EN|RU|UK
 World
  15767

 Desk shuffles in Kremlin may signal that Putin is seeking new heir, - The Economist

The Kremlin’s political nature resembles its physical structure: a walled fortress whose interior is invisible to those on the outside.

As reported by Censor.NET, this was steted in the article 'Dancing in the dark' by The Economist.

On August 12th, when President Vladimir Putin sacked Sergei Ivanov, his powerful chief of staff, the Kremlin released only a cryptic video in which Mr Putin thanked Mr Ivanov for his 17 years of service. The move's real meaning was left to speculation. This aura of mystery is not happenstance, but a guiding principle. "We have a system that believes it can do anything without any explanation," says Gleb Pavlovsky, a former Kremlin advisor. "We have only a black box."

Mr Ivanov, like Mr Putin an ex-KGB man from St Petersburg, was seen as one of Russia's most influential figures, perhaps second only to the president himself. The decision to replace him with the 44-year-old Anton Vaino fits a broader pattern of Mr Putin's old comrades being pushed out in favour of younger loyalists. "Those who don't fit Putin's vision of the new aims are leaving," says Aleksei Chesnakov, a former presidential administration official. However, he adds, "no one except the president knows what those new aims are."

Read more: Putin dismisses head of his administration Ivanov

The switch comes at a sensitive time. Parliamentary elections loom in mid-September and the Russian economy remains weak. Tensions with Ukraine have escalated over Russian allegations of an attempted terrorist attack in Crimea. Russia is also expanding its presence in the Middle East, launching bombing runs into Syria from Iranian bases this week.

So, Kremlinologists wonder, does the shake-up signal that Mr Putin wants early presidential elections next year, as a means to renew his mandate and launch needed economic reforms? Or does he instead plan to step down as president in 2018? Is Dmitry Medvedev, Mr Putin's successor in 2008, destined to return once more? Or is Mr Putin seeking a new heir? "The bottom line is we don't know much," says Mark Galeotti, a veteran Russia expert.

Certain trends can be divined. Last year the Russian Railways boss, Vladimir Yakunin, a close friend of Mr Putin known for his lavish lifestyle, was dismissed. Earlier this year, Mr Putin created a national guard force, pushing out longtime allies heading the drug enforcement agency and federal migration service. New faces have taken over the powerful economic-crimes department of the Federal Security Service (FSB). In July Andrei Belyaninov, chief of the lucrative customs service, stepped down after FSB agents raided his home and found stacks of cash. As budgets tighten, such blatant corruption has become too costly to tolerate, some analysts argue.

Read more: Putin prepares to G20 summit by deploying troops at Ukraine's border, - Financial Times

As for Mr Ivanov, the death by drowning of his son in 2014 may have left him exhausted. He retains his seat on the powerful Security Council, suggesting that any falling-out with Mr Putin may be overblown. Yet he had reportedly been excluded from the inner circle for some time. Some analysts think Mr Putin is losing interest in the independent counsel of old friends who can speak to him as equals.

In any case, clearing out ageing comrades helps refresh (and intimidate) the country's elite. Without public politics, Mr Putin's system lacks effective means for generating new cadres. Where the Soviet Union had a Communist Party that trained and promoted new leaders, today's Russia relies on informal nepotistic ties.

As Mr Putin's long rule continues, he has become increasingly concerned with the personnel problem. When he returned to the presidency in 2012, he created new recruitment channels, says Nikolai Petrov, a political analyst. Primary elections earlier this year by the ruling United Russia party served as "an incubator of new faces", says Andrei Kolesnikov of the Moscow Carnegie Centre, a think-tank. The president even put his weight behind a national academy for gifted children in Sochi.

Read more: Putin's rhetoric indicates end of Minsk accords, - The American Interest

Yet when it comes to new appointments, Mr Putin is still turning to people he knows personally. This year he appointed former bodyguards as governors in three regions. Another former bodyguard, Victor Zolotov, heads the national guard.

The president's new right-hand man, though not a bodyguard, has also spent his career by Mr Putin's side. Working in the administration's protocol department, Mr Vaino kept Mr Putin's schedule, accompanied him on travel and carried his umbrella. Oleg Matveychev, a former presidential administration official, says Mr Vaino developed a reputation as "rigorous, upright and well-dressed".

The grandson of an Estonian Communist Party leader, Mr Vaino started out as a diplomat, serving in Tokyo. (Japanese observers wonder if Mr Vaino's promotion augurs a deal over the disputed Kuril Islands.) As a bureaucrat unlikely to challenge Mr Putin, he may turn the administration into a less influential, more technocratic operation. But Mr Vaino is also auditioning for future roles. Mr Putin's former chiefs-of-staff have included Sergei Naryshkin (now speaker of the Duma), Sergei Sobyanin (mayor of Moscow), and Mr Medvedev (prime minister, for now).

Mr Vaino's promotion may portend wider changes. Ministers may be swapped out after parliamentary elections. More old cronies, such as the Rosneft head, Igor Sechin, may find themselves under fire. Yet where these shifts will take the country remains a mystery. That is part of the point. As Kirill Rogov, a political analyst, explains: "They believe that secrecy is power."
 
 
 
 up