Russian Politics, & Personalities

Posts Tagged ‘Clan War

Kudrin vs Sechin

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There has been a story floating in and out of Russian politics for a while regarding former Finance Minister and Deputy PM Alexei Kudrin.  It went like this: Kudrin was the leader of the economic liberals, and a counter-balance to Deputy Prime Minister Igor Sechin, and his clan, the siloviki.

And, the narrative continued, Alexei Kudrin was the only person preventing the siloviki from dipping into the pot of money called the Stabilization Fund (a kind of rainy-day investment portfolio created for when oil prices dropped). The siloviki, the rumour mill alleged, wanted to use the money to improve infrastructure.  Finance Minister Kudrin, however, wanted to keep that money safe for its intended use: riding out any future financial crisis.

After Kudrin’s dramatic exit on Monday (video here; and English transcript here), I’ve started to wonder if the story was all fake: something that Kudrin made up and then leaked in order to make himself seem more powerful in the eyes of the West.

We may never know, but it will be interesting to see if Putin ends up authorising any withdraws from the Fund in the coming months.

P.S. I do have some reactions to the decision of the Tandem to swap, but after poring over so many others’ reactions, I may just end up doing a summary.

Fursenko’s War

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According to Paul Goble, Andrei Fursenko went on Ekho Moskvy about a week ago, and talked about the problem the population decline will have on education.  Not the most shocking of messages, and what he said seemed sound.  What was more interesting was that he came pretty close to calling Putin a liar on the demographics issue, and then said that the Duma is after him.

So Andrei Fursenko is worried, but I am not sure why.  He says that the Duma is attacking him, but so what?  What are they going to do to him?  It seems as though his fear is that the Duma will try to force him out.  But it is not like the Duma has the power to do so.  And why are you appealing to an audience that (theoretically, at least) has less power the the Duma?  I suppose that his audience could take to the streets, but why should they?  What is in it for them?

All that to say, there is clearly more to this story than what Fursenko said, and it does not bode well for the future of the tandemocracy, or for Putin’s grip on those close to him.

Written by Nina Jobe

January 10, 2010 at 3:06 PM

Yelena Skrynnik

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This story came up on my Reader this morning, and it struck me as possibly being important.  Not the actual stuff about commodities (which I do not really understand, as I have never taken an economics course), but the bit about Yelena Skrynnik.  There is something going on within the Agriculture Ministry, but I cannot quite put my finger on what.  Part of me wants to say that she’s trying to feel her way through her first year.  And to a certain degree, I think that’s true.

But I just feel like there’s more going on here than just Lena being conservative with her numbers.

Written by Nina Jobe

December 16, 2009 at 2:48 PM

I Missed This

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The saga of Okhta Centre continues

State Duma Speaker Boris Gryzlov said Friday that the Okhta-Center should be built in St. Petersburg, but that a better location should be chosen, Itar-Tass reported.

The controversial 400-meter high skyscraper should be constructed on Vasilyevsky Island, where it could function as a lighthouse, or on the territory of the Rzhevsky range outside the city, Gryzlov told reporters at a United Russia forum in St. Petersburg.

Written by Nina Jobe

December 15, 2009 at 8:52 PM

Stratfor Video

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on the state owned corporations:

Written by Nina Jobe

November 12, 2009 at 1:22 PM

Goble on the Russian Army

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I was reading Paul Goble’s Window On Eurasia blog late yesterday, and this caught my eye because it was in reference to the rumours of a clan war.

…[the] decision to increase its force levels in the North Caucasus points to three important conclusions about policy and politics in the Russian capital, conclusions that suggest some very different conclusions than some have been drawing in recent weeks.
First, this decision suggests that decision making on these questions is still dominated by the force structures around Vladimir Putin who has made no secret of his belief in the efficacy of the use of force rather than by political forces around Dmitry Medvedev who have promoted the idea that Moscow must use economic and social tools to overcome problems in the Caucasus.
Second, it suggests that for all the complaints about the downsizing of the officer corps and the military that have been raised in recent months, the Russian army can still get government support whenever it is in a position to make the case that only it is in a position to guarantee that those who are in power remain there.

Some things to think about, at least.

Written by Nina Jobe

October 30, 2009 at 11:21 AM

Okhta Centre: The Saga Continues

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Article at Radio Free Europe on Okhta Centre.

Writing on the gazeta.ru news site, political analyst Stanislav Belkovsky suggested it had long been clear “the corncob would most likely never get built,” adding that Gazprom’s total debt “has reached $60 billion — that is, 30 corncobs.”

