Sergei Ivanov, one of the two leading contenders to replace Vladimir Putin as President in 2008, has been promoted to First Deputy Prime Minister.
The move puts Ivanov on a par with Dmitri Medvedev, the other leading candidate who, until this morning, held a nominally higher government office than Ivanov. Promotion also means that Ivanov can leave behind the post of Defence Minister, and the possibility that further military abuse scandals could damage his political future.
It also means that, rather oddly, Russia now has two First Deputy Prime Ministers. Go figure.
Anyway, moving on – The Times reports that Putin has also promoted Sergei Naryshkin, his former Cabinet Chief of Staff, speculating that he may emerge as a dark horse candidate if Putin loses faith in Medvedev and Ivanov.
Personally, I wonder if Putin is actually trying to set up a close run election between two candidates he has faith in. This would allow Russia to claim that its Presidential election was truly competitive and democratic, unlike the rather one-sided elections of recent years.
Update: Arms Control Wonk has a brief bio of Anatoly Serdyukov, the new Defense Minister.
It’s interesting that you think Putin might be able to find two different candidates he’s willing to roll the dice between, two total lackeys, or perhaps even that he might be able to modulate the election to such extent as to control the outcome even in that case. I’ve believed for a long time that the best harbinger for Russia would be if Putin remains in power, preferably by simply ignoring the constitution and maybe even dispensing with even the pretense of elections. That would mean he isn’t sure of the KGB’s ability to control Russia’s future from behind the scenes, which would mean the biggest possible opportunity for Russia to have a good future. If he does surrender the presidency to someone else, especially by means of even a vaguely colorable election, that pretty much means he believes Russian are such lemmings (and Westerners such weaklings) that it’s safe to do so (or else it means that some power greater than he is pulling the strings, an even more ominous scenario).
I see the promotion of Ivanov as a natural follow up to the Munich speech – he is much more militant and hawkish than the more pliant Medvedev, and probably got promoted to warn the West.
It’s also possible that Putin views 2008 as a moment of vulnerability in which the outside world may seek to influence outcomes in Russia, and therefore is seeking to tighten up his inner circle with the closest people he’s known since St. Petersburg. Fradkov is probably toast.
Interesting post, but the first question that one has to ask is if Putin is going to step down at all. If he does, I personally will be very suprised.
I take it that within federal bureau may have been a disagreement on which candidate is capable of taking over the presidential post.
Alternatively, either of them (Medvedev or Ivanov) will be used to distract the votes from the outside candidates.
An interesting story indeed. Mr Parker has a few highly amusing vignettes up in Russian at Vladimir.vladimirovich.ru, and I have to question Arms Control Wonk’s conclusion that Serdyukov’s time at the Tax Ministry means “the man knows how to collect and enforce those taxes.” That’s not what it means in Russia. Although I think their tax enforcement has improved a lot in recent years, it’s still hardly a professional operation on the ground.