Saturday, November 29, 2014

The Power Vertical

Going Rogue

Former Finance Minister Aleksei Kudrin
Former Finance Minister Aleksei Kudrin

Well, so much for the hopes that an answer to the 2012 question would put an end to political uncertainty in Russia.

Finance Minister Aleksei Kudrin resigned today, just hours after a testy public exchange with President Dmitry Medvedev.

Apparently the switcheroo announced at the United Russia congress on Saturday -- with Vladimir Putin becoming president in 2012 and Medvedev becoming prime minister -- doesn't suit Finance Minister Aleksei Kudrin.

Speaking to reporters in Washington on Sunday, Kudrin, a key member of Putin's inner circle who is widely credited with orchestrating Russia's macroeconomic stability, says he would not serve in a Cabinet led by Medvedev.

Kudrin's stated reason was that he opposed Medvedev's plans to increase military spending by $65 billion over the next three years. But there appears to be more to it than that. Many Kremlin-watchers, in fact, had expected that Kudrin would be named prime minister in the event that Putin returned as president. Instead, Medvedev got the nod.

Back in Russia today, Medvedev told Kudrin at a meeting of his modernization commission that Kudrin should just resign now.

Here's the exchange:

Medvedev: "If you, Aleksei Leonidovich, disagree with the president's policy -- and the government implements the president's policy -- then you have only one option, and you know it: to resign."

Kudrin: "I will make my decision about your proposal after consulting with the prime minister."

Medvedev: "You know what, you can consult with the prime minister or whoever you want, but as long as I'm president I make such decisions myself. You are going to have to decide...

Kudrin: "Of course."

Medvedev: Decide quickly, and give me your answer before the end of the day. Anyone who doubts the policy of the president or the government, anyone who has other life plans, is free to submit their resignation to me. But they should do it openly. I'm going to put a stop to any irresponsible jabber. And I'm going to be making all the necessary decisions up until May 7 next year."


There are various rumors swirling about what happens next. Kudrin could end up as Central Bank chairman according to one scenario. In another, Medvedev will carry out deeply unpopular social reforms after the presidential elections, take the heat, become the fall guy, and resign to become chairman of the Constitutional Court. Kudrin would then step in as prime minister.

Whatever happens, I don't expect Kudrin to be too far from the circles of power anytime soon. He is very close to Putin (he is rumored to be the only official allowed to use the familiar "ty" with Putin in private conversations) and he is widely considered to be a top flight professional and one of the most valuable members of the ruling elite.

He has weathered several attempts to remove him, most recently following the 2008 financial crisis when Deputy Prime Minister Igor Sechin tried to force him out but was thwarted by Putin's intervention.

Putin has not spoken publicly on Kudrin's conflict with Medvedev as of the time I am writing this.

What the events of the past couple days seems to illustrate is that the ruling elite was thrown off kilter by the Putin-Medvedev 2012 decision. Some were disillusioned by Putin's plan to return to the presidency. Others by the fact that Medvedev -- and not Kudrin -- would be prime minister. Some by both.

It's not clear where this is going, but we'll keep a close eye on it in the days and weeks ahead.

-- Brian Whitmore

Tags: Vladimir Putin,Dmitry Medvedev,Aleksei Kudrin

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
by: La Russophobe from: USA
September 27, 2011 13:10
Why do you think it matters in the least what Kudrin does? Markets did not care, S&P did not care, only the weird Kremlinologist set cared, the same ones who thought Putin might not return to power. It is a non-issue. Only one man matters now in Russia, just as in the time of Stalin.

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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

15:34 November 26, 2014


So by now, we've all seen how passengers in Krasnoyarsk had to get out and push their flight out of the snow...

...and we've all seen the snarky Twitter memes this has inspired...

...but have you heard about onboard drunken onboard brawl that grounded a flight in Novosibirsk?

12:41 November 26, 2014


12:33 November 26, 2014


Via The Moscow Times:

A lawmaker on the State Duma's Defense Committee has proposed banning the import of French wines in response to Paris' decision to suspend delivery of the first of two helicopter carriers to Russia.

"Let's ban the sale of French wine in Russia," Deputy Vladimir Bessonov told Russian News Service radio on Tuesday. "Even talking about this can bring about desired results," he said, without specifying what these would be.

France, under pressure from its Western allies to cancel a 1.2 billion euro contract ($1.58 billion) with Russia for Mistral-class warships, said earlier Tuesday that it was suspending delivery of the first of two carriers because of Russia's meddling in eastern Ukraine.


12:21 November 26, 2014
12:20 November 26, 2014


12:18 November 26, 2014


From RFE/RL's News Desk:


By RFE/RL's Russian Service

The editor-in-chief of an independent Russian news website says he will seek political asylum in the United States.

Oleg Potapenko told RFE/RL on November 26 that he has arrived in the United States despite efforts by Russian authorities to prevent him from leaving the country.

Potapenko is editor of, a news site in the Far Eastern city of Khabarovsk that has reported about the presence of Russian troops in eastern Ukraine.

On November 12, the openly gay Potapenko and his partner were prevented from boarding a flight from Khabarovsk to Hong Kong after border guards said a page was missing from Potapenko's passport.

Potapenko says the page was cut out by a police officer who requested his passport for a check earlier that day.

He told RFE/RL that he had managed to leave Russia from another city, Vladivostok, on November 16.


German Chancellor Angela Merkel says Russia's actions in Ukraine are a violation of international law and a threat to peace in Europe.

Speaking bluntly in an address to Germany's parliament on November 26, Merkel said, "Nothing justifies the direct or indirect participation of Russia in the fighting in Donetsk and Luhansk."

She told the Bundestag that Russia's actions have "called the peaceful order in Europe into question and are a violation of international law."

But she suggested there was no swift solution, saying, "Our efforts to overcome this crisis will require patience and staying power."

Germany has become increasingly frustrated over Moscow's refusal to heed Western calls to stop supporting pro-Russian separatists who have seized control of large parts of the Donetsk and Luhansk provinces in eastern Ukraine.

Close ties between Russia and Germany have been strained by the Ukraine crisis.

(Based on reporting by Reuters)


Ukraine has leveled fresh charges that Russia is sending military support to pro-Russian separatists in the east.

A foreign ministry spokesman said five columns of heavy equipment were spotted crossing into Ukrainian territory on November 24.

Evhen Perebyinis told journalists on November 25 that a total of 85 vehicles had been detected in the five columns that entered at the Izvaryne border crossing point from Russia.

"The Russian side is continuing to provide the terrorist organizations of the Donetsk and Luhansk people's republics with heavy armaments," said Perebynisis.

Separately, the Ukrainian military said one soldier had been killed and five others wounded in the past 24 hours as a shaky cease-fire declared on September 5 continued to come under pressure.

The six-month conflict in the east of Ukraine has left more than 4,300 people dead, according to the United Nations.

(Based on reporting by AFP and Reuters)



Russia has rejected accusations that it is planning to annex Georgia’s breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin told RFE/RL’s Current Time program on November 25: “There can be no question about any annexations.”

Georgia and the West have criticized a "strategic partnership" agreement between Russia and Abkhazia signed on November 24.

Tbilisi condemned the pact as an attempt by Moscow to annex the region.

Karasin also said Russia will “continue sparing no effort, nerves, financial expenses” to make sure its neighbors “do not feel endangered.”

"As a large state and a powerful country, Russia is constantly responsible for stability on its borders and everything that is under way along its borders," he added.

Under the "strategic partnership," Russian and Abkhaz forces in the territory will turn into a joint force led by a Russian commander.


19:16 November 21, 2014


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.

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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