Russian Politics, & Personalities

Posts Tagged ‘Tandemocracy

Tandem 2012?

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I found two articles this past week on the Tandem, and its continued viability.  The first was by Andrei Kolesnikov of Novaya Gazeta, published by Open Democracy.  In his article, Kolesnikov cites examples of tension within the Tandem ranging from Okhta Centre in Saint Petersburg (a win for Medvedev, per Kolesnikov) to Khimki (a win for Putin), and, of course, the sacking of Yuri Luzhkov (a win for Medvedev).

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Written by Nina Jobe

January 12, 2011 at 1:56 PM

Oh Stanislav Belkovsky…

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you seriously read way too much into things.  Not that I’m criticising.  I tend to do the same thing.  I am just not sure that I agree with you.

Stanislav Belkovsky, an independent analyst, said United Russia was aware that Medvedev had planned to halt the highway project and suggested that cracks were emerging in its once-steadfast alliance to Putin.

“The decision shows that the party is responding to orders from the top powers represented by Dmitry Medvedev and not to Vladimir Putin, the party leader,” he said.

And does anyone really believe that you are “independent”?  What does that even mean?  That you’re not paid by the Kremlin?  But surely someone is paying you.

And does this go along with Frolov’s latest piece of propaganda about how “green” DAM is?  Maybe Frolov talked DAM into this decision.

P.S. The photo of Bono is awesome.

Written by Nina Jobe

August 26, 2010 at 9:04 PM


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Foreign Policy has a nice slide show of pictures comparing how Putin and Medvedev (or Vova & Dima) “spent their summer vacation”.  It’s amusing, and the conclusion is an interesting one:

“Judging by the optics of the summer’s PR shots, he [Putin] may be done sharing the spotlight.”

Written by Nina Jobe

August 26, 2010 at 2:39 PM

Khloponin Interview

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I have tried to embed an interview with Alexander Khloponin from RT, but for some reason it will not work.  Anyway, the text of the interview  is here, along with the video.

I am still not sure how I feel about this.  I have been reading a lot about Khloponin, and I am pretty impressed with his resume, but I am not sure that his resume will make much of a difference.  I am concerned with the fact that Khloponin has been given more responsibility as Deputy Prime Minister, and what it means politically for both Medvedev, and Putin.  But I do not have an answer.

I will upload Khloponin’s biography soon.

Written by Nina Jobe

January 25, 2010 at 11:42 AM

Dmitry Trenin

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on the Tandemocracy:

Westerners often see Russian politics in terms of a high-level struggle between liberals and conservatives: Ligachev and Yakovlev under Gorbachev; reformers and nationalists under Yeltsin; siloviki and economic liberals under Putin.

They also view Russia in terms of a tradition whereby every new tsar partly repudiates the legacy of his predecessor, creating a political thaw at the beginning of a new reign. Khrushchev’s de-Stalinization is Exhibit A.

Both methods were used to describe the Putin-Medvedev relationship ― to understand its nature and dynamic, and what it portends for Russia. But observers remain puzzled.

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Written by Nina Jobe

January 9, 2010 at 8:25 AM

Modernizing Television

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Excellent piece today by Alexei Pankin on why Medvedev’s modernization may fail.  Hi-lights:

Over the past few months, Medvedev is everywhere on television. But he almost always seems to be wearing a dour expression, which appears out of place with his boyish appearance….

What’s the fallout of having a president with a stiff, Brezhnev-like television image? On the same day Medvedev spoke at the journalism forum, Nezavisimaya Gazeta ran an article titled “Russians Unconvinced by Call for Modernization.” It reported the results of a survey showing that although everybody in Russia agrees with the need for modernization, only 5 percent of those questioned believed that the state was capable of driving this innovation. That degree of skepticism is clearly linked to the fact that the country lacks strong presidential leadership….

The risks are obvious. Russia cannot modernize unless television coverage of Medvedev is modernized. Otherwise, the people will never accept Medvedev as a real president. In the best-case scenario, he will maintain the image of a popular blogger.

