Saturday, May 23, 2020

Putin’s Illness Explains Goals, Timing of Constitutional Reforms, Solovey Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, May 22 – Vladimir Putin has been ill for some time and rarely appears in public, Valery Solovey says; and it was his illness rather than the problem of succession that prompted him to push for the constitutional amendments because for him, having a State Council in place which could act as the executive is more important the right to remain in office.

            That explains both why he chose to initiate the constitutional reform process now rather than later and why he is pushing for approval of the changes this summer and why in fact the extending of his right to run again was a confusion and even a tactical mistake, the analyst says (

            Putin has been ill for some time, Solovey says, although he does not say with what or how he is being treated. But he does note that over the last several years, the Kremlin leader has appeared in public less often and on television as recently concerning the pandemic has appeared wooden and scripted. 

            As of now, Solovey says, Putin still has the capacity to rule but “he already is not completely adequate” and some of his decisions and actions shock those around him. He and they see the State Council as a body that can allow him to govern with a collective that will assume more or less power as needed.

            The former MGIMO professor and controversial commentator says that he isn’t going to say anything more about Putin’s physical state, but he adds that how the Kremlin leader is acting is the direct result of the medical regiment he is under. “There is nothing that can be done” about that or about his increasing age.

            According to Solovey, many think that zeroing out Putin’s terms so he can serve as president for life has been the main goal of the amendment process, but “this was not the goal.” Setting up the State Council was. The zeroing out was added at the last minute although it had been under consideration.

            The analyst says that the leadership began talking about making changes in the constitution in 2017. “Already at the beginning of 2018, everything was ready, but it was planned to begin the entire process only at the end of this year. It was estimated to last two years. In general, everything was normal.”

            But then the date had to be advanced because of Putin’s health and the obvious decline in his ability to function as a national leader. Putin “really is in a bad way,” Solovey says. “He cannot appear in public and very soon he won’t be able to act in general” – and that is why he needs the State Council to be created.

            If Putin’s health permits, he will run again and again for president; but having the State Council is an insurance policy against any radical shifts should his health deteriorate further.  But of course none of this can be openly discussed because the Kremlin will take harsh measures against anyone who even hints of this.

            Solovey has been the victim of Kremlin disfavor. He isn’t invited to appear on state radio and television any more.  He is well connected, but his words, while they explain much in the amendment process that had seemed random or inexplicable, may be an effort to attract attention to himself. Nonetheless, they do appear to provide a piece of the puzzle that had been missing.
            They are thus worth keeping in mind in the coming weeks and months.

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