Thursday, October 02, 2014


The Power Vertical

Exit 'The Tandem,' Enter 'The Team'

Medvedev (left) and Putin at the ski resort Krasnaya Polyana in Sochi.
Medvedev (left) and Putin at the ski resort Krasnaya Polyana in Sochi.
Who is truly calling the shots in Russia?

Vladimir Putin? Dmitry Medvedev? Putin and Medvedev, together in tandem? Some grey cardinal in the shadows, like Igor Sechin or Vladislav Surkov?

Actually, an increasing number of analysts are pointing out that Russia is -- as it has been throughout the Putin era -- run by a collective leadership. Putin and Medvedev are the front men and leaders to be sure, but decisions are arrived at largely by consensus among a group that includes at least 10 and as many as 30 people.

Chatham House has recently issued a report, authored by Andrew Monaghan of the NATO Defense College, that makes several salient points about the nature of Russia's ruling elite and where it appears to be headed.

In the report, titled "The Russian Vertikal: The Tandem, Power, and Elections," Monaghan argues at the outset that "there are no major gaps between the political agendas of Medvedev and Putin" and that regardless of which one of them is president after 2012 "there is unlikely to be major change in Russian domestic or foreign policy in the short to medium term."

He also argues that the terms we have been using to describe Russian politics -- terms like tandem and vertical -- are quickly becoming obsolete:

"Both ‘The Tandem’ and ‘The Vertical’ have lost their original meanings. The tandem has become outdated – not because of a split between the two men, but because of the emergence and emphasis on a unified team, albeit one with some internal rivalries."

And who is on this unified team?

This team cuts across the often assumed divisions between state and ‘oligarchy’ (neither of which is as coherent or united as often made out). Putin is the appointed figurehead of the team, with Medvedev as his colleague. But around them exists a collective leadership centered around perhaps some 10 or 11 people. Specific interpretations may vary slightly, but these include [Deputy Prime Minister Igor] Sechin, [Kremlin Chief of Staff Sergei] Naryshkin, [Deputy Kremlin Chief of Staff Vladislav] Surkov, [Moscow Mayor Sergei] Sobyanin, Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin, and businessmen Yuri Kovalchuk, Gennadi Timchenko, Roman Abramovich and Alisher Usmanov. Such a team ripples out on a scale, according to some Russian observers, of a couple of dozen members of government administration, including deputy prime ministers, party heads such as Boris Gryzlov, and other leaders of big business and the security services.

So what explains the apparent rifts that appear between Medvedev and Putin periodically?

One of the reasons why the duumvirate appears to disagree is that it is seeking to appeal to different audiences, both in Russia and abroad...Putin cultivates an image of brutal machismo to speak to the ordinary, simple Russian citizen, while Medvedev, the strict manager and lawyer, appeals to the intelligentsia and business class. The tandem may correct the details of its course, but the wider course will remain the same.

Both myself and Sean Guillory have made similar arguments in the past.

Monaghan's report dovetails with another widely discussed paper by Kremlin-connected political analyst Dmitry Orlov, director general of Agency for Political and Economic Communications. In that report, published in May, Orlov argued that decision about who will be president in 2012 is being decided by "the most influential 25-30 Russian politicians and businessmen" behind closed doors.

Orlov argues that the alliance between Putin and Medvedev will endure beyond the election and "grow into a lasting political alliance." The tandem's main task as Russia gears up for elections to the State Duma in December and for the presidency in March 2012 "is to ensure the unity of the ruling elite."

-- Brian Whitmore

Tags: Andrew Monaghan,Dmitry Orlov,Putin-Medvedev tandem

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by: shay dismay from: usa
June 07, 2011 20:14
And in order "to ensure the unity of the ruling elite" (as they fleece Russia of its wealth at the expense of a jaded population) the priority of this ruling class is to prevent the legitimate opposition of Kasparov and Nemtsov from posing any threat to the current dictatorship. The Kremlin will not allow any of the legitimate opposition to have any access to TV broadcasts, instead Nemtsov and Kasparov are continually mocked on network TV news with no option to respond and defend themselves against the slander. The brave few within Strategy 31 who confront the establishment must be dismayed at the indifference of their fellow countrymen and women who through their ignorance merely accept the shambles that is today's Russia.

Tough-guy Putin is terrified of allowing either of the censored opposition leaders to speak to a mass audience, what is he so scared of? Putin has never participated in a live televised debate against a legitimate opposition candidate, instead he stages his idiotic televised Q&A sessions responding to questions which have been vetted well in advance. And six months later he strips down to his waist and rides a small horse through the vast Russian countryside where he fishes and rescues his camera crew from wild cats. And the brainwashed Russian viewers gobble it up, they cannot get enough of their savior. Yet their roads and infrastructure continues to crumble, inflation remains rampant, the stuttering economy is hopelessly dependent upon the volatile energy sector, and institutionalized corruption continues to devour away at ordinary Russian lives. Official salaries are a pittance, only supplemented by corrupt kick-backs and bribes, and pensions are scandalously low.

The notion that Putin has curtailed the oligarchs is a myth, as his compliant oligarchs far outnumber the disobedient oligarchs whom he has eliminated. Ultimately it will not matter whether Putin or Medvedev steals the presidency, as the irony of Russia is that no matter how cataclysmic the upheaval, Russia ultimately stays the same, a nation battered into the ground by a ruling elite bent upon enriching themselves obscenely at the expense of the vast majority who struggle for some semblance of human dignity.

by: Sublime Oblivion from: cyberspace
June 08, 2011 03:45
I agree that the best characterization of Russia's ruling elites is as a "team," and more precisely, the board of directors of a major corporation (with Medvedev as current CEO).

