Nothing unpredictable has happened. Putin hasn’t amended the constitution. He neither held a referendum nor continued in his office. And finally he has appointed his successor. The question “who is going to fill the top post in the Kremlin” isn’t burning any longer. Nevertheless, analysts keep on discussing about the way in which Putin plans to supervise his successor. It’s not a secret that Vladimir Vladimirovich doesn’t intend to surrender the power which he has consolidated so intensively demolishing democracy at the same time.
Putin’s authority is thus much strong and the state machinery thus much efficient that none of his steps towards constitution amendment as well as the acquisition of unlimited powers are likely to encounter any resistance either form the side of the society or international organisations.
However, Putin has decided to surrender the power to a person from his milieu. Logically, this could rid him of the possibility of affecting political processes in the country and expose him to the risk of displacing him into the second or third political train. To hold the power in hands and to be in its proximity are two completely different things.
Nonetheless, it’s to be assumed that the successor needn’t necessarily obtain real power by filling the presidential post. Down in history, there are many examples how sovereigns, particularly dictators, resigned their official posts as the heads of the state and handed them down to people from their closest circles. Similar steps have been called “the policy of look-alikes” in the politics. In Nicaragua, for instance, Somoza installed a puppet politician as the President instead of him, in the Dominican Republic, Trujillo designated four different persons including his brother as presidents because he was long in power. In Panama, Manuel Noriega, resuming the policy of his predecessor, acted as the Commander of Armed Forces and not as the President who was the nominal head of the state.
Most probably the same scenario will be repeated also in Russia. Putin has chosen Dmitry Medvedev. The question remains what the impulse behind Putin’s choice of the successor was. Just one thing is clear, namely that the candidate for the President was selected according to concrete requirements. Paradoxically, in the current political situation the given candidate shouldn’t be too independent, he shouldn’t have great leadership skills and he should be linked with his predecessor by clan, relational or specific work ties.
Talking about the psychological characteristics of the successor, one has to realise that his predictability is an important factor in this handover of power inside the elite. From the psychological point of view his successor is in a relatively demeaning position. He has to remember perpetually that the power in his hands isn’t actually his power. He didn’t gain it during the election campaign, he owes his legitimacy to his predecessor who can deprive him of it at any time. He also has to realise that his own power isn’t the result of a political fight, but of Kremlin’s intrigues in which he, as the future President, is solely a pawn. Thus the “President – successor” acquires power, anyway, he remains a dependent figure in fact.
Under the given circumstances the successor needn’t feel comfortably from the psychological viewpoint and therefore if the future President Medvedev is self-satisfied and ambitious enough, he, as the head of the state, won’t be willing to remain in the shadow of Putin. In this case the usurpation of power is unavoidable. That’s why it’s necessary first and foremost to find a person, or rather, executor without personal ambitions. Subsequently, it’s important to arrange a controlling mechanism in case the successor tastes power and desires to control it in full extent.
In the modern history of Russian political power, there is an example of a “steered” President suddenly concentrating power in his hands and removing his political “patrons”. The example pertains to the “steered” Putin and the “patron” Berezovsky. The opinion prevails that it was Boris Berezovsky who contributed significantly to Putin’s power assumption. Therefore, handing down power, Vladimir Putin must be absolutely positive that he will be able to control his successor and return to his office in the future.
Due to his psychological qualities, Dmitry Medvedev is suitable for the successor position like nobody lese. Medvedev’s acquaintances, teachers and colleges describe him as a calm, not ambitious and susceptible person. He used to play the second fiddle anywhere and anytime. According to political analysts “Dmitry Anatolievych is submissive, soft and psychologically dependent, i.e. always totally convenient for Vladimir Vladimirovich. This feature is very crucial for him.” (1)
Mutual relations between Putin and Medvedev are quite long and profound. However, the most important thing is that Medvedev was Putin’s technical deputy. They had been connected by institutional ties yet before they began to collaborate in the St. Petersburg’s administration. Medvedev studied at the Faculty of Law at the Leningrad State University like Putin did and was among the favourite students of the later mayor of St. Petersburg after the demise of communism Anatoly Sobchak. It’s interesting that owing to unknown circumstances Valery Musin, who had been also Vladimir Putin’s lecturer, was Medvedev’s lecturer during his post-graduate research.
