level of power, but does that necessitate the mass-resignation? Is this laying the groundwork for another "Medvedev/Putin Swap" like last time where they basically just traded official titles but didn't really change who was in charge? Is it a symbolic sop to the current level of popular dissatisfaction?

In none of the above cases can I even see why everyone resigning is necessary for this. I'm not grokking this situation at all.
posted by tclark at 8:50 AM on January 15 [3 favorites]

As I understand it Putin is once again setting the stage for becoming prime minister in order to sidestep term limits, while at the same time weakening the presidency so that his "successor" remains firmly under control.

He did this before from 2008 - 2012 with Medvedev as the puppet.
posted by jedicus at 8:50 AM on January 15 [22 favorites]

This falls in line with Fiona Hill's assessment of Putin's aspirations (absolute unending power), first noticed by her and Laurence Tribe when Putin's team seemed obsessed with how to create a constitutional monarchy for Russia, when drafting the Constitution for the Russian Federation.
posted by Harry Caul at 8:51 AM on January 15 [5 favorites]

He's also shuffling Medvedev out of the path of succession, since he has apparently become a joke in the government even by his previous standards.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 9:16 AM on January 15

At the risk of being overly conspiratorial, would Putin be dead by now if a number of world powers weren't sorta on board?
posted by aspersioncast at 9:34 AM on January 15 [2 favorites]

Yes, the world powers are generally on board with the whole "Don't start World War III by assassinating the Russian Head of State" thing.
posted by schmod at 9:45 AM on January 15 [63 favorites]

Avoid any offered tea or soup on the way out, folks ...
posted by milnews.ca at 9:54 AM on January 15 [3 favorites]

It might be about starting WWIII, but it might be also about getting caught making money off him. You probably don't get to be a multi-multi-billionaire, hiding billions away, without some help from other wealthy friends around the world.
posted by They sucked his brains out! at 9:59 AM on January 15 [5 favorites]

Well, it's all about making money off him, I think. It seems like Putin survives by continuing to be the least-worst alternative for most people with power, which means the rich. There will be lots of shady reasons for keeping him in power, but isn't the fundamental reason just that he keeps the country sufficiently stable and the gas pumping, and that's all that really matters to people with money, for now?
posted by howfar at 10:43 AM on January 15 [3 favorites]

So, uh, what happens to Russia when Putin dies? I mean, I assume that will happen eventually, right?
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 10:52 AM on January 15 [2 favorites]

I'm not sure he does.
posted by howfar at 11:16 AM on January 15 [5 favorites]

Well, it's all about making money off him, I think. It seems like Putin survives by continuing to be the least-worst alternative for most people with power, which means the rich.


You're only an intolerable threat to world order if you're a threat to capital. Assassination, corruption, wars, genocide, none of it matters. But if you nationalize the wrong business, scupper the wrong trade deal, block corporate access to resource extraction, buddy watch out.
posted by Reyturner at 11:40 AM on January 15 [18 favorites]

Just short of a century later, the Czar returns.
posted by tommasz at 11:47 AM on January 15 [4 favorites]

No aspersioncast, they’re a nuclear power that has historically had pretty good human intelligence. They’re also pretty aggressive. For all the projections that Iran can’t be trusted because of their theocratic Vilayet-e-Fiqh, I’d sooner trust them to have prudence than the Russians. I don’t think anyone could get away with that.
posted by constantinescharity at 11:50 AM on January 15

Let's not ignore that someone being a threat to capital can also take the form of someone being a threat to hundreds of millions of lives, or, if it should come to it, billions.

Which is to say, it's not capitalism that creates norms against assassination; it's the desire to prevent retaliation, meaning that it's worth it for all concerned not to normalize it.

The fact that many countries have engaged in assassination attempts doesn't mean that the norm against it is bad; the uneven application of it (against stateless entities, or countries that don't have nuclear weapons, say), is very bad--for the survival of the principle, as well as for any incentives not to try to go nuclear.
posted by pykrete jungle at 12:17 PM on January 15 [7 favorites]

What do the folks suggesting it would be a good thing if Putin was assassinated think the Russian state would do immediately afterwards?
posted by PMdixon at 12:18 PM on January 15

Re-confirming discussions in this thread: Putin is sending a message to the world with his shock announcement (Analysis by Luke McGee for CNN, January 15, 2020)
When Russia's entire government resigned on Wednesday, even long-term Kremlin observers were taken by surprise.

Earlier in the day, Vladimir Putin had announced his plan to push through reforms that would make his successor as president less powerful, by redistributing power in such a way that that the Russian parliament and office of prime minister will have greater clout.

He thanked the resigning members of the government for their service, but said that "not everything worked out."

In the last two years, Putin's approval ratings have taken a dip, partly a result of unpopular pension reforms and a stagnating economy. 2019 was also riddled with street protests over municipal elections as Russia's fragmented opposition expressed discontent with what they see as a president and the ruling elite that have overstayed their power.

However, as the exact details of this mass resignation -- led by current prime minister and former president Dmitry Medvedev -- unfurled, it was clear that this was no protest at Putin's proposed reforms.

