#10 - JRL 7241
Argumenty i Fakty
June 26, 2003
THE KREMLIN'S CAUTIOUS PERSONNEL POLICY
Putin still faces a shortage of qualified people for top jobs
Author: Vitaly Tseplyayev, Aleksander Kolesnichenko
[from WPS Monitoring Agency, www.wps.ru/e_index.html]
VLADIMIR PUTIN HAS AN ORIGINAL PERSONNEL POLICY: DISMISSALS HAPPEN SMOOTHLY AND WITHOUT FUSS. THEY MAY EVEN APPEAR TO BE PROMOTIONS. HOWEVER, DISMISSED OFFICIALS ARE SOON OFFERED JOBS IN OTHER GOVERNMENT BODIES.
The recent appointment of Governor Vladimir Yakovlev, whom President Vladimir Putin dislikes, as deputy prime minister seems rather odd at first sight. But in fact it is quite in line with other dismissals and appointments over the past few years. It is rare for a state official to be dismissed without another job being found for that official.
Only two former ministers - Nikolai Aksenenko of the Railroads Ministry and Yevgeny Adamov of the Nuclear Energy Ministry - have not been offered sinecures. Another exception was former prosecutor general Yuri Skuratov, dismissed by the Federation Council at the request of the newly-elected president in April 2000. Now the former prosecutor general holds a chair in some Moscow higher education institution and expects no offers from the Kremlin. "It would be harder for Putin to work with me," Skuratov admits. "What really surprised me after my dismissal were the strong and vengeful efforts to prevent me becoming a senator for the Republic of Buryatia."
The rest of the dismissed officials are more lucky. For instance, another ex-prosecutor general was first given a position at the office of the president's envoy Sergei Kirienko and then at the Federation Council. Unlike Skuratov, former Northern Fleet Commander-in-Chief Vyacheslav Popov - dismissed after the Kursk submarine sank - had no problems getting a Federation Council seat. But the story of Governor Yevgeny Nazdratenko of the Primorye Territory is the most well-known. He was "punished" for energy crises in Primorye by being transferred to head the State Fisheries Committee. After a conflict with Mikhail Kasianov, Nazdratenko was then transferred to the Security Council - which has actually turned into a pool for "unwanted" state officials. Almost all dismissed officials have found new jobs, at least some diplomatic post. For instance, Vladimir Babichev, a Cabinet chief-of- staff for the Chernomyrdin government, was appointed as Russia's ambassador to Kazakhstan.
THE KREMLIN HELPS THOSE WHO HELP THEMSELVES
Analysts compare the new personnel policy of the Kremlin to the "cautious approach to personnel" in the former USSR under Leonid Brezhnev. Putin responded to it as follows: "The easiest thing to do at the moment would be to rage, dismiss people, and appear a tough leader." So what are the reasons for such a cautious policy?
The first involves strategy. "One may have an impression that Putin fears to offend anyone, he does not want to make more enemies," says a former aide to ex-president Boris Yeltsin. "No matter what a person does or what the president's attitude to them is, no public punishment follows. And this is how Putin strongly differs from his predecessor. Take Aleksander Rutskoi, for example. It was impossible to dismiss deputy prime minister under the Constitution - and then Yeltsin just barred him from all his powers. Yeltsin sent delinquent governors to prison. He used to dismiss people without reservation."
The second reason is the personnel shortage. "Yeltsin burnt out the whole political elite within a decade," says Vyacheslav Nikonov, president of the Politika Foundation. "After taking office as president quite unexpectedly, Putin found himself with a very small team at his side and very few people in reserve."
"The president's team doesn't have any Stalin-era people's commissars," says Duma member Vladimir Ryzhkov. "People are reshuffled because there is actually no one to replace them. Even those whom the president dislikes are kept in service. Everyone knows the reputation of Yevgeny Nazdratenko, but he is still afloat. Such a personnel policy corrupts officials, while the people become disillusioned with the authorities."
Director of the Political Research Institute Sergei Markov wonders at such statements. "Nazdratenko is alleged to be linked to some dubious deals. But who is not? Where are our cohorts of pure and honest managers? There are none. The government's objective is to promote a new generation of managers. A major state-run program to educate them is needed."
"The number of capable managers is limited in every country," Vyacheslav Nikonov said. "For instance, the Bush administration includes a number of ex-officials who used to work with Bush's father: Cheney, Powell, Rumsfeld."
Leader of the Union of Right Forces Boris Nemtsov does not agree with the statement that the Kremlin lacks competent personnel. "There are a great many smart people in Russia. The point is that we should value professional skills more than personal loyalty."
DO NO HARM
Most experts agree that the main reason for Putin's discreet policy with regard to personnel is his desire to maintain stability in society at any price.
"It is easy to dismiss people," says Sergey Markov. "Yeltsin was inclined to have reshuffles. The same was true of Tsar Nicholas II before he was overthrown by the October Revolution. Draw your own conclusion."
Yeltsin became president at a troubled time and every now and then he had to show his people who was the boss. Hence his public reprimands of officials, on television - like when he reprimanded Aleksei Korzhakov for excessive ambition; and numerous dismissals which the president announced with pleasure. Putin does not need to do this. Everyone admits that Putin's main achievement is political stability. The absence of personnel shake-ups and the Byzantine manner of removing disagreeable officials (through formal promotion and even awards) are ways to demonstrate this stability.
The only question that remains is whether this stability can be converted into real economic reforms. This is likely to become the key issue for Putin's second term in office.
(Translated by Sergei Kolosov)