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The Power Vertical

Podcast: Palace Intrigue Escalates

Aleksei Kudrin (left) and Vladislav Surkov
Aleksei Kudrin (left) and Vladislav Surkov
They’re as different as night and day. One’s a cerebral economist with a talent for balancing budgets even amid mind-bending corruption. The other is a suave, flamboyant political operator whose hand was behind much of the political intrigue over the past decade.

Both were key inside players during Vladimir Putin’s first stint in the Kremlin and each played a major role in making it look successful. Both had strained relations with Putin's siloviki allies. Both, in their own way, went off the reservation.

And both Aleksei Kudrin and Vladislav Surkov were back in the news this week.

Amid mounting speculation in the Russian media that Putin was going to name him prime minister, Kudrin gave two speeches slamming the government's economic policies and calling for more pluralism in the political system.

And a week after his resignation from the government, Surkov popped up in a rather odd way: Photos on the Internet showed him fishing with the powerful Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov -- who went on to praise Surkov. Those photos surfaced days before press reports claimed Surkov was in the Investigative Committee's crosshairs and suspected of funneling state funds to the opposition.

As different as they are, Surkov and Kudrin are on one side in the struggle that has been raging in the Russian elite -- pitting technocrat managers like themselves who want the system to change and security service veterans fighting hard to maintain the status quo.

And their appearance in the news this week is the latest evidence that this battle is heating up.

In the latest edition of the Power Vertical podcast, I discussed these issues with co-hosts Kirill Kobrin of RFE/RL’s Russian Service, Mark Galeotti of New York University, and Sean Guillory of the University of Pittsburgh’s Center for Russian and Eastern European Studies.


Power Vertical Podcast: Kremlin 'Cold War' Heats Up -- May 24, 2013
Power Vertical Podcast: Kremlin 'Cold War' Heats Up, May 24, 2013i
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Comment Sorting
by: La Russophobe from: USA
May 25, 2013 14:18
It's kind of silly to talk about a personal attack on Medvedev, no such thing is occurring because Medvedev personally does not matter and has never mattered. All that is occurring is that Putin is liquidating the authority of the prime minister, which he previously built up when he held that position, and Medvedev just happens to be the current occupant of that office. And what the fact that criminal charges against Surkov can be discussed shows is only that many people vastly overstated the important of Surkov as well. Surkov was never anything more than a cog in a dictatorship machine driven by Putin, just one more person to be scapegoated and liquidated at the whim of a dictator. Looking for rationality in the actions of a dictator like Putin or Stalin is a folly, and distracts from the simple reality that we are looking at and dealing with evil.

by: Graham from: Moscow
May 28, 2013 21:28
Just a quick note to say thanks for the blog - just found it and been hooked for a couple of hours now. Always good to find witty intelligent analysis - cheers!

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The Power Vertical is a blog written especially for Russia wonks and obsessive Kremlin watchers by Brian Whitmore. It offers Brian's personal take on 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