The notorious Petersburg ‘siloviki’ (former FSB, military and officers from the other organs of coercion) are out. The moderate-to-liberal Petersburg civiliki (the more reformist lawyers and business oriented members of the Putin-Medvedev Petersburg clan) are in. These changes replace the traditionalist and harder line siloviki of the pre-thaw Putin era. In addition, a small new private business-oriented Norilsk or Krasnoyarsk regional clan has emerged within the new cabinet.
Although the political thaw or perestroika 2.0 of the last four years may be ended or rolled back during the Putin presidency, economic reforms are likely to begin in earnest. To be sure, this policy direction will be bounded by Russian citizens’ support for a hefty social welfare system. Nevertheless, the new government appears designed to begin the long-awaited privatization and restructuring of Russia’s commodity export-dependent state capitalism.
Here is a review of Medvedev’s new government:
First Deputy Premier Igor Shuvalov
Igor Shuvalov is the lone first deputy premier in the government; a rank he has held since 2008. He is a proponent of large-scale “de-state-ization”, privatization, and restructuring of Russia’s economy. He recently announced that the government would be relinquishing a third of its state holdings. Rumors of insider trading by his wife have been denied by Shuvalov, who denies any violations of the law. The press campaign against Shuvalov may have been promoted by statists opposed to his appointment in this high post.
The Deputy Premiers
What is true for Shuvalov is even more true of new deputy prime minister Arkadii Dvorkovich. He is perhaps the most liberal of all high-ranking Russian officials today and has been a leading champion in the corridors of power for democracy and a free market. He will oversee Russia’s overall economic policy. His appointment compensates for the exit of liberal Finance Minister Aleksei Kudrin last fall. Dvorkovich, moreover, replaces the hardline silovik and opponent of privatization, Igor Sechin, who became the symbol of Putin’s earlier statism and governance, was leader of the Petersburg siloviki (especially FSB officers) in the corridors of power. During his last days as premier, Putin nominated Sechin to the board of Russia's main state energy holding company, and unlike most of the other fired ministers from Putin’s cabinet, Sechin was not given a post in the presidential administration. Sechin was the government’s leading champion of ‘state capitalism’. He played a leading role in the takeover of Yukos, the formation of the state oil company RosNeft, and resisted privatisation of state oil pipeline monopoly Transneft, and the state’s enormous holdings in general.
The other five deputy prime ministers in the Medvedev government are Vyacheslav Surkov, Dmitrii Kozak, Aleksandr Khloponin, Olga Golodets, and Dmitrii Rogozin. Dvorkovich and Golodets are new to this rank. Surkov and Rogozin were promoted to this rank near then end of Medvedev’s presidency.
Vyacheslav Surkov is the long-time ‘gray cardinal’ of the Kremlin, discredited with designing the rollback of democratization under the banner of ‘sovereign democracy’ during Putin’s first two terms. However, Surkov also proposed a political liberalization scheme, the ‘Surkov Plan,’ in spring 2011, which was rejected by Putin. That scheme was then introduced by Medvedev in December, and implemented this past spring in response to the ‘white ribbon’ pro-democracy protests that began after the Duma elections in December. It included lowering the party membership quota needed to register a party from 45,000 to 500, eliminated the requirement that parties collect signatures to run in elections, a sharp decrease in the number of signatures needed to register as a presidential candidate, a return to popular elections of governments with minimal candidate vetting procedures, and a law mandating the creation of a public television channel to be more independent of the state than today’s state-controlled channels. Surkov likely is slated to coordinate government work, manage information policy, and advise on political aspects of government policy.
Dmitrii Kozak is a long-time Petersburg civiliki, who in the past has headed the regional policy ministry and been the presidential envoy of the Southern Federal District, playing a key role in the shift to the use of soft power methods in the battle with jihadism in the North Caucasus, especially economic development of the region. He will run regional and nationalities policies and will probably play an important advisory role regarding law and politics.
Aleksandr Khloponin is a former director of the Norilsk Nickel company, former governor of Krasnoyarsk Krai (Territory) and most recently deputy premier and presidential envoy to the North Caucasus Federal District, who has been implementing some of the soft power economic development policies in the battle against jihadism in the North Caucasus proposed by Kozak. Khloponin is slated to manage energy and industrial policy.
A second Krasnoyarsk official among the six deputy premiers is Olga Golodets, who will be in charge of social issues. Although born and educated in Moscow, she was deputy governor of Taimyr (Dolgano-Nenets) Okrug, part of Krasnoyarsk Krai, as well as head of Norilski Nickel’s personnel department in the 2000s. She was appointed Moscow’s deputy mayor for health and education in 2010. A third Krasnoyarsker is new Energy Minister, former deputy finance minister Aleksandr Novak, who served as a deputy governor of Khloponin in the mid-2000s. Golodets and Novak are also former Norilsk Nickel managers with ties to opposition presidential candidate Mikhail Prokhorov, who was the principal owner of Norilsk Nickel until 2008. The rise of Khloponin, Golodets and Novak marks the emergence of a new clan in the Russian government – the Norilsk or Krasnoyarsk clan.
The lone hard-liner in the government’s top echelon is Dmitrii Rogozin. The former Duma deputy, Motherland Party leader, and envoy to NATO is slated to oversee the defense industry. Although Rogozin will represent the views of the siloviki in the Cabinet, he is at a disadvantage in the absence of other hardline allies and the siloviki.
