Putin's Next Vacation Could be Permanent

Poor Vlad's got plenty on his hands these days. The Russian economy is circling the drain as the ruble gets weaker and oil gets cheaper. Official predictions are that the Russian economy will shrink by 4 percent next year. I'd hold off on betting on that number - historically, official Russian predictions have been divorced from anything resembling reality. So what's an autocrat to do? It seems unlikely that Putin will come hat in hand to the west for economic help. A guy who likes to parade around on horseback with his shirt off doesn't strike me as being able to switch into supplicant mode all that easily. Then again, Putin may not be running the joint much longer if things continue to deteriorate. The oligarchs over there are not exactly known for playing "wait and see," and they usually like to pull the plug when the boss is out of town. In 1964 Khrushchev was on vacation when he got a call telling him in effect to haul his portly self back to Moscow so he could be fired. And in 1991 Gorbachev was spending a little quality time out of town with his family when he found out that he'd retired due to health reasons.  

It's tough to tell what effect all of this might have on what many blithely refer to as the new Cold War between the U.S. and Russia. In a twisted sort of way, I hope the idea of the Cold War remains front and center - my literary career, such as it is, may depend on it. For that to happen, Putin probably needs to stay in charge for a while. New leadership might abandon Putin's outdated belligerence and instead seek common ground with Russia's former adversaries. In that case, the Cold War will once again be relegated to the dustbin of history. So, Vlad, for the sake of both of our futures, if you've got vacation plans, cancel them.