Written by Nina Jobe

December 15, 2009 at 1:35 PM

Thoughts on the Tandemocracy

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from Paul Goble:

Vienna, December 11 – Despite all the talk about rule of law, Russia’s current powers that be are using the country’s constitution in ways that recall the manner in which Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin did rather than in the way in post-Soviet leader Boris Yeltsin attempted to do, according to a leading Moscow commentator.
In an essay on Grani.ru this week, Dmitry Shusharin says that “one needs to give the current powers that be their due: having made Constitution Day a regular work day rather than a holiday, they have behaved honestly” because their approach completely subverts the efforts of the current Russian constitution’s author (www.grani.ru/opinion/shusharin/m.171984.html).
That is part of a more general pattern in which the Putin-Medvedev tandem define themselves in “opposition to the 1990s,” a period about which they and their supporters have told so many lies that their denigration of the country’s basic law and the role that law was to play should come as no surprise.
In the tandem’s thinking, the 1993 Constitution was the result of Yeltsin’s destruction of the Russian Supreme Soviet, a step that an increasing number of the siloviki appear to view as a horrible mistake, and consequently, they deliberately blacken both Yeltsin’s reputation and the way in which he but not they like their Stalinist predecessors do business.
“Nothing forced Yeltsin to hold elections and a referendum immediately after the suppression of the revolt of the Supreme Soviet,” Shusharin says. “Nothing except the need not to allows the development of events toward one of violence and the evolution of the political system toward the force model.”
Instead, by conducting a referendum in early 1993 and then holding a vote on a new constitution in December of that year, Yeltsin put “an end to the totalitarian period of Russian history” and stopped – “now this is already clear,” the Grani.ru analyst says – “a possible civil war.”
This was the second occasion Yeltsin had taken such a step, Shusharin continues. “Two years before this, the Beloveshchaya agreements stopped a possible war between Russia and other republics of the former USSR,” something the accords with Ukraine and Belarus prevented.
Not long ago, the analyst continues, Russian television showed a documentary film entitled “The Bloody Divorce.” This was “not about Yugoslavia but about the former USSR. Here is what is interesting: the title alone is sufficient to undercut completely the obvious agitprop falsification” of what Yeltsin did.
Tragically, he says, “history really is repeating itself” – in this case with regard to the constitution. “As is well known, Stalin advanced the thesis about the sharpening of class terror as the country approached socialism and launched the Great Terror at that moment when circumstances in the country were stabilizing and nothing threatened his power.”
Stalin did this because for him and people like him “power alone” was not sufficient. “The same thing is true now,” Shusharin says. “The establishment of a force state – the term proposed by Andrey Illariononov – is taking place at a time when conditions are completely different than they were in 1993.”
“There are [now] no objective preconditions for limiting the rights and freedoms of citizens, the Grani.ru commentator suggests. “But the more peaceful and hopeful the situation, the more passionately people of this sort, including the current ruling elite, chain themselves to power.”
The current regime routinely invokes terrorism as an explanation for what it does, “But what relationship do the deaths of children in Beslan have to the elimination of gubernatorial elections and the shift to the formation of the composition of the Duma exclusively on the basis of party lists?”
“This is a question without an answer,” but one is suggested by Putin’s “absurd declaration” at the time that “the disintegration of the USSR was the greatest geopolitical catastrophe,” extravagant and dangerous language that points Russia away from the approach of the 1990s to that of the 1930s.
The adoption of the Stalinist Constitution was celebrated in the USSR and by communists around the world as a triumph of democracy. And now people are talking about how Russia is moving toward the rule of law, when in fact the attack on the constitution and law shows that the country is moving in the opposite direction – just like 70 years ago.
Across the board, the Constitutional rights of Russian citizens are being violated as the powers that be create of state of the siloviki, in which personal power is the highest value.
“The essence of the current regime is contained in the oft-used words ‘with the help of the law,’” Shusharin says. “All laws, including the Constitution are for the powers that be not normative documents but instruments for the realization of their own goals. Not the goals of the state but precisely their own personal ones.”
“In a law-based state, a politician loves power in itself.” That is natural, Shusharin says, but “totalitarian rulers love themselves in power. And it is totally irrelevant [what kind of people they present themselves as bieng]” because they will do whatever they have to do to maintain themselves in power.
Unfortunately, Shusharin concludes, “the main and best means of unleashing the whip remains war,” and it is thus not surprising that President Dmitry Medvedev is “so concerned about broadening the military powers of the president,” something that is especially disturbing given Moscow’s use force in Georgia. That raises the possibility that Ukraine could be next.

