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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Sestanovich: Putin Promotes Guessing Game on Russia's Leadership

Council on Foreign Relations

Interviewee: Stephen R. Sestanovich, George F. Kennan Senior Fellow for Russian and Eurasian Studies
Interviewer: Bernard Gwertzman, Consulting Editor

October 24, 2007

Stephen R. Sestanovich, CFR’s top Russia expert and former ambassador-at-large to the states of the former Soviet Union, says President Vladimir Putin seems to be enjoying keeping the world guessing as to whether he will seek to become prime minister of Russia when his presidency ends in March 2008. On U.S.-Russia relations, Sestanovich says the high-water mark was immediately after 9/11, and now they are about where they were when Putin took office in 2000, mired in disputes over arms control, Kosovo, and Iran. He says Putin appears to be attempting a mediator’s role between Iran and the West with little to show for it thus far.

Russian President Vladimir Putin can’t run again for the presidency under the Russian constitution, but there has been considerable speculation he might become Russia’s prime minister at some point and be a power behind the throne. Do we have any idea who the next president is likely to be?

We have some idea, because Putin has encouraged us to look at some people as candidates and he’s said that there are probably five good candidates out there without naming them. The experts tried to figure out which five he meant. He has appointed Viktor Zubkov as the new prime minister and that person would become acting president if Putin resigned and is certainly in the position to be a credible candidate if Putin nominates him.

There are other candidates in his entourage who are possible contenders, but Putin may be pointing us towards these people precisely to confound us when he picks somebody totally different.


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Copyright 2007 by the Council on Foreign Relations. This material is republished on GlobalSecurity.org with specific permission from the cfr.org. Reprint and republication queries for this article should be directed to cfr.org.



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