A New-Old Government in Russia
Posted by Vladimir Melnikov
The long-awaited announcement of the “new” cabinet has at last been made today with few, if any, surprises (click here to read a list of the new government members).
While all attention is now being drawn to newcomers/leavers, two key questions remain unanswered:
- Why has the formation of the Government taken so long, and what happened during the negotiations process?
- Who will Putin appoint to “supervise” vice PMs and the ministries?
The first question is fundamental. Has there been bargaining between Putin’s and Medvedev’s camps? Hardly. As Medvedev has demonstrated, he would have humbly agreed to any changes Putin could bring about in the government.
Some part of the ruling elite is not only growing sympathetic to the civil protests; they have got interested in dismantling Putin’s power through these protests. This is an inevitable process during times when the “pie” stops growing (in fact, it shrinks with every month), and more and more state officials are getting less than they did before. They want change: this will create more political instability in the future. These anti-putinists, including deputy ministers and heads of key departments, are not explicit about their intentions (and therefore can be spotted with great difficulty), they can be hardly ascribed to Medvedev’s circle or any other clearly marked camp (“liberals” or else).
Putin is well aware of this threat from within his own ruling elite. He is equally aware that any government’s gross mistake in ensuring economic growth and maintaining - at least - social welfare status can lead to a collapse of the vertical of power.
Hence a long time-out to not only appoint new ministers but also form a control and supervision system linked to the presidential administration and to Putin personally.
Some of this superstructure building has already been spotted by outside observers: it is clear, for example, that Igor Sechin will retain his influence on the energy affairs (in whatever capacity), while Dvorkovich will largely play a technical role in this sphere. That is why there have been a few refusals to play this technical vice PM role from other candidates. Where will Nabiullina and Golikova pop up? If in the presidential administration, they will surely be supervising the economic and social sectors of the new-old government. It is true that there has also been some supervision from the presidential administration over the government, but this time this control will be much close and penetrate from the top of respective ministries to the very bottom.
The main intrigue remains: who will form the presidential administration, and who will be appointed “curators” of the new and old members of the Cabinet and their teams.
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About the Author
Deputy General Director, Russia and Eurasia
Telephone: +7 903 790 28 22
Vladimir Melnikov is well-known amongst business journalists in Eurasia for his work for UES CEO and President of the CIS Energy Committee, Anatoly Chubais, as well as for his work with the owner of System Capital Management, the biggest investor in Ukraine. He was also secretary of the IPO Communications ‘SWAT’ Committee at state oil firm, Rosneft, which became Russia’s largest-ever IPO ($11bn) and is still the largest IPO on the London Stock Exchange.
Vladimir started his Public Relations career, after a period in state service, with the Vologda regional government where he became Communications Director. During this time he was campaign manager for Vladimir Putin's Presidential Election campaign in 2000.
Vladimir joined Grayling Russia in 2004 and has been working for a number of Russian and international clients handling financial issues management and Public Affairs. He is an experienced high-level media handler but has also worked with clients who have ‘government relations crises’, helping western clients navigate the complexities of Russian governmental and state agency structures. Vladimir’s unique talent is to share the same cultural and political DNA of the Russian state, but to combine this with the absolute best in western-style communications techniques. He is a pre-eminent crisis management counsellor.
A graduate of Vologda State University, Vladimir was awarded an MSc in economics and finance from the Russian Academy of Civil Service (Krasny Diplom) and, in 2001-2002, completed a second MSc in media and communications from the London School of Economics. He has guest-lectured on PR and media in Russia at California State University.