Putin's Russia: Slowing the Pendulum without Stopping the Clock Author(s): Martin Nicholson Source: International Affairs

(Royal Institute of International Affairs 1944-), Vol. 77, No. 4 (Oct., 2001), pp. 867-884 Published by: Blackwell Publishing on behalf of the Royal Institute of International Affairs Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3095599 Accessed: 28/11/2010 16:56
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782. I993. M. concluded that even if the populace was disgruntled with the way Yeltsin ruled.Gleb Pavlovsky. Baturinet al. BBC Summary on of 2 World Broadcasts.no.2 That leader was eventually found. Gleb Pavlovsky. to provide some answer to the question 'Who is Mr Putin?'. Finding someone who would both guarantee continuity and at the same time appear as a complete change from an increasingly unpopular Yeltsin was a challenge. confessed to agonizing over his choice of successor. 3 (200i) 867-884 867 . At the beginning of 1999. ooI. as he became ever more incapacitated and the threat of criminal prosecution for alleged corruption hung over his family and entourage. eighteen months will have elapsed since Vladimir Putin was inaugurated president of Russia. and to allow us to assess how he may respond to the challenges he faces in the remainder of his first term. not from among politicians either of Yeltsin's own or of the next generation. In Pavlovsky's view.I The question dominated Yeltsin's second term from 1996. On present evidence he will see out his two presidential terms. so he is still at the start of the road. International Affairs 77.Putin's Russia: slowing the pendulum without stoppingthe clock MARTIN NICHOLSON* By the time this article appears. until 2008.The authoris gratefulfor commentsand suggestionsmade at that meeting. The making of a president As long ago as 1993 the Russian Federation's first president. it was prepared to live with the resultsof that rule. SU/I85o B/8. one of Yeltsin's influential public relations advisers. 3 Yu. loyal but politically untainted. but from among young officials from the security services.19 Nov. Ekspert.200I).3 * An earlierversion of this articlewas discussedin June 2001 at the Royal Instituteof International Affairs in the frameworkof the Prospectsfor the Russian Federation Russia and Eurasia Projectof the Institute's Programme. particularlyfollowing the crash of 1998. He has been on the road long enough. p. 'Termidor 9: zavtra pravy konservatism'. 16 Nov. broadcast OstankinoChannel I TV. however. i8 Jan. able to promote the 'state potential of liberal values'. Epokha Yeltsina: ocherki istorii politicheskoi (Moscow: Vagrius. Interviewwith EldarRyazanov. 1999. I993.. could command a majority at the next presidential elections. an equally pro-market but more conservative leader. Boris Yeltsin.

See s Natalya Gevorkian et al. 7 Putin's election website named the complete team: <http://www.5 As for the requirement for a radical change. 131. Aleksandr Voloshin. but with broader experience. Yelena Tregubova. a 49-year-old KGB military counter-intelligence specialist. 868 . 'Vladimir na shee'. having laid down 999&mm his office.ru/o5/>. as are further interet references in this article. 2000. 2000). 5-7.6 Putin's electoral campaign was waged from two headquarters. But no hard evidence has been produced to support this theory. first person (London: Arrow. Kommersantvlast. Page references are to the Russian edition.Martin Nicholson The original choice was Nikolai Bordyuzha. By 1999 the peace that had been negotiated in August 1996 was no longer holding.The official one was at the Centre for StrategicAssessments. Appointed head of the border guards service in January 1998.ru/press/messages. In March 1999 Yeltsin chose him to replace Bordyuzha as Security Council Secretary.maindir. 'On guarantees for the President of the Russian Federation. and members of his family'. unless otherwise indicated). In private. p. I999. then aged 47-another former KGB employee.putin2000. Putin was appointed director of the FSB (the internal security arm of the former KGB) in July 1998. Ot pervogolitsa: razgovory VladimiromPutinym (Moscow: Vagrius. which gave Putin no chance to refuse.8 The intellectual and political talents of 4 This is Putin's own account in a series of interviews published during his presidential campaign. but also to increasing insecurity on the republic's borders with the neighbouring regions of the Russian Federation. 22 Feb. German Gref. 6 The sequence of events was convenient enough from an electoral point of view to have aroused the suspicion that the bombings and even the incursion into Dagestan had been provoked by Yeltsin's regime to launch Putin into the presidency. This was one of the first decrees Putin issued as acting president following Yeltsin's New Year's Eve resignation. Bordyuzha was promoted within a year to head the president's administration and serve simultaneously as secretary of the president's Security Council-an unprecedented combination of powerful posts.gov. Bordyuzha's rise was closely followed by that of Vladimir Putin. 2000). Following an incursion by Chechen warlords into Dagestan in August 1999 and the deaths of some 300 people in violent explosions in Moscow a month later. <http://press. The interviews were also published in English as VladimirPutin. with a number of members of Yeltsin's actual and political 'family'. and from there appointed him prime minister in August.7 At the same time an unofficial headquarters operated in the Kremlin under the command of Yeltsin's chief of staff. But Bordyuzha could not cope with the intensifying Kremlin intrigue and was sacked in March 1999. having worked in the administration of Mayor Anatolii Sobchak of St Petersburg and then in a variety of posts in Yeltsin's own administration.which he had set up as prime minister under his principal economic adviser from St Petersburg.4 Putin satisfied the requirement for continuity by guaranteeing Yeltsin and his family immunity from prosecution at the first opportunity. but he went on to announce publicly that he had selected Putin as his successor. Yeltsin merely offered Putin the prime ministerial job 'with prospects'.. the ongoing crisis in the Chechen Republic provided the context in which to present Putin as a quite different leader from Yeltsin. 5 Decree of 31 Dec.asp?yy= =12&dd=3 I&nn=7> (in Russian. Lawlessness in Chechnya had led not only to a spate of kidnapping. Putin assumed the mantle of the leader who would restore order to Chechnya and morale to the Russian people. pp.

