Putin recently took his puppet on a fishing trip to the river Volga
RFE/RE:s Brian Whitmore offers an excellent characterization of Vladimir Putin´s Russia:
Vladimir Putin isn’t going anywhere.
All other analysis of where Russia is headed post-2012 must proceed from this basic assumption.
Putin may very well end up returning to the Kremlin, as much of the Moscow punditocracy seems to expect at this point, in which case Medvedev would become an interesting historical footnote.
Or, he could continue to rule as Russia’s informal national leader essentially extending the tandem's shelf life -- and Medvedev's presidency -- for another six years. In this case, the only question remaining would be which official post he occupies.
Regardless, at the end of the day, this is Putin’s show.
I recently spoke to Nikolai Petrov of the Moscow Carnegie Center about the source of Putin's indispensability to the current system (sorry, no link since the interview is still unpublished):
Putin designed a system of managed conflict. There is no competition in public. But he created different clans and groups who are fighting against each other. This is the way Putin keeps control over the system. He is a judge and arbiter who is keeping the balance among them. It is impossible for him to leave. It is impossible to imagine this system without him because all of the agreements are guaranteed by him. Without him, all of these clans would fight each other, like after Stalin's death.
Kremlin-watchers say this system of interlocking and competing clans that is managed by Putin comprises the core of Russia's ruling elite. The key players, the people with decision making power, number about thirty. The inner circle, most agree, comprises about twelve people.
Read the entire post here
Wiltshire is right about Putin going nowhere - for the time being. But it should not be forgotten, that Putin´s house of cards is built on a fundament of Russian oil and gas exports. That is also its weakness. When the stream of money from energy exports begins to dry up - as it will, due to the shale gas and LNG revolution -the house of cards will fall down. That is why Putin and his inner energy circle are desperately trying to prevent Europe from seizing the opportunity to get rid of its energy dependence. Now it is up to Poland and other European states to make sure that Putin and his Russian friends will fail. By doing this, they will also pave the way for democratic forces in Russia.