However, I do think Monaghan casts the net too widely. I find it hard to imagine that the aforementioned businessmen have a voting seat.

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Semyon Guzman, a prominent Ukrainian psychiatrist, says Vladimir Putin hasn't gone crazy -- he's just evil.

"Many really consider that he suffers from definite psychological illnesses,” Guzman wrote in a September 30 article (a big h/t to thei ndispensable Paul Goble for flagging this).  

"This is only a convenient explanation in the existing situation. Unfortunately, it is not correct.”

Putin's character traits, "ike those of a murderer, thief or other good for nothing, are not psychiatric phenomena but rather objects of the subjects of moral philosophy.” Guzman wrote. He added that Putin was "absolutely responsible" for his actions.

Karen Dawisha, who appeared on the Power Vertical Podcast back in April, dscusses her new book "Putin's Kleptocracy: Who Owns Russia"

From RFE/RL's News Desk:

BARROSO WARNS PUTIN OVER EU-UKRAINE TRADE DEAL

The head of the European Commission says an EU-Ukraine trade deal can only be changed by Brussels and Kyiv – not Moscow.

Jose Manuel Barroso made the remarks in a letter to Russian President Vladimir Putin released on October 1.

Ukraine's parliament ratified its agreement with the EU last month. 

However, the implementation of the trade part of the deal has been delayed until January 2016 to appease Russia, which says the pact will hurt its markets.

Moscow has called for more three-way negotiations to amend the deal and threatened to curtail Ukraine's access to Russian markets if Kyiv implements it.

In his letter, Barroso warned Putin not to impose new trade measures, saying it would threaten the agreement with Russia to delay the EU-Ukraine pact.

(With reporting by Reuters)

And for anybody interested, here's the full text of Barroso's letter:

"Mr. President,

Following your letter of 17 September, I would like to welcome the constructive engagement from all sides in the trilateral ministerial meeting on the implementation of the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement, including a Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area on 12 September.

The conclusions reached at that meeting were endorsed by all participants and set out in a joint ministerial statement.

On the EU side, we have informed our Member States of the outcome of the trilateral process, and we have now obtained their approval for the necessary legislative steps.

I should emphasize that the proposal to delay the provisional application of the DCFTA is linked to continuation of the CIS-FTA preferential regime, as agreed in the joint ministerial statement. In this context, we have strong concerns about the recent adoption of a decree by the Russian government proposing new trade barriers between Russia and Ukraine. We consider that the application of this decree would contravene the agreed joint conclusions and the decision to delay the provisional application of the trade related part of the Association Agreement.

The joint ministerial statement also foresees further consultations on how to address concerns raised by Russia. We are ready to continue engaging on how to tackle the perceived negative impacts to the Russian economy resulting from the implementation of the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area.

I take however this opportunity to underline that the Association Agreement remains a bilateral agreement and that, in line with international law, any adaptations to it can only be made at the request of one of the parties and with the agreement of the other, according to the mechanisms foreseen in the text and the respective internal procedures of the parties.

I wish to recall that the joint conclusions reached at the Ministerial meeting state clearly that all these steps are part and parcel of a comprehensive peace process in Ukraine, respecting the territorial integrity of Ukraine as well as its right to decide on its destiny.

Consequently, while all parties should implement the conclusions as laid down in the joint ministerial statement in good faith, the statement does not and cannot limit in any way the sovereign prerogatives of Ukraine.

The European Commission remains fully committed to contribute to a peaceful solution. In this respect we hope that the recent positive steps embodied in the Minsk Protocol of 5 September and the ensuing memorandum from 19 September will be fully implemented, including the monitoring of the Ukrainian-Russian state border and its verification by the OSCE, and the withdrawal of all foreign armed formations and military equipment from the Ukrainian territory.

We also expect that rapid and decisive progress can be achieved in the trilateral gas talks towards a mutually acceptable interim solution for the upcoming winter period, on the basis of the compromise elements set out by the European Commission. It is key that the resumption of energy deliveries to the citizens of Ukraine is ensured and that the fulfilment of all contractual obligations with customers in the EU is secured.

Yours faithfully,

José Manuel BARROSO"

 

And just when you though it couldn't get any weirder, Valery Zorkin destroys your illusions.

That's Valery Zorkin, the chairman of Russia's Constitutional Court. Zorkin penned an article last week in "Rossiiskaya gazeta" (that's the official Russian government newspaper, by the way), calling for -- wait for it -- a return to serfdom. A big h/t to Elena Holodny at Business Insider for flagging this.

Here's the money quote:

"Even with all of its shortcomings, serfdom was exactly the main staple holding the inner unity of the nation. It was no accident that the peasants, according to historians, told their former masters after the reforms: 'We were yours, and you — ours.'"

Zorkin also took a shot at Pyotr Stolypin, the 19th century reformist prime minister (and a hero of Vladimir Putin's), and his judicial reforms.

"Stolypin's reform took away communal justice from the peasants in exchange for individual freedom, which almost none of them knew how to live and which was depriving their community guarantees of survival."

I wonder what that portends. Zorking also compared the abolotion of serfdom to the post-Soviet reforms of the 1990s.



 

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The Power Vertical is a blog written especially for Russia wonks and obsessive Kremlin watchers by Brian Whitmore. It covers emerging and developing trends in Russian politics, shining a spotlight on the high-stakes power struggles, machinations, and clashing interests that shape Kremlin policy today. Check out The Power Vertical Facebook page or