On ceremonial occasions Putin has recalled Yeltsin's parting advice'Take care of Russia!'-and put on the mantle of the father of the nation.. Also published in Izvestiya and other central newspapers on 25 Feb. <http://www. Putin's deliberately short and general manifesto was published in February2000. his later description of himself as no more than a man hired by the electorate on a four-year contract (the presidential term) to fulfil certain functional and professional duties is more characteristic.cdi.pravitelstvo. central media on 25 Dec. 2000. 2000 (Nezavisimaya gazeta. in contrast. Yeltsin's political career was built on the rejection of his own Soviet past and that of his country. <http://www. with an official 53 per cent of the vote. posted at the end of December 1999 on a newly created government website. These themes are: restoringorder under a strong state.ru/english/statVP_eng_I. 12 For the first. What sort of a president? The duties of the president are fairly precisely defined in the Russian constitution. in the eyes of many Russians. A translation. However.html>. no.gov. by and large. 2000). had been that of a perennial second-in-command).Putin's Russia these two teams have continued to support Putin in the early stages of his presidency. those regional leaders who had initially backed Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov as an alternative quickly jumped on the acting president's bandwagon-and the electorate. has 9 'Otkrytoe pis'mo Vladimira Putina k rossiyskim izbiratelyam'. he had nowhere to steer the Russian ship of state except towards the values and goals of Western democracies. jumped with them.ru/press/ and for the second. 33.9 It had been preceded by a long and diffuse document. his 'millennium' article. 25 Feb. overcoming Russia's backwardness through a market economy. patriotism is probably the quality for which Putin would most like to be remembered. his interview with some of the messages. 869 . but they contain three common and overlapping themes. which form Putin's credo as a liberal conservative in the mode outlined by Pavlovsky."I There are many inconsistencies in these documents. responsible for everything.ru/07/>. in stark contrast to Yeltsin.html> English). With the war in Chechnya being prosecuted successfully. was carried inJohnson's Russia List. 26 Dec.org/russia/johnson/4I (in 1O Russia at the turn of the century. Putin has veered between a monarchical and a utilitarian view of his role. 4133. but Putin had only the egregious Boris Yeltsin as an example of how in practice to go about the job.asp?yy=200o&mm=5&dd=7&nn=I>. Putin was duly elected president on 26 March 2000. With no leadership experience of his own (his career. Apart from the impractical idea of restoring tsaristRussia. see his inaugural speech on 7 May 2000. <http://www. 'Open letter by Vladimir Putin to the Russian voters'. In doing so.'0 A book-length series of interviews was designed to fill in the human side of a hitherto unknown official. " Gevorkian et al.gov. and reviving (some would say creating) a sense of nationhood in post-Soviet Russia.maindir. There was an urgent need to acquaint the general public with the man they were being asked to elect as their president. Otpervogo litsa.press. Yeltsin squandered Russia's patrimony.I2 In either mode.putin200o. 2000. <http://www. Putin.

no.. Putin resisted the temptation to lay blame. 2000. he has resisted the siren call of the more chauvinistic end of the Orthodox spectrum and has paid attention to other faiths as well. by virtue of its geography.'5 The initial stages of the Chechen campaign gave Putin the chance to restore the armed forces to their traditional high place in popular esteem. he has provided the figurehead that the state requires and the population craves. to define Russia's place in the world. but the majority approved. rejected the imperial connotations of this stance. as 'the successful product of the patriotic education of a Soviet man'.Martin Nicholson described himself. <http://www. translation in Johnson's Russia List. I6 'Russia was and will remain a great country. In his first year in office Putin also cut a Gordian knot that had defeated Yeltsin-he had national symbols for the new Russia written into law. He starts from the premise that Russia is and always will be a great power. By simply fulfilling his duties in a predictable and dignified way. however. <http://www. To his credit. 'Russia is not haggling for the status of a great power. p. 13 Feb. the tsarist tricolor as the flag of the nation. This is determined by the inalienable characteristics of its geopolitical. which Yeltsin did not. still struggling to overcome the humiliation brought about by the disintegration of the Soviet Union. with no hint of embarrassment. So is his personality. unable to sing their wordless and unfamiliar anthem at the Sydney Olympic Games in September 2000.cdi. in order to push these measures through parliament in time for the New Year celebrations on the eve of 2001. It falls to Putin.I6 His election statements.'3 His vision of a strong. Otpervogo litsa. Putin's demonstrative support of a Chief Rabbi who is a rival to one supported by Vladimir Gusinsky betrays ulterior motives. Characteristically. There is little doubt that Putin's brand of all-weather patriotism is better suited than Yeltsin's aggressive partisanship to the 'silent majority' of Russians. IOJune 2000. however. although the Kursksubmarine disaster in August 2000 made it difficult to sustain this effort. and the Soviet red flag for the armed forces. history and culture' (interview with Welt am Sonntag. Secretly baptized by his mother. accompanied by new.president. This is determined by its great potential.kremlin. Interview with Komsomolskaya pravda. Liberals were aghast. paternalist Russian state includes the Soviet period. as president. 39. I5 870 . he found an eclectic mix: the music of the Soviet national anthem. all-purpose words. I Feb.org/russia/johnson/4Io6. but used the incident to insist that the armed forces must be cut down to a size where they can be properly maintained.I4 Putin has gained respect by observing Orthodox ritual to the manner born. economic and cultural existence' (millennium article). however. which Yeltsin never managed. history and economic potential alone. It is one.ru/events/38. Putin's initial gestures of respect towards the military may allow him to do this without significantly affecting their status in society or his own image as a patriotic leader. 4106.html>. He argued that 13 I4 Gevorkian et al. Putin seized on the dismay of Russian athletes.html>). 2000. Putin has brought youth and novelty to the job. rejecting only the Soviet economic system on the grounds that it did not lead to prosperity. Putin has championed two historic Russian institutions that remain high in popular esteem despite their manifold failings: the Russian Orthodox Church and the armed forces.

