ISCIP Update
News from the Institute for the Study of Conflict, Ideology and Policy
Volume II, Number 1 (12 May 2008)
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No.2 (23 April 2007) Boris Yel'tsin: The last day of an era past

No.1 (2 April 2007) Yushchenko dissolves parliament, new elections May 27

Personnel and structural changes begin in the Kremlin and Belyi Dom
By Susan J. Cavan, Deputy Director ISCIP

President Dmitri Medvedev today signed decrees, which announced key Kremlin personnel appointments, formalized minor structural changes to the Russian Government, and confirmed Prime Minister Vladmir Putin's personnel selections in the composition of the new Government.

According to the Decree on the System and Structure of the Federal Executive Bodies of Power, the Russian Government will continue to have two First Deputy Prime Ministers, namely the former Prime Minister Viktor Zubkov and a former Presidential Aide, Igor Shuvalov.  Zubkov will be charged with oversight of agriculture priority projects, fisheries, forestry, and the "agrarian-industrial sector." (1)   Igor Shuvalov will supervise the foreign economic sector, including WTO negotiations.  There are seven Deputy Prime Ministers, including Finance Minister Aleksei Kudrin, who retains his double appointment, and therefore his clout, in the financial sector.  Aleksandr Zhukov, who is charged with the implementation of national priority projects, and oversight of health, education, culture, arts and sports projects retains his Deputy PM position; he is joined by former Kremlin Chief of Staff Sergei Sobyanin, who will take up the position as Government Chief of Staff.   Igor Sechin, who also moves over from the Kremlin, has been named one of Putin's Deputy Prime Ministers and will supervise state industrial policy (except for the defense sector), energy policy, and environmental protection.  Sergei Ivanov, who as Deputy Prime Minister has been demoted from his previous position as both putative successor and First Deputy Prime Minister, was not given an elucidated area of authority.  (2)

A new Ministry for Sports, Tourism, and Youth Policy has been created, and the Ministry of Information Technology and Communications has been restructured and retitled as the Ministry of Communications and Mass Media.  It will be headed up by former Putin Protocol Chief, Igor Shchyogolev.  The Ministry of Industry and Energy has been split apart as a Ministry of Industry and Trade, headed by Viktor Khristenko, and a separate Ministry of Energy will be headed by Sergei Shmatko, who formerly was chief at  Atomstroiexport, the firm that is building Iran's nuclear reactor.  (3)  

In addition, the Federal Agency for Federal Property Management has been reshuffled as the Federal Agency for State Property Management and will oversee the sale of privatized federal property through the Russian Federal Property Fund. (4)  The former Ministry of Culture and Mass Communications has been renamed simply the Ministry of Culture and will be led by former Ambassador to France Aleksandr Avdeyev, who has had a long Foreign Ministry career.   As had been rumored, former Presidential Plenipotentiary Representative Aleksandr Konovalov will replace Dmitri Ustinov as Justice Minister.  (5)

According to Kremlin reports, President Medvedev's decree stipulates that Government Ministers are authorized to "issue binding instructions to the heads of the federal services and agencies under their responsibility." (5)  They also are permitted to suspend decisions taken by these agencies.  Thus far, the structural changes requested by Putin (and leaked well in advance), suggest that the locus of responsibility for governmental missteps is shifting in the direction of individual ministers and away from the prime minister himself.

President Medvedev also announced key personnel decisions in the Kremlin and security services today.   Nikolai Patrushev has been replaced as head of the FSB by one of his deputies, Aleksandr Bortnikov.  Bortnikov formerly headed the FSB's Economic Security Division and has long been identified as being close with Dmitri Medvedev. (6)  Patrushev has been named to head up the Security Council, an executive body under the president that has widespread authority on paper; however, as with many offices in Russia, its fortunes rise and fall on the strengths of the personality that leads it.  There had been several high profile Kremlin insiders apparently vying for leadership of the Security Council, including Narcotics Commision Chief Viktor Cherkesov and, most recently, former Putin succession candidate, Sergei Ivanov.  Patrushev potentially represents a compromise candidate, but he clearly has strong ties to former President Putin.

President Medvedev also named Sergei Naryshkin to head up his Presidential Administration in the Kremlin.  Naryshkin, formerly Government Chief of Staff, has a background that dovetails tightly with former President Putin's personnel preferences: he was an employee (with possible KGB ties) at the Soviet embassy in Belgium in the late 80's and early 90's, then went to work in the St. Petersburg Mayor's Office (under Putin's supervision) from 1992-1995. Naryshkin worked in the external economic relations sector in St. Petersburg, before being brought to Moscow to work first in the Kremlin's economic administration and then in the government. Last year, Naryshkin was promoted to Deputy Prime Minister and given oversight of foreign economic relations.   Medvedev, who likely worked with Naryshkin at the St. Petersburg Mayor's Office, will need a strong hand in the Kremlin's Administrative Offices to smooth the transition.  Whether or not Naryshkin is his own choice or was recommended to him by the new prime minister is unclear.

At this very early stage, there have been no moves from Putin or the Kremlin that suggest either a dramatic structural shift of power, or major changes in personnel policy.  The constitution allows the prime minister broad authority in the structure of Government, but thus far, Putin seems confident in the power of his personal political appeal.  It likely will take some time for his protégé in the Kremlin to find his own political base of strength.  In the meantime, it is probable that skirmishes will develop around the margins, particularly regarding personnel policy.

Source Notes:
(1) "Putin delimitates powers between vice-premiers," ITAR-TASS, 12 May 08 via Lexis-Nexis Academic.
(2) Ibid.; "President Dmitry Medvedev signed decrees on the restructuring of the executive branch of power and personal appointments," [sic] 12 May 08 via, accessed 12 May 08.
(3) "Putin names reactor salesman as energy minister," by Simon Shuster, Reuters, 12 May 08, 8:54 EDT via, accessed May 12, 2008.
(3) "President Dmitry Medvedev signed decrees," Ibid.
(4) Ibid.
(5) Ibid.
(6) "Putin's Friends and the Friends of Friends," WPS, #260, 21 Nov 06 via, accessed 12 May 08.
(7) "Naryshkin appointed Cabinet Chief," Moscow Times, 15 Sep 04; Independent Press via Lexis-Nexis Academic; The ISCIP Analyst, Vol XIII, No. 8, 22 Feb 07.