Monday, November 24, 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 The tandem has become outdated – not because of a split between the two men, but because of the emergence and emphasis on a unified team, albeit one with some internal rivalries."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.

The Power Vertical Feed

In this space, I will regularly comment on events in Russia, repost content and tweets I find interesting and informative, and shamelessly promote myself (and others, whose work I like). The traditional Power Vertical Blog remains for larger and more developed items. The Podcast, of course, will continue to appear every Friday. I hope you find the new Power Vertical Feed to be a useful resource and welcome your feedback. More

19:16 November 21, 2014

POWER VERTICAL PODCAST: A YEAR OF LIVING DANGEROUSLY

On this week's Power Vertical Podcast, we use the one-year anniversary of the Euromaidan uprising to look at how it changed both Ukraine and Russia. My guests are Sean Guillory and Alexander Motyl.

09:14 November 21, 2014
09:11 November 21, 2014

AND AS TENSIONS RISE IN THE BALTICS...

09:09 November 21, 2014

MORNING NEWS ROUNDUP

From RFE/RL's News Desk:

UKRAINE MARKS START OF EUROMAIDAN PROTESTS WITH NEW HOLIDAY
By RFE/RL
Ukrainians are marking a new national holiday on November 21 -- the anniversary of the start of Kyiv’s Euromaidan protests that led to the ouster of the country’s former pro-Kremlin regime.
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko signed decree on November 13 that declared the holiday for annual “Day of Dignity and Freedom” celebrations.
The protests began with a few hundred people who met spontaneously on a vast square in central Kyiv of November 21, 2013 – disappointed by then-President Viktor Yanukovych’s rejection of a landmark deal with the European Union in favor of closer ties with Russia.
After that first night, as the protests quickly swelled to tens of thousands of demonstrators, brutal police efforts to disperse the crowds with batons and teargas backfired.
As the crowds got bigger, the protesters began to call for Yanukovych’s ouster – which came in February 2014 after more than 100 people were killed in clashes with police that failed to end the demonstrations.

BIDEN TO MEET UKRAINIAN LEADERS, ANNOUNCE NONLETHAL U.S. AID
By RFE/RL
U.S. Vice President Joe Biden was expected to announce an increase in nonlethal U.S. military assistance to Ukraine on November 21 as he meets in Kyiv with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk.
The talks come on the first anniversary of the start of the Euromaidan protests in Kyiv that toppled Ukraine's former pro-Kremlin regime.
As Biden arrived in Kyiv on the evening of November 20, U.S. officials told reporters that he will announce the delivery of Humvee transport vehicles that are now in the Pentagon’s inventory of excess supplies.
They said Biden also would announce the delivery of previously promised radar units that can detect the location of enemy mortars.
The U.S. officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, did not specify a dollar value for the assistance. 
Russia on November 20 warned the United States not to supply weapons to Ukrainian forces.
Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Aleksandr Lukashevich cautioned against "a major change in policy of the (U.S.) administration in regard to the conflict" in Ukraine. 
He was commenting on remarks by U.S. President Barack Obama's choice to fill the number two spot at the State Department, Anthony Blinken, who told a congressional hearing on November 19 that lethal assistance "remains on the table. It's something that we're looking at."
The U.S. State Department's Director of Press Relations Jeffrey Rathke on November 20 told reporters that "our position on lethal aid hasn't changed. Nothing is off the table and we continue to believe there's no military solution."
He added, "But, in light of Russia's actions as the nominee mentioned [on November 19] in his testimony, as he indicated, this is something that we should be looking at."
The aid expected to be announced by Biden on November 20 falls short of what the Ukrainian president requested during a visit to Washington in September when he appealed for lethal aid - a request echoed by some U.S. lawmakers in response to what NATO allies say is Russia's movement of tanks and troops into eastern Ukraine.
In September, Washington promised Ukraine $53 million in aid for military gear that includes the mortar detection units, body armor, binoculars, small boats, and other nonlethal equipment for Ukrainian security forces and border guards in the east.
The United States and its European allies have imposed several rounds of economic sanctions on Russia for its seizure of Crimea and incursion into eastern Ukraine.
(With reporting by Reuters, AP, AFP, dpa, and TASS)

RUSSIAN OLYMPIAN CHARGED WITH SPOUSAL ABUSE IN UNITED STATES
Russian Olympian hockey player Slava Voynov – who plays with the Los Angeles Kings NHL hockey team – has been charged with felony domestic violence against his wife.
Voynov faces one felony count of spouse abuse with a maximum penalty of nine years in prison. If convicted, he also could be deported.
Prosecutors say Voynov “caused his wife to suffer injuries to her eyebrow, check, and neck” during an argument at their home in October.
Voynov has been suspended from the NHL since his arrest early on October 20 at a California hospital where he took his wife for treatment.
Voynov’s attorney, Craig Renetzky, says his client didn’t hit his wife.
Renetzky blames the charges on a misunderstanding between police and Voynov’s wife, who speaks very little English.
Voynov – who played on Russia’s team at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics -- faces arraignment on December 1.
(Based on reporting by AP and Reuters)

NATO: RUSSIAN ACTIVITY IN BALTICS POSES RISK
NATO says Russia's growing military presence in the skies above the Baltic region is unjustified and poses a risk to civil aviation.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said in Tallinn on November 20 that the aircraft regularly fail to file flight plans or communicate with air controllers and also fly with their transponders off.
Speaking at the Amari air base, he said alliance fighters have intercepted planes more than 100 times in the Baltic region alone so far this year, a threefold increase over 2013. 
He did not say how many of the intercepted aircraft were Russian.
Stoltenberg also said that, overall, NATO aircraft have conducted 400 intercepts to protect the airspace of its European alliance members in 2014 -- an increase of 50 percent over last year.
(Based on reporting by AP and AFP)

