Putin says he always envisioned his return to Russia's top job
"If I start something, I either try to complete it, or at least improve things," he says
Putin's hand-picked successor, Dmitry Medvedev, has ceded his presidential bid to Putin
Putin has suggested that Medvedev should take over the role of prime minister
In his first televised interview since he was launched toward the presidency again, Russia’s powerful Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said Monday that his goal of returning to the Kremlin was to “stabilize” and “diversify” the national economy as well as to “strengthen the fundamental basis of the political system and the democratic institutions” of the country.
Putin said he “had never sought this post (the presidency)” in the first place, but once he accepted his responsibilities, he wanted to continue pulling Russia out of decades of economic and political turbulence following the demise of the Soviet Union.
“If I start something, I either try to complete it, or at least improve things as much as I can,” he said. He pointed to the examples of Franklin D. Roosevelt, who led the United States as president for four consecutive terms; former German Chancellor Helmut Kohl, who was in office for 16 years; and post-World War II French and Canadian leaders who served lengthy tenures.
However, Putin said that using his political influence he could have easily adjusted the Russian constitution to allow himself another consecutive run after having served two presidential terms from 2000 to 2008, but chose not to do so and stepped down, paving the way for his hand-picked successor, Dmitry Medvedev.
Over the past two years, Putin and Medvedev have repeatedly fanned the flames of intrigue by saying in public they would decide together which of them would run for the Russian presidency in 2012.
Putin’s taped interview was aired Monday on Russia’s three national networks – Channel One, Russia 1 and NTV.
Medvedev used exactly the same format on September 30 – talking to the same interviewees – to explain that he is ceding his presidential bid to Putin because Putin has higher public opinion ratings, and therefore stronger election chances.
But in his Monday interview Putin said he envisioned his return to the country’s top job all along.
“Four years ago, we agreed that this scenario was quite possible if we endure this period of fairly serious tests,” Putin said. “We decided that if we go through the next four years successfully, then we will have the right to put forward our idea of power configuration to the society: who will do what, what principles we will stick to, and where we will lead our country and our state.
“The moment came and we put it forward,” he said. “This is a settled issue for us, but not for our citizens. We proposed this configuration and it’s up to the citizens to show at polling stations whether they accept this proposal,” Putin added.
Last month, Medvedev called on the ruling United Russia party to endorse Putin for president in 2012. Putin in turn suggested that Medvedev should take over the role of prime minister if the party wins parliamentary elections in December, in what would be a straight swap of their roles.
Under amendments to the constitution that came into force on December 31, 2008, the presidential term was extended to six years.
This means that if Putin is elected in March 2012 for six years, he would be eligible to run for another six-year term after that, potentially keeping him in charge until 2024.
But in the Monday interview, Putin brushed aside widespread parallels between his future presidency and the rule of old and incompetent Soviet leaders who led the Soviet Union in the 1970s and ‘80s.
“I cannot recall post-war Soviet leaders working as intensively as I do or as President Dmitry Medvedev does,” Putin said. “They (Soviet leaders) were unable, because of their physical condition. … Perhaps, they could have stirred themselves into action, but the problem was they did not understand what to do. Nor did they have the will to do it,” he said.
Putin said his government, which successfully handled the 2008-2010 world financial crisis, is better than ever prepared for new economic tests. He said that despite the hard times, the Russian economy will grow by 4% this year, and that the annual inflation rate, which now stands at 4.7%, is projected to be the lowest in the past two decades.