Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Where will Putin retire?

We all know Mr. Putin has promised to leave his post in 2008; and there is a 99.9% chance that he will indeed step down. The remaining uncertainty is always needed for such a turbulent country as Russia. The main question that political analysts are pondering, concerns Mr. Putin's job title after he steps down. A recent article in the FT (Bermuda to liquidate Russian companies) leads us on the probable path.

One of Putin's closest allies in the government, Leonid Reiman, the Minister of Telecommunications, has been involved in many corporate scandals over his tenure. Without going into each of those disputes/scandals (all the relevant information is located at compromat.ru, for those interested) Mr. Reiman is involved with the ownership of the assets of telecommunications giant Megafon, operating in Russia and the CIS. It is also highly probable that a proportion of these assets is owned by Lyudmila Putina. Judging by the overall situation in Russia, it is highly probable that Mrs. Putina has stakes in other assets (we will assume they are fully legal, as no evidence proving otherwise exists).

My point now; Mr. Putin will be financially healthy well after he retires, given the replacement is not as opposed as Mr. Putin once was to Mr. Yeltsin. Thus, the current Russian president will not have a need to be in charge or chair over Gazprom for financial purposes. It also seems illogical for him to chair Gazprom, no matter how powerful it may be. It is an instrument of Russian foreign policy, but not the main one. Nuclear weapons, the accelerating economy, gold reserves, are also highly powerful. Chairing Gazprom, Mr. Putin will maintain status as the default Minister of Energy of Russia. Well below in the ranks of political influence. Neither Mr. Medvedev (in the post of Chairman of Gazprom), nor Mr. Miller (Gazprom CEO) have in their posts much influence on foreign policy. Foreign policy is dictated by the President, his administration and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

I do not see a Mr. Putin reporting to Mr. New-Russian president in 2008. It will just be darn weird. It makes more sense for Mr. Putin to just remain a very influential figure in Russia. Given, Russia becomes even more active in foreign relations, and crisis resolution, I can even see Mr. Putin using his communications skills as a consultant on foreign and internal Russian policy.

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