The following is a guest post by Steven Pifer.
In a speech to the United Russia party on Saturday, President Dmitri Medvedev announced his intention to step aside so that Prime Minister Vladimir Putin can return to the presidency next spring. The Russians still have an election to hold in March, but one can predict the outcome with assurance. While his ratings have declined since his first two terms as president, Putin remains the most popular politician in Russia. The state’s bureaucratic and financial resources will mobilize to support his candidacy, and no serious opposition candidate has emerged.