May 15, 2008
A Lineup Aimed at Taming Siloviki
By Francesca Mereu and Max Delany / Staff Writers
The new makeup of the Cabinet and presidential administration resulting from this week's government shakeup is aimed at undercutting the power that political clans within the security services have accumulated in recent years, former security insiders said.
The new configurations inside the Kremlin and White House point to a desire on the part of newly appointed Prime Minister Vladimir Putin to leave his post once his successor as president, Dmitry Medvedev, is able to gain control over the security services, the sources said.
"It was dangerous to leave Medvedev among all those fighting siloviki. This is why Putin had to sit in the prime minister chair for a while," said one of the sources, a former intelligence official with inside knowledge of the situation. "Putin promised the siloviki that he would stay in power and protect them.
It is unclear how they might have behaved if Putin had told them that he wanted to leave," he added.
The siloviki, officials from or with close links to state security organizations, came to wield significant power during Putin's eight years as president. Some gained so much authority that they were described by many former security officers as the real players within the Kremlin.
The result was an increasing role for Putin as referee between different siloviki clans struggling for control over various commercial interests and revenue flows, preventing the outbreak of serious conflict and any one group from prevailing, the security sources said.
As a result, the sources said, the leading figures have been demoted to curtail their political influence.
"Now the clans have lost their heads," the intelligence source said. "This means that they will continue to be involved in their criminal business, but their political influence has been weakened significantly
"It will take some time for them to reorganize, by which point Medvedev will have grown stronger," he added.
There have generally been two main clans identified by analysts when breaking down the balance of power within the Kremlin.
One is tied to Igor Sechin, former deputy chief of staff in the presidential administration and now a deputy prime minister under Putin. The figures most often tied to this grouping include Nikolai Patrushev, who moved from the top job of the Federal Security Service to take over as head of the Security Council; Alexander Bastrykin, head of the Investigative Committee; former Kremlin adviser Viktor Ivanov; former Justice Minister Vladimir Ustinov, who was named presidential envoy to the Southern Federal District on Wednesday; and newly appointed FSB director Alexander Bortnikov.
The other grouping is gathered around Viktor Cherkesov, who was moved from head of the Federal Drug Control Service to the top job at the Federal Agency for the Procurement of Military and Special Equipment in the shakeup, and Viktor Zolotov, who headed the personal security service for Putin first as prime minister and then as president. Prosecutor General Yury Chaika is also generally associated with this clan, as is Sergei Ivanov, who was downgraded this week from first deputy prime minister to deputy prime minister.
Following the arrests last year of Deputy Finance Minister Sergei Storchak and Alexander Bulbov, a senior Federal Drug Control Service officer, Cherkesov wrote an open letter to business daily Kommersant publicly warning about the level of infighting within the security agencies.
"Putin and Medvedev had to reach a compromise ... to bring an end to a long-running conflict that had been made public knowledge," said another source, who is a former state security agent.
This, the intelligence source said, was the reason for Sechin's demotion from the powerful post of Kremlin deputy chief of staff to deputy prime minister, where he is responsible for energy and environmental issues, as well as being in charge of civilian shipbuilding.
"His strength was in the informal powers he held," the sources said. "He could control the president's appointments, his agenda and presidential decrees."
He said that, through Ustinov, Sechin had also been able to influence the courts. Shifting Ustinov into his new job removes that ability and, even though the new head of the FSB, Bortnikov, was in Sechin's orbit, he is a "bureaucrat who would follow orders from his new boss," the intelligence source said.
The former security official, meanwhile, said Patrushev's wings had also been clipped, as his new job was largely advisory.
According to Stanislav Belkovsky, the head of the National Strategy Institute, Patrushev asked to be relieved of the FSB post for health reasons.
It is still unclear what job, if any, will be found for Viktor Ivanov, although a Kremlin source said this week that he might get another post in the Kremlin administration, Vedomosti reported.
The grouping around Cherkesov and Zolotov, meanwhile, also suffered in the personnel moves.
Cherkesov's move to the procurement agency appears to be a considerable demotion, the sources said.
The agency, which was set up Jan. 1 and reports to the prime minister, is responsible for the purchase and delivery of armaments for the army and federal security agencies, including the FSB and the Interior Ministry.
Previously, the Defense Ministry had been responsible for military procurement, leading to widespread corruption, said Ruslan Pukhov, director of the Center for the Analysis of Strategies and Technologies.
Despite its lengthy title, however, the agency so far exists only on paper and doesn't even have a budget, Pukhov said.
Cherkesov's old job gave him a great deal of influence, said Vladimir Pribylovsky, the head of the Panorama think tank.
"The Federal Drug Control Service was never concerned only with drugs," Pribylovsky said. "It was set up as 'FSB 2.0' -- a balance to the real FSB."
Cherkesov's new role could also bring him into conflict with another powerful Putin ally, Russian Technologies chief Sergei Chemezov.
Chemezov, who reportedly served with Putin in the KGB in East Germany, oversaw the establishment late last year of Russian Technologies, with state arms exporter Rosoboronexport as its base, and has tried to take control of domestic weapons procurement in the past.
Media reports have offered Cherkesov's former deputies, Alexander Fyodorov and Oleg Kharichkin, as the leading candidates to get his old job.
The ultimate goal of taming the opposing siloviki camps, the intelligence source said, was to bring them under control so that Putin can step down.
"He wants to become the head of the Constitutional Court," the source said. "He wants to keep the prestige that this would give him, while living a free life."
Both sources said bringing the siloviki to heel was the main concern for both Putin and Medvedev at present, and that there would be little time for important political and economic reforms until this is achieved. While there is a temptation to see conflicts within the government as signs of friction between Putin and Medvedev, "the real reason for the struggle will be trying to dominate the clans," the former intelligence officer said.
"The clans exist for business -- to make money," he said. "They will continue to fight for influence."
"What is important," he added, "is that now they are a bit lost and don't know how to behave."
A Kremlin spokeswoman refused to comment on the issue Wednesday, while calls to the White House went unanswered.
Alexander Bortnikov -- New head of the Federal Security Service. Promoted from head of the Economic Security Division.
Alexander Konovalov -- New justice minister. Had been serving as presidential envoy to the Volga Federal District.
Nikolai Patrushev -- New chairman of the Security Council. Had served as head of the Federal Security Service.
Viktor Cherkesov -- New head of the Federal Agency for the Procurement of Military and Special Equipment. Had served as head of the Federal Drug Control Service.
Vladimir Ustinov -- New presidential envoy to the Southern Federal District. Had served as justice minister.
Igor Sechin -- New deputy prime minister. Had served as deputy head of the presidential administration.
Sergei Naryshkin -- New head of the presidential administration. Had served as deputy prime minister.
Anatoly Serdyukov -- Defense minister.
Rashid Nurgaliyev -- Interior minister.
Sergei Ivanov -- Deputy prime minister (demoted from first deputy prime minister).
Yury Chaika -- Prosecutor general.
Alexander Bastrykin -- Head of the Investigative Committee, under the auspices of the Prosecutor General's Office.
Mikhail Fradkov -- Head of the Foreign Intelligence Service.
Yevgeny Murov -- Head of Federal Guard Service.
Yet to be decided
Viktor Ivanov -- Out as Kremlin personnel chief and chairman of Aeroflot. Russian media speculation is that he may remain out.
Alexander Fyodorov and Oleg Kharichkin -- Former Cherkesov deputies thought to be front-runners to head the Federal Drug Control Agency.