was a disaster. and the industrialist (and former protege of the 'oligarch' Boris Berezovsky) Roman Abramovich. even where it may initially have been the most popular route to take. the public opinion specialist Aleksandr Oslon. in particular the World Trade Organization (WTO). The first comprises the key players from Yeltsin's team who ran Putin's unofficial campaign headquarters. such as Gleb Pavlovsky. but his general approach to the presidency shows little of the Germanic orderliness that was imputed to him on account of his background. Through these two. This meant giving internal policy primacy over external policy. whose only personal excursion into public politics. the return of favours and chance encounters. As president. working groups and advisory councils. The acute political instincts of the team are beyond question. broadly speaking. as head of the president's administration. and his deputy. a native of Peter the Great's 'window on Europe' who has lived in Germany. geographical and social realities of Russia preclude such a simple schema.'7 In the initial stages of his presidency his statements and actions depended on who had his ear at a critical point. particularly economic. But their obsession with tactics and ratings could become a liability if Putin. Nor has Putin indulged in nostalgic dreams of reconstructing the Soviet Union. commissions. Putin is more organized in his habits than Yeltsin and far better able to sustain long periods of hard work. Putin has resisted confrontation with the West. pursuing national. The capacity of this team to manipulate the political climate has proved a valuable resource for Putin. by three groups of people. Chechnya being the prime example. sometimes discordantly. Ot pervogolitsa. 871 .Putin's Russia Russia could take its rightful place in the world only by restoring its economic strength. Putin is influenced. set up to solve-or possibly to bury-difficult issues. A botched attempt in March 200I-in which 17 Gevorkian et al. interests in foreign policy. Vladislav Surkov. With this policy goal in mind. achieving integration into the world economy. the economic. have been particularly prominent. his management of Sobchak's unsuccessful campaign for re-election as governor of St Petersburg in 1996. Both Putin's understanding of the role of the state and his view of his own role have led him to rely on top-down government. Aleksandr Voloshin. and emphasizing Russia's European destiny. The 'executive vertical'a direct chain of command from the president down to local government-is his goal. for example in reaction to US plans for missile defence or NATO plans for further enlargement to the east. I I9-22. is embarking on policies that will involve some unpopular moves. on the few issues he had made his own. pp. The last comes naturally to Putin. In fact. Putin himself has added to the complexities of decision-making by cluttering the political landscape with committees. His own voice came through.. as is suggested at the end of this article. Putin's own route to his firstjob in the Kremlin in 1996 was through a haphazard combination of circumstances-friends. links have been maintained to some of the informal influences on the Yeltsin administration.

and it is reflected in the increasing attention being paid by the FSB to foreign scholars in Russia. and author of Putin's social and economic blueprint).Martin Nicholson Putin seems to have played no part-to force the dissolution of the Duma and hold early elections brought the team no credit. pp. itself staffed largely by military and security personnel. Ot pervogo litsa. 2000).. This trend should be seen in perspective. The list could be extended. market building and state formation'. sometimes verging on paranoia.stringer-agency. Voloshin and Surkov that the three were behind this episode.'8 The second group comprises liberal economists and lawyers. PP. Two deputy heads of Putin's presidential administration. 'Organised violence. who succeeded Putin as secretary of the Security Council) and Nikolai Patrushev (director of the FSB) are particularly close. Putin's relations with the formal institutions of power have been less I8 Apart from a number of public remarks by Pavlovsky. Putin's own security background and his trust in senior security officials must have contributed to the freedom with which they feel able to operate. eds. military or police background. The Russian text of the intercepts was posted on the internet at <http://www. are lawyers. Ledeneva and Marina Kurkchiyan. By contrast. the third group-officials with a security background-boasts both individuals close to Putin and a long tail as well. '9 Gevorkian 20 Vadim Volkov. 872 . It is fed by policy papers produced by the Security Council. Aleksei Kudrin (finance minister) and German Gref (minister of the economy. the latter responsible for Putin's ambitious legal reform programme and for reconciling federal and regional legislation.20 The new element is a generally heightened concern over national security. Yeltsin chose a military officer (Aleksandr Rutskoi) as his running mate in the presidential elections of 1991. Two key economic players in the government. although responsible for breaking up the KGB as an institution. should be added to the list of liberal advisers. And of course. 18I-2. Nor. it was to the security services that Yeltsin ultimately looked for his successor. trade and development. It should also be borne in mind that former officials of the KGB and other coercive organs have long since dominated private protection companies that play a central role in enforcing business contracts. that is characteristic of Putin's regime. 57I-9. Former KGB officials dominate the lucrative arms export business.ru>. Dmitrii Medvedev (who shadows Voloshin) and Dmitrii Kozak.'9 Five of the seven new presidential representatives in the regions come from a security. it is clear from apparently genuine intercepts of telephone conversations between him. 'Cadre famine'-the shortage of qualified and competent government officials-is a persistent complaint of political analysts in Moscow. Sergei Ivanov (an excolleague from the SVR. was Yeltsin averse to KGB officers individually. are from St Petersburg. The name of Andrei Illarionov. One of the strongest influences over him for many years was his KGB bodyguard Aleksandr Korzhakov. et al. but not very far. the foreign intelligence service. most of them associated with Putin from his days in Sobchak's St Petersburg administration. Economiccrimein Russia (The Hague: Kluwer Law International. Putin's idiosyncratic personal economic adviser (not a St Petersburger). in Alena V.

