The Temporary Return of Putin Co.

Why Russia's Ruling Clan Won't Hold Power Forever

Courtesy Reuters

The ruling tandem of Vladimir Putin and Dmitry Medvedev was a clever trick that allowed Putin to keep his hold on Russian political life without violating the Russian constitution, which forbids serving more than two consecutive presidential terms. At the same time, it made it possible for Medvedev to lure the West and Russian liberals with hopes for reform.

But the ruling security-services clan, which has usurped power in Russia over the last decade, no longer needs the tandem. Tough times are ahead. The global economic crisis has not spared Russia, public confidence in the authorities is declining, corruption is eating its way through the entire state machine, and social discontent is on the rise.

The ruling group -- which includes Putin's former KGB associates, colleagues from his days working for former St. Petersburg Mayor Anatoly Sobchak, friends from the dacha cooperative Ozero ("Lake" in Russian) near St. Petersburg, and

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