Monday, October 23, 2017

Is Putin Going to Rule for Life as Head of a New Chinese-Style Russian State Council?

Paul Goble

            Staunton, October 23 – According to the Rusmonitor portal, an intense debate is going on in Moscow behind the scenes between those who would like to see the creation of a Russian State Council “modeled on the Chinese” one that would allow Vladimir Putin on being installed as its head to rule for life and those who very much prefer the existing presidential system.

            The portal says that the idea of arranging things in that way has the support of the siloviki and some of those who came with Putin from St. Petersburg but that it is very much opposed by members of what it calls “the old ‘Family’” (

            Such a system, based on “the Chinese model,” the portal continues, would be “more suitable and comfortable for Putin” than the current arrangements and allow him to get out of “the ideological dead end” his current Presidential Administration has left him in by its experiments and actions.

            According to some, Rusmonitor continues, “Vyacheslav Volodin is the chief ideology of the introduction of the concept of the State Council, one in which that body by essence will be an executive organ that will subordinate all other executive organs of power” both in Moscow and the country as a whole.

            As head of such a State Council, it says, Putin “would become not simple the President of the State Council but also the spiritual and national leader of Russia.”  Other members would be purely nominal, and those pushing the idea say it could be achieved “without principle changes in the Constitution.” 

            “In essence, Putin would become a quasi-monarch, without an inherited throne,” and that would allow him to escape the problems of too close association with radical Orthodox nationalists like Natalya Poklonskaya. Regional leaders would acquire greater weight while the Government and the Presidential Administration would lose it as the siloviki escaped out from under their management.

            This project was supposed to be drafted a month ago, but the current Presidential Administration “completely discredited the idea of a State Council.”  They reflected the views of “the family” who aren’t interested in any “’spiritual leaders’” or diminution of their access to the president.

            Instead, these opponents of the State Council idea have been lobbying for the reform of the Presidential Administration, something that would involve a few firings but mostly be cosmetic, the Rusmonitor article today says.

             Without clear sourcing, it is difficult to know how much credence to give this report. It is not inconsistent with some of the things that Putin has said and it would help to explain both his suggestion that he was about to make an important announcement and that he has not yet declared his candidacy for re-election.

            There are of course other good reasons for delay, but if a State Council is really being discussed, that could trump most of them. 

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