Wednesday, October 01, 2014

The Power Vertical

The Tandem In Winter

A campaign poster of Russian President Dmitry Medvedev (right) and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin appeals to people to vote for their political party, United Russia, in parliamentary elections in December.
A campaign poster of Russian President Dmitry Medvedev (right) and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin appeals to people to vote for their political party, United Russia, in parliamentary elections in December.
A funny thing happened when President Dmitry Medvedev nominated former Astrakhan Mayor Sergei Bozhenov this week as Volgograd's new governor -- allies of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin in the region rebelled and tried to derail the appointment.
Ivan Novakov, a member of Putin's campaign team in Volgograd, told the daily "Kommersant" that Bozhenov was an unacceptable candidate to many in the local elite because when he served as mayor of Astrakhan he was involved in vote rigging (I'll refrain from commenting on the inherent irony here). A better candidate, Novokov said, would be Sergei Kokorin, a close Putin ally who is the head of the regional branch of Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB).
In the end, the Volgograd legislature confirmed Bozhenov and he was inaugurated on February 2. But the miniscandal over his appointment speaks volumes about the state of affairs at the pinnacle of Russia's power vertical. 
"It is remarkable that the objections against Sergei Bozhenov originated from members of Putin's local staff. The ambiguity of this situation does not add to the stability of the regional elites," political analyst Andrei Rogozhin told "Kommersant."
The unexpected struggle over Bozhenov's appointment illustrates that Medvedev has not only become the lamest of lame ducks, but that his political partnership with Putin appears to have outlived its sell-by date. This isn't one of those "The Tandem Is Feuding, Oh My" moments that we have seen so much of over the past few years. This time, amid the ongoing political uncertainty in Russia, the tandem finally appears to be dead in the water.
The weekly "Argumenty nedeli" wrote last week, citing Kremlin sources, that Medvedev is "not sure at all that Putin will keep his promise and make [him] the premier" after the March 4 presidential election.
According to the weekly, Medvedev is so concerned about this that he and his wife, Svetlana, visited Patriarch Kirill in early January to seek his support:
The Medvedevs reputedly visited Patriarch Kirill I in early January, asking His Holiness for counsel and support. It is rumored that this was precisely why the patriarch mentioned the necessity of a dialogue between the powers-that-be and society in his sermon. The point was that Medvedev was promoting this dialogue and that he was therefore perfect for the role of the premier.
It does not take a genius to figure out that Putin was informed of the visit. And he reportedly was less than pleased. Putin responded by reactivating contacts with the so-called Christian Chekists -- St. Petersburg Governor Georgy Poltavchenko and Russian Railways President Vladimir Yakunin. It was Putin's way of reminding the patriarch that he has his own faction within the Russian Orthodox Church.
There have been other signs that the Putin-Medvedev divorce is all but sealed. In an article in the daily "Vedomosti" last week, for example, Putin took a swipe at Medvedev's efforts to reform and modernize the economy.

"On the initiative of President Medvedev in the last years we embarked on a number of reforms aimed at improving the business climate. There has been no noticeable breakthrough so far," Putin wrote. 
Putin has also suggested that the political reforms that Medvedev is trying to shepherd through the State Duma -- restoring the election of governors and easing the rules for the registration of parties and presidential candidates -- were far from a done deal and could be halted.
And in a recent interview with the daily "Izvestiya," the filmmaker Stanislav Govorukhin, who heads up Putin's campaign team, sharply criticized Medvedev  for not working harder to secure his patron's election in March. 
"I have a feeling that he is keeping silent," Govorukhin told the staunchly pro-Putin daily, adding that it would be "more appropriate if [Medvedev] took an active part in the campaign of the man whom he himself forwarded as a presidential candidate" at the September 24 United Russia party congress.
But as Maksim Glikin wrote in "Vedomosti" on January 30, it was on that fateful day last autumn that Medvedev essentially wrote his own political obituary:
He has already accomplished his mission and made room for Putin.... The moment Medvedev did this he became expendable. The people who are interested in Medvedev's future know better than to wonder if he is going to return to the Kremlin one fine day. They wonder how long he will last as the prime minister. Even that, however, is a question for Medvedev's master and not for Medvedev himself.
The death of the tandem, however, has political consequences for Putin. 
The constituencies that once placed their hopes in Medvedev, the technocratic wing of the elite and the urban professional class in society, are deeply uncomfortable or outright hostile to Putin's return to the Kremlin. And this will make it much harder for him to govern, regardless of what happens on March 4.
-- Brian Whitmore