In his statement on the government's resignation, Medvedev indicated that it was doing so in order to make life easier for Putin.

He said that the president had "outlined a number of fundamental changes to the constitution," and that "in this context, it's obvious that we, as the government ... should provide the president of our country with the opportunity to make all the decisions necessary for this."
McGee goes on to note, as jedicus mentioned up-thread, "the Russian constitution forbids Putin from standing for re-election as president in 2024. However, there is nothing stopping him from becoming prime minister, as he did in 2008, when he and Medvedev swapped roles for four years."
posted by filthy light thief at 12:20 PM on January 15 [4 favorites]

From that article, another theory, which isn't too convincing to me as an uninformed outsider:
Not all analysts believe it is inevitable that Putin will eventually install himself as prime minister. Oleg Ignatov at the Center For Current Policy, a Moscow-based think tank, points out that Putin also spoke about changing the constitutional role of Russia's State Council, an advisory body to the head of state.

"There are rumors that Putin could lead the new State Council rather than becoming the new Prime Minister," Ignatov told CNN. "If this happens, it's possible that his word will be the last word. He will not be interested in technical details, but everything will be under his control."

Akimenko agreed that this sort of role could play in Putin's favor: "The State Council's future role is currently undefined, but it could be an arbitrator, meaning that when there is a dispute, the State Council could have a final say."

"However, I think Putin becoming prime minister is still far more likely."
posted by filthy light thief at 12:22 PM on January 15 [1 favorite]

posted by Alvy Ampersand So, uh, what happens to Russia when Putin dies?

Someone else will be putin control.

I am so sorry I couldn't resist
posted by mattdidthat at 12:31 PM on January 15 [31 favorites]

Just short of a century later, the Czar returns.

The Czar never really left. And when this one dies, it will be the same sort of power struggle that emerged after Lenin, Stalin, Khrushchev, Brezhnev, etc. until the new czar consolidates power.
posted by briank at 12:35 PM on January 15 [6 favorites]

I first saw this news this morning and thought - huh, he's actually gonna relinqui... and then read the article and thought THAT SUNUVABITCH.

Yes - I do wonder what will happen after Putin leaves, it seems he really doesn't plan on letting anything go.

And as much as we hate it and I certainly think he's not as popular as he wants to pretend, we can't ignore that he is popular, just as Trump and Erdogan and all the other shitheels ruining this planet.
posted by symbioid at 1:05 PM on January 15 [8 favorites]

Fiona Hill's comments seem surprisingly supportive of Putin -- he's smart and competent and has good people running Russia's economy, cares about the Russian constitution. The tone is along the lines of "yeah, maybe he's trying to keep control of the country, but that's okay because stability is needed".

It might have something to do with the time the talk was given -- there's two YouTube versions of the same talk (at least, a talk with the same name), one given in 2013 (she mentions the Boston Marathon bombings) and one dated 2016, so firmly in the Obama second term.

But it's a real shift from the vibe of her House testimony. What, besides Trump, happened?
posted by jrochest at 3:05 PM on January 15

Russian meddling in the US elections ?
posted by Pendragon at 3:16 PM on January 15 [5 favorites]

This was to free up Putin to be Trump's running mate for 2020.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 4:43 PM on January 15 [2 favorites]

That was right before the Euromaidan protests and Russia's retaliatory invasions of Crimea and the Donbass
posted by Freelance Demiurge at 5:16 PM on January 15 [4 favorites]

All the powerful and rich people seem to be making bets that have very long term pay-offs.
Putin's continual juggling with the Russian Constitution; Bezos' orbitals; tech CEOs with perpetual sole voting share ownership; US politicians obsessed with living in an endless 1950's summer; Musk watching the sun rise over Pavonis Mons as his lungs are shredded by perchlorate fines.
And yet we never hear much about life extension research except the usual crazies with their vitamin megadoses and their flasks of liquid nitrogen.
posted by thatwhichfalls at 5:34 PM on January 15 [7 favorites]

it's obvious that we, as the government ... should provide the president of our country with the opportunity to make all the decisions necessary for this

Now, close your eyes and imagine McConnell saying this about Trump.

Doesn’t take much imagination, does it?
posted by Big Al 8000 at 7:50 PM on January 15 [5 favorites]

The whole Trump admin and Senate ran as fast as they could to get Oleg Deripaska off the sanction list so he could build an aluminum plant in McConnell's state. No foreign influence here folks!

McConnell is already fine taking orders from Putin via Trump.
posted by benzenedream at 2:02 AM on January 16 [5 favorites]

Ivan Preobrazhensky:
The Kremlin is proposing a new “social contract” to the Russian people that will replace the “Crimean consensus” ... We have now entered the final stage in this process. The population, seriously impoverished as a result of the prolonged economic decline, which began even before Crimea and was aggravated by international sanctions, is offered an ambitious program of support for the poorest of its members in exchange for a new Constitution, which will enable Vladimir Putin to stay in power after 2024, when he can no longer, under current law, be re-elected another time to the post of the president of Russia.
posted by Kabanos at 3:16 PM on January 16 [2 favorites]

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