Saturday, October 25, 2014


The Power Vertical

Putin's Game And Kudrin’s Choice

Who is using whom?
Who is using whom?
If Russian President Vladimir Putin ever actually appoints Aleksei Kudrin as his prime minister, we’ll know that one of two things happened: Either Putin decided to radically change course or Kudrin shamelessly sold out.

In the weeks since Kudrin made a surprise appearance at Putin’s annual live call-in program with carefully vetted Russian citizens, when he harshly criticized the president’s economic policies, the media has been abuzz with speculation that the former finance minister would replace the hapless Dmitry Medvedev as premier. 

"The president has already given the go-ahead for this move in principle," the daily “Nezavisimaya gazeta” reported last week, citing an unidentified "informed source in the security services." But, the report continued, "a struggle around the issue is continuing within the regime and Kudrin has many opponents."

For his part, Kudrin claims he’s not interested -- at least not right now.

"I think I have a wealth of experience and abilities, but I do not agree with a number of decisions made by the political leadership," Kudrin said on May 19 at a seminar in Voronezh. "I’m not interested in being a technical prime minister who carries out policies that are alien to me. Maybe after some time the situation will change."

A day later, speaking at an event in the State Duma, Kudrin lashed out at the authorities, saying the country needed to modernize economically and politically or risk stagnation and decay.

"Stagnation is not a one-day story," he said. "Even if we roll our sleeves up now, we'll have to toil three or five years to attain new elements of effectiveness...The political system is lagging behind the challenges of the time, and does not ensure the mechanism for arranging the modernization of the country."

Kudrin added that there is no "internal stimulus" for economic reforms and that the regime needed to overhaul the electoral system and "take steps toward broader representation" in the government and legislature. He said legislation requiring NGOs receiving foreign funding to register as "foreign agents" was "by any measure an obvious restriction of civil society."

Kudrin, of course, was careful. He slammed Medvedev’s government. He took shots at the ruling United Russia party. But he did not criticize Putin personally or directly.

Part of this, no doubt, is explained by the two men's long and close friendship, which goes back to when both of them served in the St. Petersburg city government in the 1990s. But part of it, I think, is also because Kudrin is playing a very delicate game with Putin.

I believe Kudrin is trying in private to convince his old pal that by listening to his siloviki colleagues from the KGB, by cracking down on civil society, by stalling on economic reform, and by abandoning political reform, he is harming the country, destroying his legacy, and missing an opportunity. And he is, ever so carefully, applying pressure in public.

Kudrin is one of the few people in the elite that can dance this way with Putin and get away with it -- and he knows it.  Whether this has any chance of success, whether Putin is at all malleable at this stage of the game, is another question.

And Putin also appears to be using his old friend and the speculation surrounding his possible return to politics -- and it has nothing to do with being interested in the types of reform and institution building Kudrin is fond of lecturing about.

No, for Putin it is all about control, about keeping his subordinates in fear and on tenterhooks.

"Putin finds it boring to develop institutions. He prefers to send signals to his subordinates," political analyst Rustem Falyakhov wrote on his blog in Gazeta.ru. "This is why he brought Kudrin back, in the virtual sense. As a bogeyman for the government. If economic growth drops to the level of recession, the Kremlin has a premier ready to take over. Now the government must waste no time sleeping and must be afraid."

If that is indeed Putin’s strategy, it’s all well and good -- until the economic crisis many have been predicting finally comes and he actually needs to fire Medvedev’s government.

And then Putin will have a very important choice to make. And so will Kudrin.

-- Brian Whitmore

 

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Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Rebecca from: US
May 20, 2013 20:08
I feel like Kudrin is Putin's last choice as PM. In his Q&A he made it pretty clear that Kudrin lacks basic social and managerial skills. To Putin, Kudrin thinks only in numbers and forgets about human beings and emotions. He is also a pretty non-complacent person, and not a typical Russian politician. He has no problem standing up to Putin. I don't think Putin would like having to deal with such a trouble making PM on a regular basis. I feel like Kudrin really wants to be PM. I think he was more upset over the fact he wasn't selected as PM rather than seeing Putin come back to power. But I don't think he'll ever compromise with Putin for it. He's never backed down before so I can't imagine him starting now. If he does get the position it will most definitely be in his terms.

by: La Russophobe from: USA
May 20, 2013 21:43
How is it possible that such a discussion could still be going on? Didn't we learn ANYTHING from the Medvedev years? All these EXACT same things were said about Medvedev, and what happened? All had egg on their faces when Putin revealed Medvedev was a sham and retook formal power.

Are we REALLY going to go down that same road ALL OVER AGAIN, this time with Kudrin? REALLY?

Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on ME!

by: peter from: queens ny
May 22, 2013 16:13
the lead clown surrounds himself with chimps and mongrels same circus act ,same results. Dont worry mr big 60 dollar oil is around the corner and russia capitulates like it has always done in the past. LOL.

