Cultural Revolutions

A Preferred Successor

Vladimir Putin's performance as Russian premier had, by the first of November, won him high approval. The ex-KGB professional, publicly tapped by Boris Yeltsin as his preferred successor, has begun to show the political acumen that attracted the attention of Yeltsin and his "family," the presidential entourage, who are very worried about the anti-family coalition formed by Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov and Yevgeni Primakov, whom the Kremlin now fears far more than the Communists. Putin's task is to undermine Primakov, and the Kremlin may have concocted an appropriate crisis to help him do it.

The plot—as described by the many Kremlin deep throats looking to distance themselves from the family as the end of Yeltsin's term approaches—goes like this: Disappointed by Sergei Stepashin's unwillingness to do their dirty work, Yeltsin and the family needed a suitable replacement. Putin is an old KGB hand with great experience in collecting—and effectively using—kompromat ("compromising material"), and his connections in the "power ministries" (Defense, Internal Affairs, Intelligence, Security) could prove useful. To undermine the popular Primakov, the Kremlin had to stage an event which would place the spotlight on their man, showing him to be as adept at geopolitics as the wily "Primo," distracting voters from the Kremlin's involvement in the Bank of New York-Mabatex...

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