Of all the strategic matters that Russia faces at this moment in time, one that preoccupies its political class to the point of unhealthy obsession is the transfer of power from Putin to his chosen successor, Dmitry Medvedev.
Putin’s urge to make this “strategic” speech remains unexplained, as most of its content, including the portrayal of the 1990s as the decade of chaos and the praise for the strong economic growth of the last eight years, was recycled from many previous presentations.
Probably understanding that this mix of hypocrisy, platitudes, and far-fetched promises can hardly be called a strategy, Putin added a rather peculiar foreign policy part, which does not belong to this genre. There was nothing said about the priority for building ties with neighbors, despite the extraordinary summit of the Commonwealth of the Independent States (CIS) scheduled for this week; not a word on the importance of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization; no clarification of Russia’s position on Kosova or Iran, not to mention global issues like climate change that are completely absent from the Kremlin’s strategic agenda. Rather, the attention was entirely focused on the West, which, according to Putin, has returned to the old “deterrence” policy and launched “a new spiral in the arms race”. The real intent behind the warning to the West was to shield the seemingly ultra-stable regime that might, as Putin suspects, tumble from even a slight push from outside that could suddenly resonate inside this hollow monolith.