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17:49 October 24, 2014

EVENING NEWS ROUNDUP

From RFE/RL's News Desk:

PUTIN ACCUSES UNITED STATES OF 'UNILATERAL DIKTAT'

Russian President Vladimir Putin has accused the United States of escalating conflicts around the world by imposing what he called a "unilateral diktat."

Putin made the remarks in a combative speech to political experts at the Valdai International Discussion Club, in Russia's Black Sea resort of Sochi.

Putin said the United States has been "fighting against the results of its own policy" in Iraq, Libya and Syria.

He said risks of serious conflicts involving major countries have risen, as well as risks of arms treaties being violated.

He also dismissed international sanctions over Russia's actions in Ukraine as a "mistake," saying they aimed at pushing Russia into isolation and would end up "hurting everyone."

We did not start this," he added, referring to rising tensions between Russia and the West.

(Based on reporting by Reuters, AP, Interfax, TASS)

MERKEL URGES PUTIN TO SOLVE UKRAINIAN GAS DISPUTE

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has urged Russian President Vladimir Putin in a telephone call to push for a quick resolution of the ongoing gas dispute with Ukraine as winter looms.

The call by Merkel to Putin on October 24 comes as representatives of the EU, Russia, and Ukraine are due to meet again next week in EU brokered talks aimed at solving the gas dispute between Kyiv and Moscow.

Merkel also underlined that upcoming elections in areas of eastern Ukraine controlled by Russian-backed separatists must respect Ukrainian national law.

Pro-Russian insurgent leaders are boycotting a parliamentary snap poll on October 26 in Ukraine and are holding their own election in the Lugansk and Donetsk regions, home to nearly three million people, on the same day instead.

(Based on reporting by AFP and Reuters)

UNHCR SAYS MORE THAN 800,000 DISPLACED IN UKRAINE CONFLICT

By RFE/RL

The United Nations says the conflict in Ukraine has forced more than 800,000 people from their homes.

Around 95 percent of displaced people come from eastern Ukraine, where government troops have been battling pro-Russian separatists.

UNHCR, the UN refugee agency, told a briefing in Geneva that an estimated 430,000 people were currently displaced within Ukraine -- 170,000 more than at the start of September.

It said at least 387,000 other people have asked for refugee status, temporary asylum, or other forms of residency permits in Russia.

Another 6,600 have applied for asylum in the European Union and 581 in Belarus.

The agency said it was "racing to help some of the most vulnerable displaced people" as winter approaches.

It also said the number of displaced people is expected to rise further due to ongoing fighting in eastern Ukraine.

THREE ALLEGED MILITANTS KILLED IN NORTH CAUCASUS

Three alleged militants have been killed by security forces in Russia's volatile North Caucasus region.

Russia's National Antiterrorism Committee says that two suspects were killed in the village of Charoda in Daghestan on October 24 after they refused to leave an apartment and opened fire at police and security troops.

One police officer was wounded.

Also on October 24, police in another North Caucasus region, Kabardino-Balkaria, killed a suspected militant after he refused to identify himself, threw a grenade towards police, and opened fire with a pistol.

A police officer was wounded in that incident.

Violence is common in Russia's North Caucasus region, which includes the restive republics of Daghestan, Kabardino-Balkaria, Ingushetia, and Chechnya.

Islamic militants and criminal groups routinely target Russian military personnel and local officials.

(Based on reporting by Interfax and TASS)

MOSCOW LAWYER IN HIGH PROFILE ORGANIZED CRIME CASE KILLED

A lawyer, who represented an alleged victim of the notorious Orekhovo criminal group in Moscow, has been assassinated.

Police in the Russian capital say that Vitaly Moiseyev and his wife were found dead with gunshot wounds in a car near Moscow on October 24.

Moiseyev was representing Sergei Zhurba, an alleged victim of the Orekhovo gang and a key witness in a case against one of the gang's leaders Dmitry Belkin.

Belkin was sentenced to life in prison on October 23 for multiple murders and extortion.

Last month, another of Zhurba's lawyers, Tatyana Akimtseva (eds: a woman), was shot dead by unknown individuals.

The Orekhovo group was one of the most powerful crime gangs of the Moscow region and in Russia in the 1990s. Its members are believed to be responsible for dozens of murders.

(Based on reporting by TASS and Interfax)

17:27 October 24, 2014

LITTLE GREES VOTERS, ANYONE?

17:26 October 24, 2014

SPY VS. SPY

17:00 October 24, 2014
08:29 October 24, 2014

MORNING NEWS ROUNDUP

From RFE/RL's News Desk:

UKRAINIAN PM WARNS OF RUSSIAN DESTABILIZATION OF ELECTIONS

Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk is warning that Russia could attempt to disrupt Ukraine's parliamentary elections scheduled for October 26.