 

16:55 November 19, 2014

MORE ON THE SOURCES OF RUSSIAN ANTI-AMERICANISM

Konstantin Eggert has a commentary in "Kommersant" on Russia's anti-Americanism. He opens like this:

"Sometimes I have this feeling that there are only two countries in the world - Russia and the United States. Of course, there is Ukraine, but it either to join us or the Americas. Russian politicians and state television are constantly in search of the 'American hand' in all spheres of our life. In Soviet times, the United States was formally considered to be our number one military and ideological enemy. But even then it didn't occupy such a large space in the minds of the political leadership and citizens. And the paradox is that, on one hand, officials and the media regularly talk about the decline of America as a great power, and on the other declare it to be the source of all evil in the world. This contradiction does not seem to disturb anybody."

And closes like this:

We still have not been able to use the opportunity that we were given with the collapse of the communist regime - to arrange our lives based on liberty and civic virtue. And today, we, as a people, want to go back to the starting point, to beat everyone. And the Soviet Union, with its absence of sausage and freedom, again suddenly seems sweet and dear. But it won't happen. I will put it banally: you can't go into the same river twice.

Read the whole thing here (in Russian, with audio)

15:53 November 19, 2014

UNDERSTANDING THE INFORMATION WAR

MIchael Weiss, editor-in-chief of The Interpreter magazine, appearing on Hromadske TV to talk about Russia's information war.

Michael and Peter Pomarantsev recently co-authored an excellent report "The Menace of Unreality: How the Kremlin Weaponizes Information, Culture, and Money." Both also appeared recently on The Power Vertical Podcast to discuss the report.

15:42 November 19, 2014

WHY IS PUTIN PICKING A FIGHT WITH THE U.S.?

Oleg Kosyrev has a snarky and clever blog post on the subject up on the Ekho Moskvy website. 

1) The United States is the ideal opponent. "It is big and strong and your self-esteem increases when you fight somebody really influential."

2) The United States is not fighting with Russia. "They aren't really interested. They have enough of their own problems and dreams. It's nice to fight somebody who is not fighting you."

3) It is a substitute for the authorities' inability to benefit Russians. "How convenient. Who is to blame for rising food and gas prices? The U.S.A.. Who is to blame for the fact that Russian has political prisoners? The U.S.A. Who is to blame for people demonstrating on the streets? The U.S.A. Who is to blame for the fact that independent international courts denounce the Russian court system? The U.S.A. You can even blame the U.S. for the fact that the light doesn't work in the entrance to your apartment building."

Read it all (in Russian) here.

15:23 November 19, 2014

UKRAINE SAYS MHI7 SHOT DOWN BY RUSSIAN CREW

14:47 November 19, 2014

AFTERNOON NEWS ROUNDUP: THE SEQUEL

From RFE/RL's News Desk:

KYIV, WEST SAY RUSSIA CANNOT BAR UKRAINE FROM NATO

Ukraine says it will not tolerate pressure from any other country over whether or not it seeks to join NATO.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Yevhen Perebyynis spoke made the remark to reporters in Kyiv on November 19, after the BBC quoted Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov as saying in an interview that Moscow wants "a 100 percent guarantee that no-one would think about Ukraine joining NATO."

Hitting back with a reference to Russia's annexation of Crimea and support for pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine, Perebyynis said Kyiv would like guarantees that Moscow will not interfere in Ukraine's internal affairs, send in troops, or annex Ukrainian territories. 

The U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine, Geoffrey Pyatt, told journalists on November 19 that any decision on seeking to join NATO could be made only by the Ukrainian people, not by Russia, Europe, ar the United States.

The Canadian Ambassador to Ukraine, Roman Waschuk, made a similar statement on November 19.

(Based on reporting by UNIAN and Interfax)

PUTIN TELLS U.S. ENVOY TIES MUST BE BASED ON EQUALITY

President Vladimir Putin says that Russia is ready for cooperation with the United States as long as Washington treats Moscow as an equal, respect its interests, and refrains from interfering in its affairs.

Putin spoke November 19 at a Kremlin ceremony during which he received the credentials of foreign envoys including John Tefft, the new U.S. Ambassador to Moscow.

Putin said, "We are ready for practical cooperation with our American partners in various fields, based on the principles of respect for each other's interests, equal rights and non-interference in internal matters." 

The remark echoed a formula Putin set out in a foreign policy decree at the start of his third term in 2012.

Tefft, 64, is a career diplomat who previously served as U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, Georgia and Lithuania. 

His posting starts at a time when ties are badly strained over the Ukraine crisis. 

Tefft replaces Michael McFaul, who was ambassador from January 2012 until February 2014. 

(Based on reporting by Reuters and TASS)

RUSSIA SAYS 2010 NUCLEAR ARMS PACT STILL IN RUSSIA'S INTERESTS

By RFE/RL

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has signaled that a landmark nuclear arms treaty with the United States is not in jeopardy despite severe tension over Ukraine.

Speaking to Russian lawmakers on November 19, Lavrov said the 2010 New START treaty "meets our basic strategic interests and, on condition of its observance by the United States, we are interested in its full implementation."

The treaty, one of the main products of President Barack Obama's first-term "reset" of ties with Russia, requires Russia and the United States to have their long-range nuclear arsenals under specific ceilings by 2018.

But Lavrov said the Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE) treaty, which President Vladimir Putin suspended in 2007, is "dead" for Moscow. 

NATO has refused to ratify a revised version of the CFE treaty without a full withdrawal of Russian troops from Moldova and Georgia.

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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