Today, after waiting for as long as possible, President Putin finally addressed the Russian people on the topic of pension reform and presented his own take of this matter. When the lazy clowns who run the Russian presidential website finally are done translating the full text, it will appear here: You can also check a good summary made by RT here: My purpose today is not to comment on the substance of what Putin said, but on the political dimension of his move.

First, his speech was nothing short of brilliant. Putin readily admitted that this was a very controversial topic and that his own views on the matter have changed because the Russian economy has evolved and also fundamentally changed. By saying this he skillfully deflected the criticism that he has flip-flopped on this issue.

Second, Putin did say that while the proposed reform was controversial, opposition parties did seize this opportunity to score points. Putin had to say that because all the political parties in the Duma rejected this proposal and asked for a referendum or the resignation of the Medvedev government. Only “United Russia” (minus one person) voted for this project and it appears that the majority of the Russian people also opposed it. This is why Putin also added that there were some constructive proposals which should be adopted in the final law. In other words, Putin did not appear to “backtrack” or “make concessions”, but he did show his willingness to listen to the opposition and the Russian people.

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