Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Monday, January 04, 2016

Putin's administration

It's convenient to say that Putin runs Russia. But we all know he cannot do that by himself. Who does he trust and rely on? Here are some hints. What are their backgrounds? What characteristics probably earn them trust and power?

Who runs Russia with Putin?
When Vladimir Putin first came to power, he was asked in an interview which of his colleagues he trusted most.

He named five people:
  • Nikolai Patrushev [director of the FSB internal security service from 1999 until his appointment as Secretary of the Russian security council in 2008]
  • Sergei Ivanov [Defence Minister and Deputy Prime Minister. Since 2011, he has been head of the presidential administration]
  • Dmitry Medvedev [President from 2008-12, forming part of the ruling "tandem" with Mr Putin, and is now Prime Minister]
  • Alexei Kudrin [Finance Minister until 2011, no longer holds a formal position but still appears to offer advice to the president on financial and economic matters]
  • Igor Sechin [has held senior positions in the presidential administration and government, is chief executive of Rosneft, the state oil company]

Fifteen years later, these men still form President Putin's core group and dominate the strategic heights of Russian government and big business…

This core group illustrates two important points about who runs Russia.

First, there has been continuity in terms of the personnel closest to Mr Putin. Real reshuffles are rare, and very few have been evicted from this core group.

Second, the heart of the leadership team is made up of allies who served with Mr Putin in the KGB, in 1990s St Petersburg, or both.

This core group also includes others whom the president trusts to implement major infrastructure projects, such as Arkady Rotenberg, one of those responsible for the Sochi Winter Olympics…

Many of these figures held senior positions even before Mr Putin's rise to power.

Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu, formerly Minister of Emergency Situations, was a prominent party political figure in the second half of the 1990s and leader of the United Russia party from 2001-05.

Such figures convene in the security council, one of the most important organisations for co-ordinating high-level decision-making and resources…

Alongside continuity in the core leadership team, there has been a growing need for effective managers to implement its policies.

Indeed, rather than shrinking, as some commentators have suggested, the leadership team appears to be expanding.

There are several rising stars…

One is 39-year-old Alexander Galushka, who is a member of the Popular Front and many of the president's and prime minister's advisory committees…

This leads us to the final point about who runs Russia with Mr Putin - while the President is the central figure, he is part of a team, which itself is part of a system, and therefore highlights the importance of effectiveness in implementing tasks.

All the individuals have reputations for hard work, loyalty and proven effectiveness in completing difficult tasks in business, state administration and politics.

As one Russian close to Mr Putin has observed, he did not choose them for their pretty eyes, but because they get things done.

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