Yatsenyuk told a meeting of top security officials and election monitors on October 23 that "It is absolutely clear that attempts to destabilize the situation will continue and will be provoked by Russia."

Yatsenyuk said "we are in a state of Russian aggression and we have before us one more challenge -- to hold parliamentary elections."

The prime minister said Ukraine needs the "full mobilization of the entire law-enforcement system to prevent violations of the election process and attempts at terrorist acts during the elections."

Interior Minister Arsen Avakov said authorities have ordered some 82,000 policemen on duty for election day.

He said 4,000 members of a special reaction force would be among those maintaining order during polling hours and would be concentrated in "those precincts where there is a risk of some terrorist acts or aggressive actions by some...candidates."

The warning by Yatsenyuk comes on the heels of three violent attacks on parliamentary candidates in the past week.

The latest, against Volodymyr Borysenko, a member of Yatsenyuk's People's Front Party, occurred on October 20 when Borysenko was shot at and had an explosive thrown at him.

He allegedly survived the attack only because he was wearing body armor due to numerous death threats he had recently received.

Elections to the Verkhovna Rada, the parliament, will be held despite continued fighting in the eastern part of the country between Ukrainian government forces and pro-Russian separatists.

Voting will not take place in 14 districts of eastern Ukraine currently under the control of the separatists.

Those separatist-held areas -- in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions -- are planning on holding their own elections in November.

Additionally, Russia's illegal annexation of Crimea in March means the loss of 12 seats from the 450-seat parliament.

Polls show President Petro Poroshenko's party leading with some 30 percent of respondents saying they would cast their vote for the Petro Poroshenko Bloc.

It that percentage holds on election day it would mean Poroshenko's bloc would have to form a coalition government, likely with nationalist groups who oppose conducting peace talks over fighting in the east.

(Based on reporting by Reuters and Interfax)

RUSSIA DENIES ESTONIAN AIRSPACE VIOLATIONS

By RFE/RL

Moscow has denied claims of an incursion by a Russian military plane into Estonia's airspace.

A Russian Defense Ministry spokesman told Interfax news agency on October 23 that the Ilyushin-20 took off from Khrabrovo airfield in the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad on October 21.

The spokesman said the reconnaissance plane flew "over neutral waters of the Baltic Sea" while on a training flight.

On October 22, Estonia’s Foreign Ministry summoned the Russian ambassador in Tallinn, Yury Merzlakov, after the Estonian military said the Russian plane had entered its air space.

In a statement, NATO said the Ilyushin-20 was first intercepted by Danish jets when it approached Denmark, before flying toward non-NATO member Sweden.

Intercepted by Swedish planes, the alliance said the Ilyushin entered Estonian airspace for “less than one minute” and was escorted out by Portuguese jets.

NATO has stepped up its Baltic air patrols and Moscow has been accused of several recent border violations in the region amid heightened tensions between Russia and the West over the Ukraine conflict.

Last month, Estonia accused Russia of abducting one of its police officers on the border.

Russia claims Eston Kohver was seized inside Russia on September 5, while Estonian officials say he was captured at gunpoint in Estonia near the border and taken to Russia.

The European Union and United States have called for the immediate release of the Estonian security official, who is facing espionage charges in Russia.

Meanwhile, the Swedish Navy has been searching for a suspected submarine sighted six days ago some 50 kilometers from the capital, Stockholm, although it said on October 22 it was pulling back some of its ships.

Swedish officials have not linked any particular country to the suspected intrusion and Moscow has denied involvement.

(With reporting by Interfax, TASS, and the BBC)

RUSSIAN COURT POSTPONES RULING ON OIL FIRM BASHNEFT

A Moscow court postponed to next week a ruling on a move to take control of Bashneft, an oil company from tycoon Vladimir Yevtushenkov.

The judge said on October 23 that the next hearing will take place on October 30 after the prosecution requested more time to prepare its case.

Prosecutors filed the suit in September to regain state ownership of Bashneft, citing alleged violations in the privatization and subsequent sale of the company to AFK Sistema investment group.

Yevtushenkov, the main shareholder of the conglomerate, is under house arrest on suspicion of money laundering during the firm's acquisition in 2009.

Yevtushenkov, 66, was arrested on September 16.

He is ranked Russia's 15th richest man by U.S. magazine Forbes, with an estimated fortune of $9 billion.

(Based on reporting by Reuters and TASS)

11:11 October 23, 2014

THERE IS NO RUSSIA WITHOUT PUTIN?

According to a report in the pro-Kremlin daily "Izvestia," deputy Kremlin chief of staff Vyacheslav Volodin told a meeting of the Valdai Discussion Club in Sochi that Western politicians "do not understand the essence of Russia."

"Volodin stated the key thesis about the current state of our country: As long as there is Putin there is Russia. If there is no Putin, there is no Russia," Konstantin Kostin, head of the Foundation for the Development of Civil Society, told "Izvestia."

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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