Vladimir Putin is still playing coy and has refused to announce his intentions about running for another term in the 2018 presidential elections. Yelena Mukhametshina, Olga Churakova report however in Vedomosti that the reluctant Putin pose is a charade. The Russian president's spin doctors, brain trust and pollsters are busy working on themes that can be woven into some overarching vision of the future that Putin can present to the voters. There are many ideas being bandied about with some borrowing on the current themes of punishing ostentatious wealth. But the spin doctors have two major problems on their hands: How do they conjure up a happy days are here again vision when there is a pervasive atmosphere of gloom and what will be the raison d'etre for yet another Putin term?
MEMRI's translation of Mukhametshina and Churakova's analysis follows:
Sergey Kiriyenko, the campaign manager for Putin's undeclared candidacy (Source: kp.ru)
"The Kremlin has not yet managed to invent the vision of the future with which Vladimir Putin could go to the 2018 elections. Vedomosti was informed that this work is making difficult headway by a source close to the presidential administration and by a former federal official. Other sources close to the administration say that the work is proceeding 'turbulently' and 'with difficulty'; two of them add that over ten meetings have been held on the subject. According to the former official, several supervisors have been changed: At first, the TV anchor Valery Fadeyev was in charge, then it was Konstantin Kostin – director of the Civil Society Development Foundation (CSDF), and then came Aleksandr Oslon – director of the Public Opinion Foundation. Three sources close to the administration have confirmed that Fadeyev and Kostin worked on the concept, and three more confirm that Fadeyev and Oslon worked on it.
"The vision of the future is a program that takes in economics, the social sphere, political reforms. There are difficulties, because Fadeyev left to work in the Civic Chamber, and Kostin did a poor job – he proposed both new ideas and ones that had been previously used. Oslon is conducting sociological surveys on the subject”, says a source close to the administration. According to him, a new supervisor has already been found, but the group does not participate in general meetings – it meets separately. Fadeyev declined comment, Oslon said he could not discuss the issue...
"Fadeyev, Kostin and Oslon continue to work on the subject; 'they immediately stated that they wanted to work on contents', and it is the Expert Institute of Social Research affiliated with the Kremlin that is trying to combine all the ideas together, says another source close to the administration: 'I would not say that there is one person responsible for contents. [first deputy administration head Sergey] Kiriyenko is in charge of the campaign as a whole'. He adds that the development of this concept may be endless: 'The world is changing; the circumstances are changing: when it all started, there was "hostile Obama", then Trump appeared. The internal content of the documents are changing as well. At some moment, it will all [have to] stop in order to convert everything into a program'.
"The vision of the future is the campaign's main narrative; it explains the objectives of the new [presidential] term's policies for various social groups and for society as a whole, as the former official explains: 'Now we have the triad "Justice, Respect, Trust", which describes some of the value-based principles of development. But it will not replace the vision of the future, even though there may be attempts to do so'. 'They will not cling to this triad; it’s just that Kiriyenko, during his meetings with governors, emphasizes all the time that people want justice and that ostentatious luxury will be punished”, adds a source close to the administration. According to him, there are a dozen different groups working on the image of the future now, including Alexei Kudrin’s Center for Strategic Research, Aleksandr Auzan – dean of the Economics Department of Moscow State University, Herman Gref – president of the Sberbank, “all the programs are taken to Kiriyenko – and in the end, they will pull out what’s needed from different programs and will consolidate them into one': 'There are a lot of concepts and they are so different that it’s hard to reconcile them – that is, the work is proceeding in a complicated way not because there are no good ideas, but because there are too many ideas'.
"According to one of the sources close to the administration, the vision of the future should be ready by the end of September. Another says that everything should be finished by the start of the campaign in December. Our source in the president’s administration emphasizes that the campaign has not started yet, therefore a question about problems with work on the image of the future 'is senseless'.
"The current situation is perceived as a dead end by different groups, including the Kremlin administration, says political analyst Gleb Pavlovsky: 'The problem is how to escape this depressing feeling that everything is ending, and very badly in the bargain. Such indicators as the president’s rating do not show anything, they measure a zero-option situation: it’s like measuring the rating of canned sprats with tomato in a shop that only sells canned sprats with tomato'. Misunderstanding the character of the crisis gave rise to the idea of finding a vision of the future that may be presented as a pretty picture, the expert continues: “They are looking for a plot for the pre-election TV show. It’s not about the future; it’s about inventing a reason for why in general Putin has to run for his fourth term when he is finishing this one so bitterly'. Most likely, they will come up with something banal like the fear factor or some gift from Putin to voters, Pavlovsky thinks: 'There is not a single problem in the country that requires Putin for its solution. The election campaign becomes a labor to preserve his inner circle'. "
 Vedomosti.ru, July 16, 2017.