both as the successor to the Supreme Soviet with which he waged war in I993. which traditionally reports direct to the president. on two ministries that have traditionally been headed by uniformed officers. Yeltsin resorted increasingly to this tactic.22 Putin quickly turned a good hand into a winning one. and as the bastion of the Communist opposition. Putin. <http://www. Putin's control over parliament has been a major element of what has come to be known as 'managed democracy' and led critics of Putin's regime to label it an elective autocracy. On 28 March 2001 Putin imposed outsiders.Putin's Russia dramatic than Yeltsin's. despite his being a holdover from the Yeltsin regime. Putin. at least.president. it gained enough votes in the December I999 elections to form the second largest faction in the Duma after the Communists. Putin was beginning to impart his own stamp. They have now had to throw in their lot with Unity.htm> 873 . In September I999 an electoral association. and indeed defended. Putin was fortunate to come to power with a working majority in the Duma. the lower house of the bicameral parliament. In his declining years.Only in conditionsof politicalcompetitionis a serious dialogueon the developmentof our statepossible.ru/events/264.html>. In words. It is calmer and more comfortable for it to live according to the rules of political bargaining.ru/events/42. with a brief to carry out change.25 Nonetheless. retainedhis post as Speaker. delay in the implementation of his order. Jan. though he shies away from using the word 'opposition'. developments 21 See Putin's I8 July 2001 press conference. at least to the 'security bloc' of the government. to the interior ministry.'Vyboroe samoderzhavie Putine:perspektivy problemyevolyutsiipoliticheskogo pri 22 25 In his 8 July 2000 address parliament to Putin said. Yeltsin was permanently at odds with the Duma. like Yeltsin.kremlin. belongs to no politicalparty. Boris Gryzlov. has been demonstratively supportive of Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov. chairmanship significant 24 i LilyaShevtsova.GennadiiSeleznev. by contrast. arguing that it would all happen in good time. Unity made a tactical alliance with the Communists over the distribution of the major offices. With the president's administration exerting its manipulative power. Putin has put up with. The prime minister is constitutionally weak: he can be dismissed by the president without notice. 200I. Moscow Carnegie Centre Briefings3: . sending his trusted colleague Sergei Ivanov to the defence ministry and another St Petersburger. Trading heavily on Putin's soaring popularity. 23 A Communist.2' The biggest contrast with the Yeltsin era lies in Putin's relationship with parliament. Characteristically. Unity. But rezhima'. he has encouraged the development of independent political parties with a critical approach to government policies. He ordered Kasyanov to restructure the 'economic bloc' of ministries with the aim-first attempted in 1997-of cutting down on the numbers of deputy prime ministers and increasing the responsibilities of ministers. He also imposed an outsider on the tax police.23 This led to the marginalization of what might have become a centreleft opposition led by former Prime Minister Yevgenii Primakov together with Luzhkov.and the Communistsgainedthe of Duma committees. By the summer of 2001. 'It is advantageous a weak power to have weak for parties.president.'<http://www.24 Putin himself has recognized the dangers inherent in the situation. a strongpower is interestedin strongrivals. without 'revolutionary changes'. was created to support him.kremlin. however.

his address to a Strengthening Democracy Institute event on 13 March 2000. destroy them. and the creation of a legal framework to regulate Russia's social and economic life. The established political parties in the Duma have relatively little influence. the prime cause of its failure. any more than the original attempt to do this by splitting the Duma into constituency deputies and those elected under a party list. <http://ksgnotesi. See e. The issues Putin's first year in office was dominated by the attempt to restore the authority of the state. curbing the 'oligarchs'.g. 'Otkrytoe pis'mo'. initiated by the Kremlin and adopted in June 2001. as parties. He publicly defended their seizure and incarceration of the Radio Free Europe/Radio Gevorkian et al. six days before the elections. one dependent on the ruling elite rather than acting as the ruler's political base-as was the now defunct Our Home Is Russia. his 'historic mission'.28 He gave full support to the military campaign. and the muscle of informal.6>. the principal issues being Chechnya. p. 26 27 874 . 133. over the drafting of laws. To solve the problems of the North Caucasus was. that the law will have the desired effect of creating a viable party system. which in turn coloured his vision of the rule of law in Russia as a whole: 'All we had to do was to grapple directly with the bandits. Sergei Stepashin. is intended to weed out small and weak parties. the reassertion of Moscow's power over Russia's regions. lacking both the expertise of the Duma committees. in contrast to the first Chechen war. towards the dictatorship of a law that is equal for all. and a real step was taken towards the supremacy of justice.edu/ BCSIA/SDI. 1999. made several statements to this effect. 29 He paid two dramatic visits to the war zone.MartinNicholson under Putin so far point to a weakening of the party system. the day of Yeltsin's resignation. and on 20 March 2000. A law on political parties. sectoral interest groups. in an SU-27 training jet.harvard.. Chechnya Chechnya was the only issue on which Putin as presidential candidate ventured a personal commitment. on 31 Dec. The pro-presidential Unity shows no sign of becoming more than another 'party of power'-that is. Putin also put his personal stamp on the federal authorities' policy of controlling press coverage from the start. 28 Putin's predecessor as prime minister. created in 1995 to support Yeltsin's government.nsf/web/Election2000?OpenDocument&ExpandSection=9.'27 Putin appears to have favoured reimposing federal rule in Chechnya beyond the naturalboundary of the River Terek that had been agreed in March I999. leaving only two or three to fight the next elections. each of which has professional support.26 The distinguishing factor of his commitment was its reliance on force alone. Otpervogo litsa. however. he said.29 and reassuredthe generals that it would not be interrupted to search for a political solution. as the campaign of 1994-6 had been-in the military view. It is still far from clear.