In 1989, Dmitry Medvedev participated in Sobchak’s election campaign for the office of the Head of the Leningrad Municipal Soviet (i.e. Mayor). In 1990 after Sobchak had been elected mayor, Medvedev became his assistant for legal affairs. In the course of the work in Sobchak’s administration, Medvedev came together with Putin who was the Head of the Leningrad Committee for External Relations.
Russian newspapers hint sometimes that Dmitry Medvedev used to forge links with KGB and he even wanted to work for them. It’s conceivable that he might have acquainted himself with Puitn thank to this fact during his studies, although it is rather improbable since Putin had been working in Germany that time: “Whispering tongues say that Medvedev and Putin had known each other long before they met in Sobchak’s office. Medvedev allegedly forged links with KGB in the course of his studies like other “enlightened” students of the Faculty of Law. Thus he was subordinate to a man working for the same institution, namely Vladimir Putin who had been in charge of cadre recruitment for “authorities” at his home Faculty of Law.” (2)
As a lawyer Medvedev used to give priceless promises and grant legal aid with regard to affairs that were connected with state money laundering according to some analysts. Also another Putin’s college, a well-known politician form the Kremlin Dmitry Kozak, worked in the Leningrad Government. Medvedev participated directly in issuing licences to planted companies which were supposed to supply St. Petersburg with food, which, however, had never arrived in the city.
In 1992, financial control disclosed several cases of law violation within the activities of the committee headed by Putin. “Yet in the period from 1991 to 1992 at the very beginning of his career during he was the head of the St. Petersburg Committee for External Affairs, Putin abused his powers exactly in this way on the pretext of supplying the inhabitants with food.” The Committee signed agreements with agencies dealing in materials (oil products, wood, metals, wool etc.) export in an aggregate value of 92 million dollars. Putin chose companies according to his own decision and by sheer backroom methods. There were no producers of exported goods and there were no contracts with foreign food suppliers submitted, some of them were organisations with a 100 per cent share of foreign capital. The result was that the city didn’t obtain food and “lost” approximately 92 million dollars (3).
According to some analysts it was Medvedev who saved Putin from big scandal and the recall. Further activities in whose the successor participated in the course of the first experience of the collaboration with Putin are unknown. According to some witnesses Medvedev obeyed Vladimir Putin’s commands as regards the transfer of financial means to diverse construction projects. The money was leaving via the famous 20th Construction Trust lead by the current St. Petersburg legislature deputy Sergey Nikeshin. Transactions were carried out through a well-known bank Rossija the proprietors of which were the Kovalchuk brothers.
Nonetheless, everything which is connected with Putin’s past is practically impossible to prove or confirm. It’s also hard to speak of Medvedev’s backroom activities at the beginning of 1990’s.
After A. Sobchak’s defeat in the St. Petersburg mayor elections in 1996 Dmitry Medvedev and Vladimir Putin went their own ways temporarily. Medvedev gave up politics and started to do business actively. At the beginning of 1990’s, the future successor became the co-founder of the company Fincell which established its own joint-stock company Ilim Palp Enterprise. This belongs to the giants of Russian wood industry.
Medvedev dealt with business up till 1999. Immediately after becoming the PM and gaining presidential competences after Boris Yeltsin’s departure in 2000, Putin started to gather a team around him composed of his former colleges, predominantly form St. Petersburg and the Federal Security Service (FSB).
Dmitry Medvedev’s career in the Kremlin evolved purposefully. In 1999, he became the deputy of the Head of the Government Office Dmitry Kozak. Approximately a month later, yet in December 1999, he became the deputy of the Chief of the Kremlin administration Aleksandr Voloshin.