The energy giant, he concluded, “would have a hard time finding an extra $2 billion to build a business center. One which, if you look at it carefully and think it through, no one needs.” Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Nina Jobe

October 26, 2009 at 5:25 PM

Surkov & the Civiliki

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As you may or may not have noticed, I am a bit obsessed with Slava Surkov.  It has gotten to the point where even I wonder if I have imbued him with more qualities than he actually possesses.  So, I was surprised to discover myself a little sceptical of Stratfor’s breakdown of the clans within the Kremlin.  I do not disagree with the essence of what Friedman says, but with certain facts, and his interpretation of those facts. Read the rest of this entry »

More on Okhta Centre

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Classic quote on Okhta:

The deputy director of Okhta Center, Vladimir Gronsky, sang praises to the skyscraper in the NTV report. “People call it a corncob, but I don’t see anything bad in a corncob,” he said. “The corncob is nature’s ideal creation.”

Well, that’s what I always think about when I think about Okhta.  Hence my nickname for it: “The Corn Palace.”

But according to The Moscow Times, the Clan War continues:

In a sign of the division, two state-controlled television channels aired competing reports on Sunday night about Okhta Center, which is to serve as the headquarters for Gazprom Neft but has met with fierce public opposition.

Over at Russia Profile Svetlana Kononova asks the questionAre Skyscrapers a Crime Against St Petersburg’s Heritage, or a Boon to Its Development?

According to a recent poll conducted by TOY-Opinion Research Company and ECOM Center of Expertise, 66 percent of respondents would vote against construction of the tower. Forty percent said they “categorically object” and 26 percent said that they are “somewhat against” it. Seven percent support the project “entirely,” and 13 percent said they are “fairly” supportive of it.

If St. Petersburg were added to the list of world heritage sites in danger, 63.6 percent of respondents said that this loss could not be compensated for with any amount of money.

Those who are most supportive of the project are students and managers—20 percent of them voted for the Okhta Center.

And now Okhta Centre, and Valentina Matviyenko are back-pedalling.  Well, it’s not for sure yet. Really?  Well, that’s cool.  If true, then maybe Russians will see that they have the power to affect change.

Written by Nina Jobe

October 22, 2009 at 5:35 PM

Special Request

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for a reaction to this whole Iran business.

This will probably sound a bit conspiracy theorist to some of you, but I believe that Russia, and Iran will not abandon each other.  We expect too much if we believe that we can force either side into backing down.  Therefore, this latest announcement from Sergei Lavrov came as no surprise.

While the Iran aspect is interesting, what this story really proves is that Medvedev has no real power or say regarding Russian foreign policy.  The person calling the shots here is still Putin.  This is the political reality of Russia today.  The tandemocracy is not a 50-50 split.  It is probably not even, as Yulia Latynina once said, 70-30.  It is closer to 80-20, and there is not a whole lot we can do to change that.

Which is why I find the Obama administration’s continued attempts to sideline Putin so fascinating.  On the one hand, it could be seen as a smart move, which could result in a boost of power for Medvedev, who hopefully will eventually sideline Putin for good.

But imagine this scenario for a moment: feeling confident because of Obama’s support, Medvedev decides to ditch Putin.  What do you imagine happens?  A super Clan War (way bigger than 06.06, or than the Cherkesov disaster) where the whole Government is split, and the possibility of a military coup looms.  This would tie in with Joe Biden’s idea (that did not come out of thin air, by the way… he read it somewhere) that we want a weak Russia, but I seriously question that claim.

The Obama administration’s policy regarding Putin begs the question, aren’t we just a little full of ourselves?  What makes us think that our approval will help Medvedev in any way?  There is nothing that suggests that is the case, and everything to suggest that this strategy will blow up in our (and Medvedev’s) face.  And that could potentially be a disaster for all of us.

P.S. For a Russian’s view on the Obama administration’s policy regarding Russia, and her government, read Paul Goble’s summary of Anton Orekh’s Ekho Moskvy article.

Written by Nina Jobe

October 14, 2009 at 2:56 PM

More On Gazeta

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article from Paul Goble, translating/summarising Alexei Makarin’s op-ed in “Yezhednevny zhurnal”.  Makarin makes a point that rather resonates with me because of my interest in the Power Vertical, and the Clan Wars.  In my view, there is a group within the Presidential Administration who are advocating a more forceful opposition to Putin & Co.  Members of this movement include Press Secretary Natalia Timakova, the President’s Economic Advisor Arkady Dvorkovich, Head of the President’s Control Directorate Chuychenko, among others.  I believe that members of this group worked together on the “Gazeta” article.