Written by Nina Jobe

December 11, 2009 at 7:15 PM

Frolov’s Questions

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Before asking his questions this week, Frolov says:

…there is an innovative theory that suggests that Medvedev could still rule Russia even if his run for the second term fizzled out – he would become the ruler of “Russia 2.0,” the leader of choice for the most dynamic and vibrant part of Russian society – the “innovating class.” Vladimir Putin would continue to lead a “traditional Russia” and its economy of oil and gas.

Then he asks:

Will Medvedev’s “modernization” succeed? Is it mostly just talk, or will there be real action to reform and modernize Russia? Are there parallels with the way Gorbachev launched his “perestroika” in the mid-1980s? Would Medvedev, like Gorbachev, face the need to modernize Russia’s politics in order to modernize its economy? Would he be able to remain in the driver’s seat of his modernization agenda, or, like Gorbachev in the 1980s, be thrown off the ship he is trying to upgrade? Could Medvedev really “rule Russia 2.0” with Putin coming back to rule “Russia 1.0”?

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Loyalty As A Litmus Test

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Most people seem to expect that something big will happen within the next month, or so.  Not as big as Sonin’s daydream, but something kind of big.  Medvedev’s speech to the Federal Assembly is coming up, and the expectation is that at least one person will be “transferred”.  The rumours have taken on a life of their own after the recent walkout in the Duma. Read the rest of this entry »

Konstantin Sonin Is Bored

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I have read this op-ed piece by Konstantin Sonin about five times now, and I am still confused.  Not by what he says in the middle, but his beginning, and his conclusion.  He begins by saying: “In December [2008], I predicted that there would be huge shakeup in the Kremlin and White House at some point in 2009. It looks like I will be wrong on this one.”

There are still 10 more weeks (give or take) left in the year, so it is entirely possible that something big could happen.  But I rather doubt it will be what Sonin predicts.  However, he makes a good point.  The structure of the Tandemocracy is such that it would be impossible to make a dramatic change without transforming the structure itself.  Tipping the balance in favour of one group over the other could be dangerous (even though, as I have said before, it is not truly balanced).  Sonin takes this a step further, and tries to argue that even changing out Luzhkov would be mistake because it would make Luzhkov’s successor (allegedly Sobyanin) too strong, and destroy the status quo.

As I have previously stated, Yuri Luzhkov is just too strong to take on, or out.  Yes, he has suffered set-backs in the past year or so, but who hasn’t?  I have also discussed the issue of Sobyanin before, and why I think that Sobyanin as a successor to Luzhkov is just not true.  I could see moving Sobyanin into Gromov’s place as Governor of Moscow Region, and then later moving him into the Mayor’s office.  But I am not entirely convinced simply because of the nature of the system.

The power vertical forces alliances, and Sobyanin would have to play the strong man in order to gain control.  By playing that role, he would then become independent of the very people who created him, and pulled him out of relative obscurity.  And what do you suppose would happen then?  He would become another Yuri Luzhkov, or Mintimer Shaymiyev (President of Tatarstan), or worse, Ramzan Kadyrov.

At the same time, Zhukov is too weak to ever be truly effective, thus creating the “power vacuum” that Sonin refers to. And Kozak (another rumoured successor to Luzhkov) is too volatile (and too “liberal”).

Sonin’s conclusion?  “Despite these inherent political dangers, I remain firm in my prediction: There will be some big political shakeups in the next few months.”

I am still not entirely convinced.  I can see moving some more people within the Administration and Government around.  In fact, I have been expecting it.  But if Sonin truly believes that either of his three predictions will take place, he is (I apologise in advance) dreaming.  And he knows it.  Konstantin Sonin just wants some excitement in his life.