In his project on “Kremlin staffing” Putin relied solely on people that he used to cooperate with in St. Petersburg. He replaced officials form Yeltsin’s era with them. Medvedev became an irreplaceable tool in terms of the expansion of Putin’s influence over entire state and nongovernmental structures. With his assistance Putin removed Aleksandr Voloshin, who belonged to the most influential people in the Kremlin during Yeltsin’s era, from political scene. He at the same time took control of Gazprom after the recall of its chief Remo Viachirev. Prior to 2005, Medvedev led the presidential administration and became the chairman of board of chairs of Gazprom concurrently.
Thank to his calm, however, efficient steps within Kremlin policy and exclusive Putin’s support Medvedev got the nickname “the Great Vizier”.
According to several analysts the work on the project “Successor” and Medvedev’s preparation for the post of the head of the state started in 2005. In November 2005, Medvedev was designated as the first Vice-PM. Medvedev as the successor was the reason why Putin’s extensive initiative in the form of the so-called national project was commenced. It was Medvedev who was responsible for its conduction and national projects became topic No.1 in the Russian media (4).
In the Kremlin, Medvedev’s designation as the Prime Minister was planned yet in 2007, but probably a conflict of interest came up. That’s why Putin designated Viktor Zubkov for this post in order to avoid the destabilisation of the ruling elite. He did so most probably to prevent Medvedev being subject to blows of potential opponents. By the way, Zubkov belongs to Putin’s circle of colleges from St. Petersburg too. In the period from 1991 to 1993, he worked as the vice-chairman of the Committee for External Relations of the St. Petersburg municipal administration, i.e. in the time when Vladimir Putin was the head of this Committee.
In December 2007 immediately after the parliamentary elections ending in United Russia’s landslide, Medvedev was nominated for the candidature in presidential elections and his candidature was confirmed by the President Putin as well. Anyway, it seems that everything turned out to be the exact opposite.
As mentioned, Putin will hardly rely on the old friendship with Medvedev. As for the politics, this holds true for Russia in particular, friendships as well as all interpersonal relationships are subordinate to politics.
At present, it’s hard to judge whether Putin re-assumes power or remains the grey eminence. The only thing that is clear is that he doesn’t plan to retire form top politics and won’t yield up the influence on the future president.
During Putin’s era, not only mechanisms for the control of society were developed, but most probably also mechanisms for controlling the top state representatives including the President. When talking about possible mechanisms for control and deceleration of the new president’s possible ambitions to monopolise power, we may mention the following tools:
– compromising material;
– power structures;
– interlinked entrepreneurial and bureaucratic structures.
Compromising materials, which belong to the favourite tools of influence, are utilised by all special services. It’s obvious that during his incumbency in power structures Medvedev managed to collect lots of information which would be sufficient not only for impeachment but also a trial. The abuse of these materials could, however, affect also Putin himself since Medvedev is his protégé. The question would arise how come that the scout Putin was capable of not noticing these phenomena and supporting an immoral candidate.
The most effective way to control the new President’s steps is the utilisation of power structures, primarily FSB, which are completely subordinate to Putin’s influence. According to come analysts two persons are in the centre of attention, namely Viktor Cherkaseov and Anton Surikov. Both of them are experienced in the work for the Soviet KGB and they closely collaborated with V. Putin too.
At present, Cherkasov is the Director of the Federal Committee of the Russian Federation for Drug Control. The main task of this structure, however, was and is the fight against corruption and disobedient oligarchs. “Following to Dmitry Medvedev’s election, the Police General Viktor Cherkasov will become the Secretary of the Russian Security Council and simultaneously the Vice-Chair of the Russian Government for the Coordination of Security Authorities. He will be the official curator of the activities of FSB and the Interior Ministry as well as the whole executive power coordination bloc including the Prosecutor General of the Russian Federation, the Investigation Committee of the Prosecutor General and judicial system. He will embark upon the cleansing of these resorts in this function.” (5)
Anton Surikov, another “Silowik”, a military reconnaissance patrol (GRU) officer who took part in Georgian-Abkhaz War and Chechen War, is well known for his close links with Shamil Basayev. It is assumed that General Surikov will be the head of the military reconnaissance patrol after Medvedev’s election. “This will result not only in the considerable improvement of the work quality of this meritorious and legendary special service, but also to the strengthening of the authority of political leadership in military environment, which is simply necessary at present, i.e. after the office of the Russian Defence Minister was held by civilians for many years.” (6)
Obviously, such statements may be an element of an information war inside various groupings applying for important functions in the Kremlin. The indisputable fact remains that power structures will carry on playing a crucial role in the process of defining the country’s political course no matter who the new President will be. The third tool of power and control is the political game of entrepreneurial and bureaucratic groupings.
