The self-imposed isolation in Siberia on his 62nd birthday might signal President Putin’s next Eltzinite move - appoint a successor and resign. The rapidly worsening situation in Russia seems beyond his control with worrying fractions openly engaging in battles across a wide power front.
He has made several attempts to leave office and retire but has so far been unable to reach a compromise with the different clans and find a successor able to restore the delicate domestic power balances. The choices he faces seem uglier and uglier — capital, export and travel control, lowering the military budget, and more and more inter-clan disputes to resolve on his desk. He has become victim of his own popularity with overexpectaion from all corners, leading to his resounding solitude at the top of the power verticle.
The Putin we used to know at the beginning of his rule has nothing to do with the current isolated Tzar at Kremlin. Suffice to look at the cost of his rule on his personal and family life.
With the devaluation of the ruble, double-digit inflation and dropping energy revenues and above all western sanction biting deeper and deeper, he might come to the conclusion that an earlier exit might be the best option at hand for him to sparer himself the fate of General Secretaries of the Communist Party.
He has tried in the past to retire but has been unable to balance between the interests of the different clans.
By appointing a successor and starting a controlled exit he could spare himself the disgrace of a forceful leave under “revolutionary” circumstances.
With all the ado about new openings to China and Asia - Russia has no alternative but remained anchored to Europe. It is not only the natural self identification of its elite but the only hope for its modernization.
Putin is not the man to restore relations and he might decide that it is time to go.