Written by Nina Jobe

October 16, 2009 at 11:12 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

Pavel Baev

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has a great piece on the Tandemocracy.  He addresses several topics that I have mentioned in previous posts.


The common opinion is that this claim for leadership [in Medvedev’s Gazeta article] can only be taken seriously if it is accompanied by action; but Medvedev escaped from this self-laid trap by departing on his state visit to Switzerland, followed by his trip to the United States.

In paragraph 5, Baev brings up the issue of replacements, and Yury Luzhkov:

The immediate problem for Medvedev is the reshuffling of the cadre that would demonstrate his authority to “hire-and-fire,” which is the main source of power in any bureaucratic system. Replacement of several governors does not quite fit the bill, because the real proof can only be delivered by promoting new people to the higher echelons of federal bureaucracy, while among the regional leaders, the key figure is Moscow’s Mayor Yury Luzhkov, who defends his turf with fierce determination and controls tighter than ever the forthcoming elections to the city Duma (Kommersant-Vlast, September 28).

There are only so many people Medvedev can fire (though I do not exactly like to use that word in reference to the Tandemocracy).  People who are out? Anyone in the Power Ministries really.  These include: Rashid Nurgaliyev, Nikolai Patrushev, Anatoly Serdyukov, and Alexander Bortnikov.  I still hold that the next to go will most likely be Yuri Chaika (possibly after Medvedev’s speech to the Duma next month).

As I’ve discussed previously, Luzhkov’s hold on Moscow is too strong to get rid of him.  I would not rule out Gromov, however.

Baev writes on the happenings in the Executive Office in paragraph 6:

Medvedev may be a master of Kremlin intrigue, but he is clearly stuck with the dilemma of having too few loyalists, who remain rather indifferent to the ideology of “innovation,” and mistrust the awakening reformers who would never prove sufficiently loyal. The Institute of Contemporary Development (INSOR) has tried to position itself as the key think-tank for Medvedev’s strategy, but their economic recommendations are combined with a plea to sack Vladislav Surkov, the deputy head of the presidential administration, who is in charge of PR (Ekho Moskvy, October 2). Medvedev, however, remains reluctant to relax control over the crucial media instrument –the three national television channels– and keeps Surkov close, not daring even to replace the top speechwriter (Nezavisimaya Gazeta, September 30).

There’s a lot of information here, so let’s break it up.  “…[Medvedev] is clearly stuck with the dilemma of having too few loyalists, who remain rather indifferent to the ideology of “innovation,” and mistrust the awakening reformers who would never prove sufficiently loyal.”

What Baev seems to be saying is that Medvedev is being pulled in two directions.  First by the Ciliviki (the lawyers, and bureaucrats) who are somewhat scared of change.  Or if not frightened of it, at least (in Baev’s words) “indifferent”.  Second by Yurgens, et al (see page on Institute for Contemporary Development) who perhaps expect too much, and would jump ship when Medvedev did not meet their expectations.

Some interesting news on Slava Surkov:

“The Institute of Contemporary Development (INSOR) has tried to position itself as the key think-tank for Medvedev’s strategy, but their economic recommendations are combined with a plea to sack Vladislav Surkov, the deputy head of the presidential administration, who is in charge of PR (Ekho Moskvy, October 2).”

Baev also implies that Surkov is tied to (and supports) Dzhakhan Pollyeva (something that does not surprise me in light of their biographies):

“Medvedev, however, remains reluctant to relax control over the crucial media instrument –the three national television channels– and keeps Surkov close, not daring even to replace the top speechwriter (Nezavisimaya Gazeta, September 30).”

Finally, Baev brings up Anatoly Chubais, and the accusations he is facing over the incident at the Sayano-Shushenskaya hydroelectric power station.  He concludes:

Many “modernizers” have become guilty by association, which means that Medvedev is left to drag his failing presidency to the conclusion that he was right about the inability of the system to cope with the crisis but wrong about its capacity for reforming itself.

