The recent news that Vladimir Putin would be running for his old office as president of Russia was greeted by bemusement with many Western observers, myself included, who have been under the impression that Putin has been running the country from a different chair and that little would change. One person who seems not to share that view is President Dmitry Medvedev, who last week asserted his constitutional authority in a rather public dressing down of finance minister and deputy premier Alexei Kudrin. 

Speaking in Washington the day after the announcement at the United Russia convention of the job swap, Kudrin told reporters that, “I do not see myself in a new government,” adding, while “nobody has offered me the job, I think that the disagreements I have will not allow me to join this government.”
Medvedev saw this as a sign of insubordination and dressed Kudrin down in a public forum: 

The president pointedly told Kudrin, “If you think your views on Russia’s economic agenda differ from mine as president, you can resign. But you have to answer right here and now. Are you going to resign?”
When Kudrin retorted, “My opinions do differ from yours, but I’ll only take such a decision after I’ve talked to the prime minister,” he was quickly rebuffed. “You can talk to whoever you want, including the prime minister,” Medvedev declared, “But as long as I’m the president, I make these decisions. You’ll have to decide very quickly and give me an answer today. Either you reconsider the differences you’re talking about or, if these differences do exist, I see no alternative than for you to resign. Although this would be an unpleasant outcome.”
Kudrin resigned later that day and was replaced by Anton Siluanov. For his part, he issued a statement saying the differences were over the fiscal direction of Russia, particularly rising defense expenditures, and that “Emotion was neither here nor there.” He added, “On September 24 the structures of power in our country were defined for the long term.”
I remain unconvinced that the Putin-Medvedev switcheroo signals any real power transition. But, clearly, if Kudrin thought Putin would back his play here, he was mistaken.
James Joyner is managing editor of the Atlantic Council.

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