Tags: Vladimir Putin,Putin-Medvedev tandem,Dmitry Medvedev

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
by: Vakhtang from: Moscow
February 03, 2012 02:25
Mr. Whitmore continues to discuss the topic with which everything is clear for a long timе and аll answers received.

It would be interesting to know where Putin asked Medvedev to be a clown president for 4 years
in the bath,
What do you think about it, Mr.Whitmore?

On the other hand it is still better than Yeltsin's style- when decisions are taken after a glass of vodka or because of a severe headache from a hangover..
Next, begin to explore why in Russia is not so as in the West?
What actually affects the "mysterious Russian soul" ?
the area,
Tunguska meteorite..
seen that all factors together.

I wonder where Mr.Whitmore decide to write a certain article?
He enjoys the style of Yeltsin or Putin?

by: Eugenio from: Vienna
February 03, 2012 20:23
Fresh figures from opinion polls taken in Russia on the eve of the upcoming pres. elections:
Putin: 52 %
Zyuganov (Communist Party) - 8 %
Zhirinovsky ("Lib. Dem.") - 8%
Mironov (pro-Kremlin moderate "left") - 4%
Prokhorov (an oligarkh promoted by the Western media) - 4 %
In Response

by: Anonymous from: USA
February 04, 2012 19:48
Who cares? Some were not even allowed to participate (Yavlinsky), thanks to a corrupt political system.
In Response

by: La Russophobe from: USA
February 07, 2012 13:00
Well, Putin cares. If he massages that 52% up to just over 60% and waltzes back into power in a landslide with no serious opposition and no elections for another five years, he'll likely be quite satisfied. As much as he was looking at this:
In Response

by: Eugenio from: Vienna
February 07, 2012 15:07
Well, as far as Yavlinsky is concerned, his score has remained pretty stable over the last decade - 2% and congratulations! As far as your "who cares" comment is concerned, well, obviously, the info is posted only for those who are interested in it. If someone doesn't care, he/she does not need to feel obliged to react :-)).

by: La Russophobe from: USA
February 07, 2012 12:58
Brian, do you have ANY evidence that "the constituencies that once placed their hopes in Medvedev, the technocratic wing of the elite and the urban professional class in society" are capable of ANY serious action to block Putin's power once he is swept back into office and will not face another election for FIVE YEARS? They have no political party, no presidential candidate, no fundraising, no platform, and no national reach. Navalny said he was taking off the WHOLE MONTH OF JANUARY to put forth a much bigger protest in February, and he totally failed. The showing was smaller and less political than last time, not more. In a nation of 60 million Internet users, Navalny has less than 200K Twitter followers, and for all the world appears to be stuck in place. I see NO indication that the "constituency" you refer to is capable of laying it all on the line to block Putin from consolidating a neo-Soviet dictatorship and passing power to a hand-picked successor who will do the same.

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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:


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.


Meanwhile, oil prices are dropping fast, according to Business Insider:


Oil just totally crashed. One possible culprit is this Reuters story, showing that OPEC production is surging.

There are a host of other factors that might be driving down oil as well.

What are they? Read the whole piece here.

The Russian media is making a lot of hay about the alleged discovery of "mass graves" in Donetsk. 

But Tom Parfitt of "The Daily Telegraph" is checking out the details and raising some doubts:

As Russia switches to a war economy, social programs continue to take a hit.

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About This Blog

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