KREMLIN watchers must despair of Vladimir Putin. He seldom does what is expected of him. Yesterday he virtually nominated Dmitry Medvedev to succeed him as President when he steps down in early March next year. Yet Mr Medvedev, although a Deputy Prime Minister, had previously hardly been mentioned as Putin's successor; the former foreign minister Sergei Ivanov had seemed much the more likely candidate. A particular surprise about the choice of Mr Medvedev is that he is the only one of Putin's inner circle who has no background in the security services or the KGB. A former St Petersburg local government official, he moved to Moscow in the early 1990s and became Putin's campaign manager during the 2000 election. Thereafter, he was chief of staff at the Kremlin, chairman of Gazprom, the huge gas utility, and most recently in charge of health. education and housing. Kremlinologists were yesterday wondering whether Mr Medvedev will be his own man or a front for Vladimir Putin dictating policies in the background. What does seem clear is that he is reasonably well-disposed to the West and if that is correct it is to be hoped that the United States and some EU countries will not make the mistake of patronising him as they did Mr Putin. Perhaps there will be a chance to rebuild bridges with Mr Medvedev. Might that be another of Vladimir Putin's surprises?


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