There is no major political force that would see advantage in trying to embarrasshim over Chechnya. Putin's handling of Chechnya as an international issue has been more skilful.000 interior ministry troops. the lack of progress towards a political solution or the reconstruction of Chechnya.32 30 Putin interview with KommersantDaily. 3 July 200o. arguing that he was helping the enemy because he was reporting from the enemy side. after only a few thousand had been withdrawn. was begun in March 2001 but abandoned in May. Putin has also worked to assuage the Council of Europe's concern over human rights violations in Chechnya. 3I He has paid only one visit to Chechnya since becoming president. and Putin's personal rating remains high. and that by its military action Russia was in fact fighting for Europe's security as much as its own. Vladimir Kalamanov. in February 2000.polit.000-7. assisted by three Council of Europe experts.html>. despite the humiliation of the Russian delegation to the Council's ParliamentaryAssembly (PACE) being temporarily deprived of its vote. 32 VTsIOM monthly review for June 2001. more than a year after the military operation was said to have been successfully completed. 875 .Putin's Russia Liberty correspondent Andrei Babitsky.ru/documents/42865o.30 Putin's handling of the peace and reconstruction process has. which encourages them to extort money from the population and contributes to the deterioration of the security situation. is turning Putin's personal commitment to solving the Chechen problem into a potential liability.000 to a permanent garrison of 15. by contrast. from the current 80. A plan to reduce force levels. While ruling out any repeat of the mediating role that the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) played in the first Chechen war. been hesitant and distant. but has been unable to find a Chechen who would carry some credibility in both Moscow and Chechnya. He neutralized much Western criticism of the disproportionate use of force by arguing that Chechnya was the front line of an attack by political Islam on Russia and Europe as a whole. Domestically. he kept the OSCE in play by allowing its Assistance Group to resume humanitarian operations from a base in the north-west of Chechnya. on 14 April 200I. But opinion polls are beginning to register public disillusionment.000 defence ministry and 6. Russians have been appointed to key posts to ensure that federal funds disbursed for the reconstruction of Chechnya are not salted away into private pockets as they were after the 1996 settlement. But the bureaucratic structure appearsto be hindering rather than helping the reconstruction of Chechnya. <http://www.3' He rejected the option of re-engaging with the elected president Aslan Maskhadov. even federal forces are not getting paid. Putin acceded to pressure from the Council in appointing a special representative for human rights in Chechnya. to work on cases of complaints against the federal authorities in Chechnya. Io March 2000.

Putin's initiative involved three separate measures. The federal districts. Putin had weighty reasons to justify this reform. a more insidious challenge was presented by the increasing freedom of manoeuvre under Yeltsin's rule exercised by Russia's other 88 regions. Putin did not address the question directly in his election campaign. in order to avoid alienating the regional leaders on whom he depended for support. The new representatives would make the president's writ run throughout the country by ensuring that they. rotating every six months. had arrogated to themselves a degree of sovereignty that was manifestly incompatible with the federal constitution and laws. Further. 876 . Putin decreed the creation of a consultative body. The first-and potentially most far-reaching-was no more than an adjustment to the system of presidential representation in the regions. depending on the regional leaders for their housing and other basic amenities. But in the face of resistance-the Federation Council still had the power to delay legislation that would lead to its own demise-Putin conceded a 'stay of execution' to January 2002. including 21 that enjoy superior status as republics. His first major political initiative-a week after his inauguration-was a sweeping attempt to restore the Kremlin's control over the regions. each representative overseeing a group of regions.Martin Nicholson relations Centre-region While Chechnya was one sort of threat to the integrity of the Russian Federation. were to provide an effective federal presence in the regions. Its membership comprises the executive heads of each of the 89 components of the Federation. controlled federal officials in the regions-local police chiefs and tax inspectors. Yeltsin had had his own representatives in almost all the 89 components of the Federation. Furthermore. regional leaders could not focus simultaneously on legislating in Moscow and running their own regions. to compensate the governors for the abolition of their Moscow 'club'. to be called a federal district. counteracting the trend by which some of the regions. seats Putin's second measure was to deprive regional leaders of their ex officio in the Federation Council. The fact that the heads of regional executives sat in the central legislature violated the principle of the division of powers. though the suspicion remains that he intends the Council to do little more than keep senior regional figures in play by giving them an opportunity to ride their hobby horses. Putin has commissioned reports from the State Council on a number of major issues. the upper house of the parliament. which virtually coincided with the existing military districts. for example. Over time they had ceased to be the instruments of the president's will and had become increasingly subservient to the regional administrations. not the regional leaders. Putin argued. But this turned out to be a tactical ploy. Putin reduced their number to seven. and especially republics. His draft law forced the regional leaders to cede their seats to nominated representatives. The representatives would bring regional legislation into line with central. the State Council. with a presidium of seven (one from each federal district).

