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Putin’s Diminishing Economic Hand

From George H. Wittman in the American Spectator:

As the financial crisis deadens the exuberance of Putin’s leadership, there also has been an increase in dissension between the military/security factions on one side and the economic/business elements on the other. Each is pushing for ascendancy in the Putin-Medvedev bipolar leadership system. There may be no real division between the two men personally, but among the political classes there is a constant effort to test any nascent differences.

For Vladimir Putin’s part the forthcoming year carries severe tests. He was very unhappy with command and control during the Georgia conflict. This has been one of the reasons for the military shuffle. The economic crisis is well beyond his ken and he is counting on Medvedev to keep in line the politically liberal but fiscally conservative finance minister, Aleksei Kudrin.

In strict political terms Putin must rule Russia for the first time with a diminishing economic hand. He is unable to reward his favored supporters with the economically related political favors of the past.

The question exists for the forthcoming Obama administration whether an economically weakened Russia is more or less of a danger.