Putin's Last Standb98c700446f86f9414b5bcb3

Russia's President Vladimir Putin was incredibly successful in achieving his goals during his first term. He strengthened the power of the federal government, while defeating big business, free media, the communist party, the liberal parties and civil society. Within government, he squezzed regional governors, both chambers of parliament and even the government apparatus, concentrating all legislative, executive and judicial power in himself. Meanwhile, solid macroeconomic stability and steady growth of 6.5% a year were attained.

Alas, Putin's success may lead to his downfall. He was fortunate during his first term because he recognized limits to his power. An avid reader of opinion polls, he tried enigmatically to be everything to all voters. Now, he seems to think himself free of constraint, but no politician is that lucky. Putin is violating too many rules of politics, and just cannot stop.

Putin is too jealous of power to delegate. Because he wants to make all decisions, he replaced a strong prime minister and chief of staff with two men unable to make decisions. So rather than creating a strong vertical command, he paralyzed his government.

One reason for this extreme overcentralization is that Putin does not trust anyone. Another reason is his preoccupation with secrecy. A true secret policeman, he relies on his circle of KGB men from St. Petersburg. His power base shrinks by the day, and his strangling of independent information makes him increasingly ill-informed.