Such sweeping reforms should. and a number disposing of their seats to their preferred representatives as part of a political deal.See William Tompson. I-3. Disagreements over their status and powers have snagged them in bureaucratic thickets.34 And. Nor have the presidential representatives become the power in the land that many expected on account of their background. is in limbo. in his desire to enjoy easy relations with the regions. of course.33 By the middle of 200I. it would have been equally unrealistic to expect him to 33 Percipientobserversat the time would questionedwhether such a far-reaching attemptat recentralization not run into the sand.as have top-down reformsthroughoutRussia'shistory. however. To general surprise. or simply for money. Putin's federal initiative was supported by politicians of all shades in Moscow. against Putin's stated intentions. on treasury 'Putin's power plays'. Second. 877 .July 2000.Putin's Russia The third move gave the president the legal instruments to dismiss regional leaders on defined grounds. meeting resistance not only from the regional governors. Putin further pandered to the regional authorities by introducing amendments to the law on local government. Putin appointed him to the potentially lucrative position of chairman of the Federal Fisheries Committee in return for his voluntary resignation from the governorship. 34 The lastof the federal branchofficeswas opened in Tatarstan 17 March2001. reducing the powers of municipalities in relation to the regions. Putin acquiesced in a complex series of amendments that will allow several influential regional leaders to run for election for a third term-the original law had stipulated a maximum of two. The move was skilfully executed and enhanced the image of the new president as a strong and decisive leader in his early days in office. Putin needed to show who was boss. Rather than using his new powers to dismiss Nazdratenko. whose wilful mismanagement had contributed to an appalling energy crisis in the region in early 2001. But to labour this point would be to ignore the realities of Russian politics. have been preceded by extensive consultation with those most affected: the regional leaders. as we can now see on closer acquaintance with his style of leadership. but also from the federal government-the ministry of finance has only recently succeeded in setting up a treasury system to channel financial flows to and from its offices in individual regions. who considered that Yeltsin. Putin made concessions to get amendments to existing legislation through parliament. January 2002. Putin's concessions in the face of rearguardactions by regional leaders had led to the opposite perception-that he was in fact a weak and indecisive leader. Finally. pp. Putin made a deal with the governor of the Primor'e region in Russia's Far East. At the same time. Again. They have attempted to organize the economic activity of the federal districts around themselves. they have become immersed in regional politics-not always successfully. the Federation Council. any dismissal would be subject to a lengthy judicial process. The World Today. which enjoys far-reaching powers under the constitution. with a number of its current members hanging on to their privileges and immunities to the last possible moment. First. had allowed the Federation to fragment dangerously. Yevgenii Nazdratenko.

Gusinsky made the mistake of supporting Luzhkov's unannounced campaign for the presidency in mid-g999. Putin 878 . lays claim to being Russia's only independent national TV station. but certain trends are worth picking out to illustrate the point. as were many of the original incompatible regional laws. Putin has pursued only those magnates who have offended by their political stance. The prime target has been Vladimir Gusinsky. Gazprom. as much as any of Putin's administrative measures. Some gains have.Martin Nicholson follow up his initial surprise move to the point of confrontation with still powerful regional interests. In fact it has a history of alternating conflict and alliance with the Kremlin since 1994. the automotive industry in the Volga region. while yet to prove its effectiveness. The harmonization of federal and regional laws is a necessary part of the broader task of creating a coherent legal framework for Russia. The system of federal districts. Angered by what he considered inadequate reward for supporting Yeltsin in his 1996 re-election bid. from 'oligarchs'to stallholders. even if much of it has been a showcase exercise. industrialistsand media magnates who pooled their resources in early 1996 to ensure Yeltsin's re-election. The eventual restructuring of the railway and energy provision systems will also profoundly affect the political economies of the regions. Putin had another group in mind when he undertook in his election manifesto to put everyone. thereby staking a claim to the spoils of victory and a continuing say in the running of policy. to a lesser extent. geographical and economic realities. head of the banking and media conglomerate Media-MOST. a new generation of businessmen has embarked on a range of horizontal and vertical mergers. political machines. has re-ignited a necessary debate over the eventual shape of the Federation. This brought him into conflict with Yeltsin's. This development does not necessarily herald a more rational pattern of economic activity. Up to now. regional political and business elites have been able to dominate their local economies. 'Oligarch' was the term coined to describe the small group of bankers. He was distancing himself from one of the most unpopular features of Yeltsin's presidency. but it is loosening the regional leaders' traditional control over. and among the regions themselves. He has also developed a political argument to justify his pursuit of Gusinsky and. The financial-industrial groups that have emerged have interests far beyond those of individual regions. and then Putin's. who were able to exploit Media-MOST's vulnerability through its debts to the gas monopoly. In practice. Since the middle of 2000. The 'oligarchs' The new generation of businessmenenjoys a respectableand stillprivileged position in Putin's Russia. for example. been made. His flagship. In the longer term. his fellow media magnate Berezovsky. nonetheless. Putin has been able to claim when convenient that this is just a commercial matter.under the same set of rules. the television channel NTV. will shape relations between the centre and the regions. however. It would take another article to explore them.

