There's a legend about Vladislav Surkov: according to it, he's not a public person. This, along with his efficiency, is what makes him attractive for Vladimir Putin. And it's making me think: how come the "non-public" Surkov has been quoted so much in the past months? That is, I'm really not aware of anyone else of this rank in the presidential administration who is being quoted this much. After the president, Slava [Vladislav] ranks second now. If it was someone else, not Surkov, I'd think it's just a coincidence. But to him it cannot happen accidentally. He's been in the Kremlin for too long, and has been shunning publicity for too long. He knows perfectly well how to avoid publicity. Thus, his public appearance can only be calculated, conscious and staged.
As part of this unexpected publicity campaign, Surkov interacted with the people through [Komsomolskaya Pravda] and said precisely what the people wanted to hear. He didn't sound exactly like himself, it seemed to me, but we haven't been in touch in a long time and I can be mistaken. He was a lot more recognizable in his interaction with Der Spiegel's correspondents, an export version [of Surkov]. The West then saw a statesman [who places the interests of the state above those of an individual], albeit not a hawkish one. And finally, Surkov mixed with the Russian elite, and we learned about it verbatim, though belatedly. Since the only structured elite in this country is the business community, Surkov's choice is understandable. The gist of the transcript that was leaked to the press (and I don't think Surkov even tried to prevent the leak) is this: let's work together, guys, or else...
Or else it looks like everything is just going to collapse. Two principal revelations in Surkov's conversation with the businessmen are these: first, [the situation cannot be any worse] in the Caucasus (quote: "It looks like an underground fire."), and second, the United Russia can lose the election, and the 2007-2008 elections pose a serious problem in general. It appears as if Surkov, a smart and well-informed person, fears the future for the reasons he knows very well.
His current publicity, I guess, has a very reasonable explanation. Are you thinking about the successor, my friends? Look at Surkov. What's happening now is a rehearsal of a promotion campaign, making his contours visible. Why not? Everyone keeps talking about our main problem - [the lack of political personalities]. He seems to be saying, carefully: "Here I am, look at me, listen to me." It may be too early for the beginning of a presidential campaign, but who knows which way things are going to go and whether we have 2-3 years before the election. Maybe Surkov knows. But even if these years are available, it wouldn't hurt to make some announcements for the future. And why not Surkov? Who is more experienced than he is? Who of the current Kremlin residents is craftier and smarter than he is? Who knows everyone and everything longer and better than he does? Who is as flexible and diverse? Who is as familiar, almost like family, I'd say? And he's a bridge, in a way, between Yeltsin's past, Putin's present and the future... All in all, he's a 100-percent successor and the keeper of all traditions at once. Find me another person in the current presidential administration who's been on both Khodorkovsky's and Putin's payrolls? You get it, right? If not a reconciliation figure, then at least a hint at one.
Anyway, I think Surkov is quite a candidate and this may well be his ambition. And I believe that with all his recent actions he's been provoking the media to arrive at this very conclusion. And he is absolutely positive he's got the power to refute such blatant allegations and calm down the most jealous ones - that is, to survive politically and to continue his political life. After all, it can't be his highest aspiration to remain the deputy head of the presidential administration!