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With a surprise announcement in Moscow, Russian President Vladimir Putin this past week laid down the path allowing him to wield power well past his nominal term limit of 2024. This led quickly to the resignations of the long-suffering prime minister, Dmitri Medvedev, and the entire Cabinet. Now an advisory board will suggest changes to the constitution that will almost certainly weaken whomever follows Putin as president and strengthen the office of prime minister.

It doesn’t take a Machiavelli to see what’s going on politically: easing into the power-enhanced role of prime minister when his presidential term expires is but one way Putin could now extend his reign. It will be the culmination of what people who plan strategically against Russia have predicted for years: Putin will be the czar of all the Russians for another decade and more. Only health appears likely to change the course upon which he now sails.

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