My concern is basically the same as Makarin’s.  That this could end up backfiring on said faction, and cause Medvedev’s early ouster.  This is probably the President’s fear as well, and why he takes German Gref’s MO of forward, then retreat.

In what appears to be Putin’s response to the Gazeta article, the PM said today that he may run for President in 2012, but that he and Medvedev will “decide together”.  I happen to believe that Putin will go the special election route, and that Medvedev will not be consulted at all, but I am a self-confessed conspiracy theorist, so there you go.

In Other News

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that may or may not be related to the clan wars, the Head of the National Banking Council was fired yesterday.  Of course, the article never used the word “fired” because people are not fired in Putinania.  They are “removed” or “transferred” (or they die, which may be the same as “removed”, but I am not sure).

According to the article in The Moscow Times, Anatoly Aksakov was “removed” because he “…drew widespread criticism for suggesting that the ruble should be devalued.”

Boris Gryzlov (whom I have nicknamed “Boris the Boring” because of his droning voice) apparently led this attack.  However, I doubt that is the full story.  Boris would never actually do anything without prior approval from someone higher.

The other thing I find interesting about this story is that there were three abstentions.  You will note, of course, that not one person on the 11 person committee voted against removal.  They may have thought that this attack was unprovoked, and silly, but not one of them actually stood up and said so.  Instead 3 people (we are not even allowed to know who) abstained.  Abstaining is, of course, the wimpy way of saying “no”. If you are going to say “no”, you should really go all out.  On the other hand, the individuals representing the Government and Presidential Administration are all at risk of losing their jobs should they step out of line, so you can hardly blame them.  It would just be nice to see Alexei Kudrin (or anyone really) take a stand for once.

Written by Nina Jobe

September 9, 2009 at 12:25 AM

Clan War

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update from Roman Kupchinsky at Jamestown.  While AFP categorizes it as “a row over energy between the two feuding states [Russia and Ukraine], Kupchinsky believes that what is really happening is a fight for control over Gazprom’s assets.  On the one side is Medvedev who is trying to consolidate power.  On the other side is Putin who Kupchinsky thinks may be losing control of Gazprom.

It’s all very interesting, and I agree with most of what Roman says.  However, there have been other signs before this that there were issues within Gazprom.  Not the least of which is the removal of Viktor Khristenko from Gazprom’s Board of Directors back in June at the annual shareholder’s meeting.

Written by Nina Jobe

September 8, 2009 at 12:54 PM

Posted in Clan War, Gazprom

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Clan War

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The latest from Brian Whitmore over at the Power Vertical.  He predicts a clan war breaking out over the issue of the state corporations.  Yuri Chaika seems to have come down on the side of Medvedev on this issue, as well as Anton Ivanov (a close friend of Medvedev’s from Uni), Sergei Stepashin, and the head of the Anti-Monopoly Service, Igor Artyomev (whose bio indicates that he is also a friend of the President’s from Uni).

I have a problem with this concept of the “Ciliviki”.  It is nice to be able to box people up, and place them in certain categories.  I confess that I am sometimes guilty of it myself.  But at what point do these ties stop mattering?  Because they do stop mattering at some point.  The Power Vertical is about using the contacts you have to achieve a certain goal that will be beneficial to you as an individual.  Maybe the larger group benefits in some way, but your goal is yourself, and not the larger group.  This is the nature of the Power Vertical.  There is a certain amount of power, and influence, and assets, and too many people.  Picture a pack of wild dogs, or just about any animal in the wild.  Or picture a group of preschool aged children.  Always too many people, and too few assets (even if there are 64 crayons, and 12 children).

Plus, all Putin’s Power Vertical requires is a warm body who is at least nominally loyal.  You could pick a random person off the street, and get almost the same result.  Thus, an individual in Putinania is totally expendable (as we have seen). 

But I have a question about all of this.  Graham Stack writing about Russian Technologies says: “The big stumbling block will be what to do with the mother of all state corporations – Russian Technologies (RT) – the very first state corporation established in December of 2007.”  Why is RT considered the first, and not United Aircraft, or Almaz-Antei? I am confused, but I know the answer is out there somewhere, and that I is why I love doing this.

Written by Nina Jobe

August 28, 2009 at 11:32 AM

Posted in Clan War, Power Vertical

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