Trust, But Verify

Russian President Vladimir Putin announced today that he won’t seek out a third term, but…

…he vowed not to allow “destabilization” in Russia following the vote, leaving the door open for drastic action in the event of a crisis.

In an interview with Dutch media on the eve of a visit to the Netherlands, Putin reiterated that he opposes changing the constitution to prolong his time in power _ a possibility that has been widely discussed because his popularity and control over parliament.

But Putin said that the 2008 presidential election will be a “serious, difficult test for Russia” and stressed that full power and responsibility for the fate of the country will remain in his hands until the new president is sworn in.

“I will not allow any destabilization in Russia, in the interests of the … peoples of the Russian Federation,” Putin said in the interview with Dutch Broadcaster Network and financial newspaper NRC Handelsblad.

I don’t think Putin will go that easy, so it’s likely that this announcement is intended to quiet the grumbling among political opponents and others who remain leery of the president’s plans. It has only been 14 years since the fall of Communism in Russia, and many are worried that a modified version of it is taking shape at the hands of Putin. If any suspicions were eased by his initial statement, they were not completely eliminated, as Putin attached the following caveat:

Putin has repeatedly said he opposes changing the constitution to remain in power _ without strictly ruling it out _ and has also hinted vaguely of a continuing role for himself and said he will try to groom a successor.

“Of course, I am not indifferent about whose hands the country that I have dedicated my whole life to ends up in,” Putin said. “But if every new head of state who comes to power changes the constitution as he sees fit, soon there will be nothing left of this state.”

The world will be watching.

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