New Russian Prime Minister
Before the morning of January 16, most Russians never heard of Mikhail Mishustin, a bureaucrat who headed the country’s Federal Tax Service. Mishustin himself, some have speculated, was as surprised as anyone by the news; Vladimir Putin forced the resignation of Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev and, seemingly overnight, tapped Mishustin as his replacement.
Yet, while the new No. 2 of the Russian political oligarchy was virtually unknown, Putin’s motives appeared far less mysterious. “It is unlikely that the appointment of Mishustin means that a political transition is underway in Russia,” says Chris Miller, professor of international history at Tufts University’s Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy. Putin, he says, isn’t grooming any successor. “He is preparing his plan to retain power.” Barred by law from running for a third consecutive term as president, Putin has proposed major changes to the country’s constitution in attempts to see more authority transferred away from the presidency to the Parliament and other government institutions—creating a power center outside the presidency. These changes, political analysts say, would allow him to wield power indefinitely.