Will Putin’s plan be Russia’s victory? I can’t tell you. However, I can tell you that it does apparently involve Putin becoming prime minister. Dmitri Medvedev, the apparent heir apparent, yesterday declared that he would name none other than Vladimir Putin as his prime minister.

Thus shall Vladimir Putin keep a grasp on the reins of power, though, as I have previously noted, it is no guarantee. The prime minister’s position is substantially weaker than the president’s; should Medvedev suddenly decide to disregard Putin’s wishes, he would have substantial legal power to do so. On the other hand, Medvedev is not known to have a power base of his own in the Kremlin–he is, at least for now, heavily dependent on Putin. Legal authority is one thing, actual political power another altogether.

An interesting thing to note: for many Putin observers, it is tempting to view him as an all-powerful political mastermind. Everything he does is aimed at a dark and calculated purpose. Is Medvedev’s anointment part of a multi-year plan to regain the presidency? Possibly. But there’s no guarantee that it will work–nor is it even necessarily part of some sort of larger plan. I am reminded just a bit of Karl Rove. Right up until election night 2006, part of me was convinced that there would be no Democratic victory–that Karl Rove had some ace up his sleeve that would somehow not only stop the Democratic tide, but even turn it back, and the Democrats would lose Congressional seats, not gain them. The Rove mystique is now gone. Similarly, we should be wary of a Putin mystique. He is not all-powerful, all-knowing, all-foreseeing. Some of his maneuvers are short-sighted, ad hoc, and ill-planned. To think otherwise grants him super-human powers he doesn’t deserve. The hard part is distinguishing the plan from unplanned, the wise move from the foolish, in circumstances where we, as observers, have only limited information.

Nevertheless, the oddball personality cult of Putin continues to develop, as we can see from photos of a fashion show staged by the pro-Putin Nashi [Ours] youth group. The slogan of the day seems to be, “Vova [a diminutive for Vladimir], I’m with you!”

[beware the link–it is worksafe, but oh, it burns, it burns]