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Medvedev’s Cabinet will carry out unpopular reforms and will resign: expert

Dmitry Solonnikov

Russia’s State Duma has approved President Vladimir Putin’s candidacy of Dmitry Medvedev for prime minister. In an interview with EADaily, Director of the Institute of Contemporary Development (INSOR) Dmitry Solonnikov said that Medvedev’s cabinet was temporary and that there might be changes in the government.

Mr. Solonnikov, will the new cabinet stay for long?

Nobody is untouchable. If some mistakes are made, those responsible will be dismissed. In order to ensure the breakthrough promised by the president, the new cabinet will have to carry out unpopular reforms. If they are successful, Medvedev will stay, if not, he will be dismissed. I don’t think that he will stay in his office throughout Putin’s term. Why hasn’t Putin changed him now? Today the situation in the world is quite complicated and this might have unfavorable consequences for our country. Putin has never changed his staff at hard times. If everything was fine, he would have formed a cabinet of young technocrats and would have let them practice. But now that we are facing “storms and submerged reefs,” that wouldn’t be good. We first have to overcome the current difficulties. I think that Medvedev’s team will work for two years.

But more than half of the deputy prime ministers have been changed.

Only three deputy prime minister have retained their offices (Olga Golodets, Vitaly Mutko and Dmitry Kozak), while Igor Shuvalov, Arkady Dvorkovich, Sergey Prikhodko, Dmitry Rogozin, Yuri Trutnev and Alexander Khloponin have been dismissed. This is a big change. But we all know that Dvorkovich and Kozak have very different philosophies. People call Kozak “Putin’s special purpose man” as he is usually assigned the hardest tasks (North Caucasus, 2014 Winter Olympics, Crimea). You may say that the new Cabinet is less liberal and this is not good but I think that this is good. Kozak is a technocrat, who can solve very hard tasks by means of tough state control.

But the first prime minister in the new Cabinet will be Anton Siluanov, who is a liberal.

Siluanov is a professional financier. He is not an ideological liberal but a good manager of financial flows and a good executor of instructions. And this is exactly what he will do in the new cabinet.

Isn’t it bad when a top manager has no ideology?

I don’t think it is. Siluanov will act in line with the ideology offered by the Presidential Administration and he will do it well. I think that we must have one ideological center and there must be no ideological rivalry inside Putin’s administration. We will certainly consider different political models but once we have chosen one, we will have to stick to one ideology. If the ideology of one cabinet exhausts itself or reaches a deadlock – as is the case in some countries – that cabinet should be replaced by a new one with new approaches. But we need to be of one mid for the moment.

Does Putin have such people? When an odious manager like Mutko is transferred from sports to construction, one begins to doubt that we have necessary human resources.

I think that we have such resources. In 2017, Alexey Kudrin and Sergey Glazyev appeared with quite promising concepts. Andrey Belousov and Boris Titov also have their specific approaches. We also have quite efficient teams at the Committee of Civil Initiatives and the Stolypin Club.

Concerning Mutko, his transfer is not as anecdotic as some people believe it to be. In the construction sector, he will be responsible for regional development, where he is quite experienced. Besides, he has direct access to the President and may help the new minister to push crucial initiatives. Yesterday, Medvedev said that construction has not been very efficient of late. So, the new Cabinet may have a new construction minister.

And what about Vladimir Medinsky? Will he retain his office under Olga Golodets?

Medinsky’s appointment was politically motivated as he represented a certain ideology. If the President decides that he is efficient, he will stay in his office, if not, he will be replaced by another culture minister.

Will Alexey Kudrin be able to influence the new Cabinet through Siluanov?

It depends on what office Kudrin will be given. He has no post in the new Cabinet and this is logical: one could hardly imagine him in one team with Medvedev. If Kudrin is given an office in the President Administration, he will be reckoned with, but if he goes on being just a “think tank,” he will have no influence and Siluanov will act in line with the general strategy. He will hardly listen to Kudrin just because they represent one and the same ideology.

Will the St. Petersburg group be given any offices in the new Cabinet? Some people say that the governor of St. Petersburg Georgy Poltavchenko and the governor of Leningrad Oblast Alexander Drozdenko may come to Moscow.

This is possible. Poltavchenko is on good terms with Putin and if the President decides to bring him to Moscow, he will come. But I doubt that he will enter the Cabinet. For the moment, we still have two vacant posts – Chairman of the Audit Chamber and Plenipotentiary Representative to the Central Federal District (and we may have more once the new Cabinet is formed). Here we may remember the “They Are Coming Back” slogan. In St. Petersburg, we have two former heads of the Central Federal District. Alexander Beglov (Plenipotentiary Representative to the North-Western Federal District) and Georgy Poltavchenko. So, if this slogan works, we may soon witness a comeback of someone from the St. Petersburg group. In any case, geography is no longer decisive in personnel policy. Today, you don’t have to be from St. Petersburg to hope for a place in the government. You just have to be professional.

Can deputy prime ministers nominate ministers or this is the prerogative of Putin and Medvedev?

It depends. Their voices will be heard. I am sure that Alexey Gordeyev will nominate his men into the agriculture ministry. The same is true for Olga Golodets, but in her field, the appointments will be mostly politically motivated.

Will Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu, Interior Minister Vladimir Kolokoltsev and Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov retain their posts?

I can’t say for sure. There are reports that Lavrov is tired and has repeatedly asked Putin to let him resign. He does his job well, but, according to some sources, he may be replaced by Anton Vayno, the head of the Presidential Administration. The only problem is that Vayno has no diplomatic rank. Shoygu will hardly be replaced. He is much more active and much younger than Lavrov. For Kolokoltsev, there are both pluses and minuses. So, chances are fifty-fifty here.

Interviewed by Yegor Zubtsov (St. Petersburg)

Earlier, Dmitry Medvedev specified the names of nine deputy prime ministers of the new Cabinet: Anton Siluanov (supposedly the first prime minister), Dmitry Kozak (industry and energy), Alexey Gordeyev (agriculture Yegor Zubtsov), Tatiana Golikova (social security), Vitaly Mutko (construction), Yuri Borisov (military-industrial complex), Olga Golodets (culture and sports), Maxim Akimov (digital economy) and Konstantin Chuychenko (the head of the government staff). The post of the deputy prime minister for the Far East may be preserved. In the old cabinet, it was held by Yuri Trutnev.

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