“The protest movement has made the issue of who heads the power ministries — and especially the Interior Ministry — suddenly even more significant,” he said, noting that it has exacerbated the tension between forces that want a harsh crackdown and those that want to engage the opposition. “All the ministries are sources of money. You use them to maintain your controls, but they’re also sources of economic power.”
Putin was probably also irritated by what he sees as outside encouragement for the protesters, especially by the United States, and thought he would appear weak at the G-8, Galeotti said.
‘Situation is not stable’
Andrei Piontkovsky, a longtime political analyst, suggested that Putin had many reasons for anger and had to take it out on someone.
“My reading of this is that Mr. Putin was so obsessed with the unfavorable reaction of Muscovites to his coronation that he had to find some whipping boys,” he said. Even though Putin handpicked Medvedev for the presidency in 2008 after running up against term limits, he resented Medvedev’s ascent, Piontkovsky said.
“Kicking Mr. Medvedev off to America just when he is supposed to be deciding on the cabinet demonstrates to everyone, to the public, to the elites, to everyone seeking any kind of position, that he’s the boss and he’s the only person who matters,” the analyst added.
Such theories were dismissed by Sergei Markov, vice president of the Plekhanov Russian University of Economics, who has been a Kremlin adviser. Putin made a logical decision, Markov said, considering that his first foreign visits should be to his most important allies. That means he should first visit a member of Russia’s customs union (a visit to Kazakhstan is in the works), then the European Union, next China (planned for next month), and only then the United States.
“It would be the wrong signal to the international community to suggest the U.S. as his number one priority,” Markov said.
And don’t forget, said Alexei Makarkin, deputy director of the Center for Political Technologies, the demonstrators who are improbably roaming the streets of Moscow.
“The situation is not stable,” he said. “The authorities control the situation, but the decision has been made that it’s better for the president to stay in Russia for a while.”