Vladimir Frolov & More

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I do not want to give too much weight to what Vladimir Frolov says, but I think that it is important to at least read what he has to say.  This week’s article actually takes what I said previously to a new level.  I believe that Medvedev’s article “Russia, Ahead!” was actually an appeal for legitimacy to the West in the run-up to UNGA, and G20 last week.  He wanted to be acknowledged as both a powerful player in Russian government, and a serious contender for 2012.  However, as Frolov points out, it ended up backfiring on him mostly due to timing.  Putin recognised what Medvedev was trying to do, and undermined him at Valdai by making what was essentially an announcement of his intent to run for President in 2012.

What I really have a problem with in this week’s article is Frolov’s patently false belief that these two men are in any way different from each other.  Of course they are different people, and they have different backgrounds, etc. But their ideology (such as it is) is essentially the same, Great Russia.

What continues to bother me is who Frolov is being paid by.  I think it is Big Brother (aka: Igor Sechin), but I am not entirely sure.

I would also like to draw your attention to Nikolai Petrov’s piece “The Virtual President”.  Some quotes:

…the Kremlin is both nervous and uncertain. The Kremlin realizes that it must finally do something to correct the situation but is unable and unwilling to do so. This realization is a break from its former state of self-complacency.

Two factors are compounding the problem — the desire of the authorities to preserve their high popularity ratings at any cost, and the paralysis of government officials who cannot take action without approval from the top.

I am not sure that the Kremlin is both unable and unwilling to make the appropriate changes to deal with the crisis.  They are definitely unwilling, but maybe what Petrov is trying to say is that it is too late to make any changes.

I thought that the conclusion was too great to pass up:

This is Russia’s latest risky experiment: the attempt to carry out Medvedev’s transition from a relatively unknown political figure to the country’s chief executive. Were it not for the crisis, the experiment might even be amusing. Under the current circumstances, however, it is a disaster waiting to happen.

Written by Nina Jobe

September 30, 2009 at 10:05 PM

More Pictures

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of “Vova & Dima” from Foreign Policy Online.  This is a great photo essay on the Tandemocracy.  Notice how feminine Dima looks in places (particularly the first photo), but how buff he looks in the pictures taken at Sochi. I particularly like the photo with the caption “Tight”.  My first thought was, ‘I’ll tell you what is tight is that shirt [of Dima’s].’

The essay concludes, “Can the partnership survive?”   The partnership cannot survive because it goes completely against everything the Power Vertical is based upon.  Either Putin must cede power to Medvedev, or Medvedev must maintain a position of inferiority.  There can be no partnership if the Power Vertical is to be maintained.

Written by Nina Jobe

September 19, 2009 at 9:50 PM

Vladimir Frolov

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I have to confess that I was rather surprised by this article.  Vladimir Frolov writes a column every week or so about the Tandemocracy in The Moscow Times.  He also has a longer version of the column on Russia Profile.  In general, Frolov comes down on the side of Putin, and makes harsh statements on the Medvedev Administration’s deficiencies.  It has long been suspected that Frolov is in the pay of someone in Putin’s circle.  

That being said, this week’s column, while not being overly severe, does not entirely reflect the attitude that I have come to expect from Frolov.

He begins by crediting Putin with things that I would not. “…defeating the militant Chechen insurgency, bringing the regional baron-governors to heel, gradually rebuilding a functioning Russian state, destroying the oligarchic grip on power and resources and restoring the people’s confidence in the country and its future.”  

Honestly, I am not sure that any of those things are true.  There have been specific cases within the past 2 months or so that disprove every single one of those so-called achievements.  The “insurgency” just claimed several terrorist attacks around Russia, and the Caucasus.  Granted, there are doubts that they had a role in the accident in Siberia, but you cannot deny that the resurrection of  “Riyadus-Salikhiyn Shahid” unmasks Frolov’s claim as a lie.  I could go on and on debunking these claims, but I think that most of them are obvious.

But it is Frolov’s final question in Russia Profile that I wonder about.  “What is, if there ever was one, Putin’s “exit strategy”?” I doubt that even Putin knows that anymore.

Written by Nina Jobe

August 30, 2009 at 11:54 PM