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How Surkov Interrupted Putin’s Game

A great article on the resignation of Vladislav Surkov by Brian Whitmore at Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty’s blog, the Power Vertical.

So is Surkov playing some deeper game here? Mikhail Rostovsky, chief political analyst for the daily “Moskovsky komsomolets,” thinks so.

“Russia’s former chief puppet master has refused to play the role of the loser in Putin’s puppet theater,” Rostovsky wrote this week.

“I venture to suggest that the government chief of staff’s departure was not part of Putin’s plans,” Rostovsky continued. “Why? Because in the political drama that Putin is now playing out, each person has been assigned his own role. The president’s own role was to constantly kick the government and exclaim: ‘You losers! You are failing to execute my edicts!'”

And the role of the government and its chief of staff “was to make feeble attempts to justify itself and to promise to mend its ways.”

Using the government as a lightning rod allowed Putin to deflect criticism for any crisis that may arise — like the economic downturn many are predicting — and to reinforce his image as the strong national leader.

“Surkov has, to a degree, wrecked Putin’s game,” Rostovsky wrote. “Putin can, of course, continue to use Medvedev’s Cabinet as a whipping boy. But it seems that Surkov’s departure has weakened the government to such an extent that it will now be difficult to treat it without a pitying smile…Putin has discredited the government so successfully that Medvedev no longer has the strength to bear the burden of responsibility. And that burden now falls on the president’s shoulders.”