#16 - JRL 7229
June 18-24, 2003
By Viktor Loshak
In St. Petersburg, the president announced the appointment of Governor Vladimir Yakovlev as a vice premier in the Russian government in charge of the construction industry, transport, housing and utilities.
This, however, is not about Vladimir Yakovlev, a person who is not as simple as he would like to be seen in the public eye.
The case of Yakovlev, who stayed on as governor for more than three years after Putin's advent is a phenomenon of Putin's personnel policy and, in a broader context, of Putin's style. Let's face it, Vladimir Putin and his St. Petersburg cronies German Gref, Ilya Klebanov, Dmitry Kozak, Lyudmila Narusova, and Alexei Kudrin did not have a more hateful political opponent than Vladimir Yakovlev. When he was voted into office, he made life for them in the city simply impossible. By a quirk, Vladimir Putin should be grateful to Vladimir Yakovlev in the sense that the former Sobchak aide had to leave St. Pete for Moscow where he became president. But Putin does not destroy or trample under foot his political opponents. He puts them into an orbit that becomes increasingly remote from money and power. At the same time they are somewhere near at hand and even apparently happy. A case in point is Gen. Troshev, who refused to carry out orders: Far from being demoted and pensioned off, the Chechnya war hero is now commanding Russian Cossacks from Moscow .
Before Yakovlev, another former governor, Yevgeny Nazdratenko, also landed an honorary post. It would seem that his post on the Security Council is quite high, but then no one could tell what exactly he is responsible for. Also consider government chief of staff Shuvalov, Marshal Sergeev, presidential property manager Pavel Borodin, etc. etc.
The Yeltsin lesson has been learned: It is wrong to create a critical mass of enemies and ill-wishers within the political elite. Cushy but unnecessary posts with lofty sounding titles are the Putin-era tribute imposed on the state budget to pay for a certain measure of political stability. In this context, many will remember the State Council, the Federation Council, and the host of Russian-Belarusian bureaucrats. Why are they there in the first place?
Putin sort of envelops the power structure: Bureaucrats are always obliged to him and are always under him. The adversary who all but destroyed Putin's career in the wake of Sobchak's defeat in 1996 will now have to prove himself as a conduit of the Putin course.
What we are seeing is the birth of a new nomenklatura whose members, as is known, never fall by the wayside: They only move up and down the career ladder.