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.
Listen to or download the podcast above or subscribe to "The Power Vertical Podcast"