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Who Wins in the Luzhkov Ouster?

A Good Treaty has an interesting post discussing the winners and losers of the fantastically preposterous Luzhkov fiasco in Moscow.  There’s a good argument that Medvedev looks good if he can put his signature on this firing, and an even better argument that it might not happen at all.  It wouldn’t be the first time that the wily Mayor wormed his way out of a tight corner, but such a failure could prove to the be the final and definitive illustration of presidential impotence.  On second thought, maybe it’s a bit too early for such conclusive symbolism…

And then there’s the other possibility: that Medvedev will come away with the credit for removing Luzhkov. Indeed, even if Putin somehow steps into the media spotlight, Medvedev will come away looking stronger no matter what, if Luzhkov indeed goes. While it’s possible that remnants of Luzhkov’s clan might stage some kind of Star Wars style rebel resistance from a satellite of Moscow, Dmitri Anatolyevich will undoubtedly be able to attract more recruits to a pre-2012 support group that’s already setting up publicly visible outposts. If Luzhkov goes, Putin’s interests will not be served. This is to say nothing about the vote-machine Luzhkov manages in Moscow, which is something Putin and others presumably wish to preserve for the parliamentary elections next year and the presidential election the year after.  (…)


All this is strangely familiar, but the Medvedev role threatens theneatness of the routine. The ruling tandem was supposed to sit downquietly and discuss 2012 privately — over tea, let’s say. The decisionitself would be almost irrelevant. These men, after all, are “of thesame blood,” the same party, and the same stability-oriented platform.But the Luzhkov affair has the appearance of a power struggle — and notjust the obvious one for control of Moscow’s gold and influence. Theappearance of a more active and confident Medvedev gives off theimpression that he’s asserting himself to boost his reputation as aleader, to make it harder for Vladimir Vladimirovich to cast him aside,should he wish to do so in two years. This amounts to the one thing thatPutin promised Russia it wouldn’t have to suffer in 2012: politics. IfI’m right and this mess with Luzhkov is indeed a situation that got awayfrom the prime minister, I wonder if Luzhkov won’t remain in officeafter all.