During the period mentioned a unique system of influence balancing and power division within ruling elites has been formed in Russia. The central power is divided among diverse financial, power and bureaucratic groupings. These are at the same time interconnected by the fulfilment of individual power functions and compete in their quest for the increase of their share of power and the access to various sources. Nonetheless, the leaders of the clans in question are personally devoted to Putin who may use them as the tool of the control of individual power structures.
After Medvedev becomes the President, he will immediately encounter the issue of rivalry and competition among those who perceive themselves to be a part of the power. Among those is predominantly the group of the so-called Silowiks headed by the first Vice-PM Sergey Ivanov who was considered for the possible president as well. Yet in 2003, he was labelled as “the President’s look-alike”. The press wrote: “For almost a year, the Russian Defence Minister Sergey Ivanov has been labelled as the President’s “look-alike” by people from special service circles who are close to power. Some of them consider him the “successor No.1”.”(7) Also according to opinion polls conducted in 2007 he was ahead of Medvedev.
Who was considered political elite by the Russians in 2007?
In spite of that the analysts assume that Sergey Ivanov hasn’t any entrepreneurial clan behind himself, which is the cause why he is trailing behind other influential representatives of the Kremlin. More serious damage to Dmitry Medvedev can be done by the Chief of the Presidential Secretariat Igor Sechin.
Sechin comes form St. Petersburg too and like many other people form Putin’s close circles he cooperated with him in Sobchak’s administration as his secretary. Igor Sechin was the only person who Putin took along into Moscow immediately after he was elected the PM.
Nowadays, Sechin is one of the key figures in Russian politics and economy. Since 2003, he has been the director of the company Rosnefť and took part in the liquidation of the oil company Yukos belonging to Chodorkovsky. Sechin is connected with the Justice Minister Vladimir Ustinov by family ties. It was Sechin’s group that pushed through the continuance of Putin’s cabinet also in the third term of office.
Of course, in the aftermath of V. Putin’s departure his former people can lose key positions, but most probably this won’t be the case since Medvedev will hardly dare to take action against the current President’s favourites. However, the new President Medvedev will never be sure about his power and therefore his power will have just a nominal character.
This means that the power itself doesn’t change notwithstanding internal processes. It’s solely its shape that alters. We can say with certainty that no real democratic and liberal changes will be made in terms of the political arrangement of the country during Medvedev’s rule. It’s sad that the “succession” policy may last up till the state itself exists.
Prezident Olbanskoj federacii.WhoisMrMedvedeff? http://compromat.ru/main/medvedev/a.htm
Vjunova, I.: Kremlevskij vizir. Profiľ, No. 43 (362), 17. 11. 2003. http://www.profil.orc.ru/items/?item=1826
Saľje, M.: V. Putin – „prezident” korrumpirovannoj oligarchii! http://compromat.ru/main/putin/salie.htm
Prezident Olbanskoj federacii.WhoisMrMedvedeff? http://compromat.ru/main/medvedev/a.htm
Stringer, D.: Komanda Medvedeva. U pereemnika esť svoi nadežnye siloviki. Press-Attache.RU, 26. 12. 2007. http://press-attache.ru/Article.aspx/week/4458
„Dubler” prezidenta. http://compromat.ru/main/ivanovserg/tozhe.htm