Key Changes in Ministers
Three-quarters of the ministers are new, with several pivotal changes. The economic bloc of ministers has been completely replaced, bringing in a cohort of much younger, liberal-minded ministers to support Dvorkovich. Most notable is 30-year old Minister of Communications and Mass Media Nikolai Nikiforov from Tatarstan. Nikiforov’s appointment fulfills both Medvedev’s drives for Russia’s socio-economic modernization drive and the bureaucracy’s reinvigoration through an infusion of new, young personnel. Nikiforov is responsible for making it possible, as they joke in Tatarstan, ‘to be born and die on the Internet.’ He established Wi-Fi spots across Tatarstan’s capitol of Kazan, wireless access on some bus routes, and Tatarstan’s ‘electronic government’, which makes all government documents and forms available to the public online and allows the public to comment on draft legislation online. Nikiforov was awarded by Medvedev in 2012 for his work in developing the president’s proposed ‘Open Government’ as well as Tatarstan’s ‘electronic government’ ( http://tvrain.ru/news/za_chto_tatarstan_blagodaren_ministru_svyazi-263795/). However, the most important change is the removal of Minister of Internal Affairs (MVD) Rashid Nurgaliev, who is blamed for much of the corruption and the limited results of Medvedev’s reforms in the MVD. He was demoted to the position of deputy head of the National Security Council. Nurgaliev is replaced by the more reformist Lt. Gen. Vladimir Kolokoltsev, who was appointed to head the MVD’s department for Moscow in 2009 and, unlike former FSB officer Nurgaliev, is a career policeman.
Earlier in his career, Kolokoltsev headed the MVD in Oryol Oblast where he is credited with rooting out corruption (Nikolai Sergeev, “Politsiyu otdali svoi ruki,” Kommersant, 22 May 2012, www.kommersant.ru/doc/1939705) <http://www.kommersant.ru/doc/1939705)> . It was during Kolkoltsev’s reign in the Moscow police, especially after Sergei Sobyanin’s appointment as the new mayor, Moscow police began to show signs of greater restraint in breaking up unsanctioned street protests and allowing sanctioned demonstrations to proceed usually completely unhindered. During the nationalist riots on Manezh Square in December 2010, Kolokoltsev personally went to the square and convinced the rioters to return to their homes. Dmitrii Dyazdko, an opposition political commentator and talk show host for ‘Ekho Moskvy’ and the pro-white ribbon street opposition Internet television channel ‘TV Dozhd’ (Rain TV), calls Kolokoltsev a “reformer” who has done things “in a humane way” and rejected the view that he had been responsible for the police violence against demonstrators on May 6th ( “Novoe pravitelstvo na letuchke Dozhdya,” TV Dozhd’, 21 May 2012).
Aleksei Venediktov, the editor-in-chief of the pro-democracy radio channel Ekho Moskvy (Echo of Moscow) praised Kolokoltsev upon his appointment, suggesting that Kolokoltsev would function as continuing Defence Minister Anatolii Serdyukov, who has led the reform of the military under Putin and Medvedev. Venediktov specifically credited Kolokoltsev with a decline in the number of deaths occurring in MVD detention cells. He noted that he and leading human rights activist Lyudmilla Alekseeva had been appointed by Kolokoltsev to his public council in the MVD, a measure mandated by Medvedev’s police reforms designed to provide public input and criticism of police policies. Venediktov was invited to (and did travel with) Kolokoltsev’s on his rounds of Moscow police precincts (Aleksei Venediktov, Program ‘Razvorot’, Ekho Moskvy, 21 may 2012). Kolokoltsev’s appointment raises hope that Medvedev’s MVD reforms will gain speed, corruption will be combated more aggressively, and street demonstrations will not see a repeat of the May 6th events.
Among the few ministers who retained their posts are Justice Minister Aleksandr Konovalov and Finance Minister Anton Siluanov. Konovalov had been the first top official to recommend putting an end to the signature requirement for political parties to run in parliamentary elections, something that was implemented with Medvedev’s 2011-2012 reforms, as noted above. Konovalov was also behind the liberalization of Russia’s Criminal Code, which de-felonized numerous economic and misdemeanor-like crimes and gave judges greater leeway to issue softer sentences. Siluanov was the liberal Kudrin’s deputy before resignation and acting finance minister afterwards and is also regared as a fiscal conservative and economic libertarian, so all else remaining equal, there is unlikely to be any sharp shifts in fiscal policy.
Finally, in late 2011 Medvedev announced his intent to establish an enlarged and more transparent government. He created an informal body of public figures and experts to work in the government along with the Cabinet, calling it his ‘Open Government’. He appointed a young, liberal entrepreneur Mikhail Abyzov to coordinate this work. Abyzov’s and the above mentioned Nikiforov appointments, are likely connected to advance Russian ‘electronic government’, which includes Putin’s proposal to streamline government and create a special Internet portal where citizens can propose draft legislation––which if it is supported by 100,000 people, must be submitted to the government for consideration.
In sum, the new government holds promise for a badly-needed breakthrough in the liberalization of Russia’s economy, Medvedev’s police reforms, and hopefully in other issue areas as well.
Unfortunately, this will not be enough to maintain political stability, if it is accompanied by a rollback of perestroika 2.0. That could begin with the extravagant fines for violating the law during demonstrations currently being considered by parliament. Absent continuing liberalization of the political system (as occurred during the first peak of perestroika 2.0 from December 2011 through April 2012), the outcome of a third Putin term is likely to be either a revolution from below––or a full-scale clampdown on civil society. The jury is still out on whether Putin realizes this or not.