But there can be no doubt that Putin's personal vendetta against Gusinsky has created an atmosphere in which lower-grade officials have felt able to act with impunity. As acting president. 39 The classic case is Moscow Mayor Luzhkov's breach of a Constitutional Court ruling that his system of registration for Moscow inhabitants is unconstitutional. 23 Oct.35 It would be a mistake to see Putin's hand behind every development in these cases.kremlin. citizens' rights were insufficiently protected. Gazprom Media's boardroom coup against NTV on 3 April 200I stole the limelight from Putin's annual address to parliament on the same day.president. The Procuracy. to use against each other and against the state. 2000. 2000. The timing of their actions against Gusinsky has at times embarrassedPutin. and limit pre-trial detention to one year (currently eighteen months).ru/events/ 2.ru/events/85. 37 Interview with Le Figaro. remuneration and accountability of judges.president.36 Nor was the Media-MOST episode part of a concerted attack on the freedom of the press.html>. Legal reform Despite Putin's primitive view of the power of the state where politics are once referred to it as a 'cudgel'37-he has emerged as the involved-he of a badly needed reform of the judicial system. 2000.kremlin. Sanctions will be introduced to ensure Constitutional Court rulings are obeyed (currently they can be ignored with impunity). 36 Putin was on a visit to Spain when Gusinsky was arrested in June 2000 and was unable to respond cogently to press questions.president. <http://www. By its summer break the Duma had embarked on a package of laws that will raise the status.39 35 Interview with the Russian TV station RTR. Its effect has been to reduce the plurality of the press-a number of Gusinsky's other media outlets with a better claim to independence than NTV have suffered-and to induce a climate of fear stemming from the realization that the law will be used selectively against media organizations that step too far out of line. 23 Aug. 879 . betraying his obsession with the issue. 24Jan.html>. extend trial by jury throughout the country (at present it operates in only nine regions). <www.Putin's Russia claims that the weak financial basis of the Russian media has made them easy prey for business clans.38 The pace of legal reform increased in 2001. Putin deployed this argument with uncharacteristic bitterness in an otherwise balanced interview following the Kursk submarine disaster. and failure to reform would put Russia in breach of its international obligations following its ratification of the European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. increase the number and funding of courts and underpin them with a system of justices of the peace. 38 Speech to a conference of heads of regional courts.kremlin. the FSB. champion Putin argued that Yeltsin's faltering 1991 programme for judicial reform needed reviving: the judicial system did not conform to the 1993 constitution (into which some of the embryonic Yeltsin reforms had already been written). the press minister and Gazprom Media's own director all had scores to settle with Gusinsky. <http.html>.ru/events/ 6o.

Bankruptcy cases are still disguised forms of asset-stripping. Vladimir Ustinov.president. and to participants to an international conference on justice: <http://www. 4' Nikolai Aksenenko. Gazprom's manipulation of the courts in its case against Media-MOST would have been a poor advertisement for the system even if this case had been merely the resolution of a debt issue. therefore. Its monopoly of all stages of a case from investigation to search. Putin's recipe for overcoming Russia's economic backwardness is unequivocally linked with the integration of Russia into the world economy. It would be naive. but it has served as the menu from which the government has chosen a la carte.prosecution and supervision will be diluted.Although there has been little progress in the critical area of banking reform. The programme was an overlong wishlist. since it requires finance. has commercial interests in TV advertising. and some government ministers have a close commercial connection with the areas they supervise. training and a cultural as much as organizational shift in Russia's judicial practice. The Procurator General. particularlyin the tax and banking spheres. has intervened forcefully against the reform. 88o . a number of landmarks have already been 40 Putin was speaking at a meeting in Moscow on 9 July 200I with the president of the World Bank. James Wolfensohn. beginning in 2003. a deeply embedded Russian institution founded nearly 280 years ago by Peter the Great as the 'eye of the state'. has family interests in commercial enterprises linked to his ministry. and to divest the social support system of its Soviet-era inclusiveness in favour of targeted benefits. with no prioritization.40 Economic socialpolicies and Legal reform is an essential component of Putin's economic policy. Mikhail Lesin. the press minister. the railways minister.4I Putin's economic and social policies were knitted loosely together in an extensive programme drafted in German Grefs Centre for Strategic Assessments and approved by the government on 28 June 2000. The programme aimed to complete the restructuring of the economy. in which the law enforcement agencies are acting with as much licence as ever. Property rights are poorly protected and commercial courts ineffective. arrest. The test for Putin will be whether he can give consistent backing to measures that are unpopular with vested interests and little understood by the public at large. The lack of a working legal framework for economic activity has been one of the main drivers of economic crime and corruption and a disincentive to foreign investment in Russia. It is in any case to be introduced gradually.ru/events/254.html>. mainly due to the corruptibility of judges. to expect an immediate change in the present climate. The government is still intertwined with business.Martin Nicholson The most sensitive political aspect of the new laws is that they significantly curtail the powers of the Procuracy. kremlin. His defence of Russia's moratorium on the death penalty in July 200o-against the trend of popular opinion-was a good start. Seventy-two per cent of respondents to a VTsIOM survey in June 200I favoured the death penalty for serious crimes.

Aleksei Miller.org/fatf/pdf/PR-200oo622_en. 43 Legislation urged by the Financial Action Task Force against Money Laundering (FATF) in its annual (in English). a package of measures to de-bureaucratize the process of setting up and running a business-Putin claims to have intervened personally to push through the Duma a plan to reduce the number of activities for which a government licence must be obtained from over 500 to 102. In the summer of 2001 Putin launched another major reform: in housing and communal services. Rem Vyakhirev.oecd. <http://www. in addition to the judicial reform mentioned earlier. A compromise plan for the governmentcontrolled energy provider United Energy Systems (UES) will retain a stateowned national grid fed by privately owned electricity companies. And the replacement of the chief executive of Gazprom. and provide the basis of a mortgage market.pdf> 88i . designed to kick start the tax-paying habit. by one of Putin's former subordinates from St Petersburg. press conference.html>.42 a law to restrict opportunities for money laundering. including agricultural land.ru/events/264. promises greater transparency and accountability in a vast enterprise that had been run as a family business. i8 July 2001. legislation was at various stages of approval in the Duma in the following areas. which will institute contributory and graduated pensions in place of the current one-rate-for-all state pension. a reduction of corporate profit tax from 35 per cent to 24 per cent. By the summer of 2001. This has not been a high-profile political issue in postSoviet Russia.kremlin.Putin's Russia passed.43 * Labourand pensions: * * a Labour Code to replace the existing Soviet-era Code of 1972. Structural reform: * * a Land Code that will regularize the buying and selling of land. A plan for the gradual privatization of the railways has been adopted. report in June 2001: <http://www.president. and the lowering of some import tariffs. Budgetand tax: * * a balanced budget (for only the second time in the ten-year history of postSoviet Russia) on track for 2002. although not requiring legislation. the adoption of four bills on pension reform. Equally important. the easing of the tax burden through a 13 per cent flat rate for income tax. simply because people have been left to live in the style to which 42 Putin. a starthas been made in the restructuringof the naturalmonopolies.

and because the restructuring of the natural monopolies will bring an end to cross-subsidization.polit. regional or municipal coffers. Putin's answer was.' He went on to list a number of the measures that have been outlined in this article.MartinNicholson they had become accustomed-poor accommodation and services in return for minimal payment. cannot be achieved while this imbalance remains.ru/printable/42865o. envisaged under the plan to restructure UES. There are formidable obstacles to be overcome before this plan is put into effect. in their security and in conditions where they could feel proud of their country. whereby cheap energy for domestic consumption is subsidized by higher industrial prices. 2001. He hoped that by the next elections ordinary citizens would feel the effects in their pockets. concentrating on centre-region relations. as well as the wages of a range of state employees. Putin has not yet confronted his electorate with the cost of housing reformthe only reform to arouse more negative than positive expectations among the public. Its implementation should begin around 2004. What are the chances of this being achieved? Putin's reform programme re-introduces many of the initiatives of Yeltsin's short-lived 'young reformers' government of I997.'45 The relative economic boom of 2o00-brought about by high world prices for raw material exports. The plan is for residents to pay in full for privatized communal services. including the setting of norms for the payment of benefits and decisions on whether the money should come from central. in effect: 'Look at the record. These actions are the principal source of his continuing popularity. on 18 July 200I. Jan. The issue has to be tackled now because the crumbling of the infrastructurein some areas has become critical.html>. Looking ahead At his first major press conference as president.ru. the law on political parties and the laws to liberalize the economy. Putin was asked: 'Who is Mr Putin?' by the same Philadelphia Inquirer correspondent who them with the question had so embarrassedhis ministers when she confronted in Davos inJanuary 2000. www. 45 'Otkrytoe pis'mo'. and the government plans to continue subsidizing housing and utilities for another Io-I5 years. may mean that it moves ahead only slowly. which were strangled by 44 VTsIOM survey of the social-political situation in Russia in June 2001. polit.46 This factor. especially oil. 3 July 2001. 46 VTsIOM survey of social and political opinion. in this context he made no reference to Chechnya. <http:// 882 . 200I. as well as the inherent complexity of housing reform. 26 Jan. according to a mid-200I opinion poll. A competitive market in energy supply. together with the devaluation of the rouble-has allowed Putin to raise state pensions. with benefits available to those who cannot afford the cost.44 His popular message has been that Russians have been deprived of their natural share in the wealth of their land: 'Russia is a rich country of poor people. Significantly.

Putin risks being in the classic situation of having all the levers at his command. victory is not something his team will take for granted: they know better than most how easily swayed the electorate is. and will need to find a way of sharing political responsibility more broadly. The danger is that 'electoral techniques' will predominate over electoral politics. To this could be added the need to explain to the electorate the pain that real reform will 47 For a discussionof this vital subjectsee Alena Ledeneva. The greatest danger is that they will simply slow down and run into the sand as Putin's determination not to raise the political temperature inclines him more and more to compromise with vested interests. 883 . In two years' time Russia will be entering a new election cycle.Putin's Russia resistance from vested interests. but finding that nothing happens when he pulls them. Putin stands a better chance. political parties. businessmen. There are certainly those in Putin's entourage-principally the group from the Yeltsin administration mentioned earlier in this article-whose interests do not extend much further. the media-will ultimately harm Putin himself and his cause. Implementation of the reforms raises formidable obstacles. There is also nervousness in Putin's camp that a range of problems-the peaking of Russia's foreign debt repayments and the collapse of the ageing energy infrastructure are usually cited-are going to come together in 2003. That control is being achieved with suspicious ease because most of its victims have voluntarily rushed to join the ranks of the powers-that-be. Hence their desire to exercise total control over the political process and the media. in which mastery of the unwritten rules is allimportant.Unwritten how rules: Russiareally works (London: Centre for EuropeanReform. But for the same reason it is deceptive.47 It is obvious that one man can do little to free the country from its ingrained habits. 2001). but at the moment two cheers rather than three are in order. reviewed in this issue of International Affairs. as outward shows of loyalty conceal resistance to policies that impinge on vested interests. The present trend is in the opposite direction: towards a concentration of power in the presidency. The danger is that elements of the powerful if discordant coalition in the middle groundbureaucrats. It is a measure of Russia's progress towards the long-desired goal of being a 'normal country' that free elections are a factor built into its political life. Putin will need allies. This is where the drive for control-of the regions. regional elites and law enforcement agencies-will continue to play their own game. More legislation will do little of itself to bring about the cultural change that would lead to respect for the law. Although it is hard to envisage a scenario under which Putin will not be re-elected in 2004. It is symptomatic that much of the restructuring of the natural monopolies has been left in the hands of the monopolists themselves. by the deteriorating financial position and by Yeltsin's own increasingly erratic attention to the issues. uncomfortably close to the Duma and presidential election dates. and Putin has shown that he is frequently prey to them himself.

But time is on his side. The question of whether Putin will be a successful 'liberal conservative'. These are the factors that are causing his advisers to play with the idea of bringing forward the Duma elections from their due date of December 2003. a drain on the state's resources and Putin's authority. One test of Putin's leadership and his commitment to reform will be whether he shows himself master of his own house in managing his political and electoral strategy. if nothing worse. And Chechnya will continue to be.Martin Nicholson bring-probably in economic circumstances less favourable than those of today. remains open. 884 . his vision of the state is too narrowly identified with the centralization of political power to be able to sustain the variety of political and social forces that go to make up a civil society. On present evidence. as suggested by Pavlovsky. which in turn underpins a successful market economy.

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