Kremlin Hardliners Target Security Council Post While Putin Plays for Time August 16, 2007
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OSC Analysis :
The departure of former-Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov as secretary of the Russian Security Council suggests that factions within the Kremlin are tussling for this post, presumably as a platform for maintaining their influence in the post-Putin era. (1) The low-profile Ivanov was the target of a sudden media campaign of vilification which Ivanov himself and media reports said had been commissioned and which one source blamed on Viktor Cherkesov, a leading hardliner. Amid media speculation tipping Cherkesov and other prominent hardliners, or even President Putin himself, to take over from Ivanov, Putin delayed accepting Ivanov's resignation, and then he named as his acting replacement Ivanov's long-serving deputy, Valentin Sobolev, whom observers near-unanimously dismissed as a temporary placeholder. Sobolev (Kommersant.ru, 19 July)
In what appeared to be a coordinated campaign of mudslinging, planted reports in a variety of media in late June and early July leveled a wide range of accusations against Ivanov, who since taking over as Security Council secretary in 2004 had maintained a low public profile.
An article in the daily Novyye Izvestiya, ostensibly claiming that Ivanov was a candidate to succeed Putin, accused the former foreign minister of having a monthly income of $5-7 million from a gambling business in Moscow, of having connections with organized crime in Spain, and of having presided over large-scale misappopriation of state funds in the Foreign Ministry (5 July).
Several articles in large-circulation papers charged that Ivanov had been instrumental in a 1990 deal ceding to the United States rights to a large area of the Bering Sea, rich in fish stocks and oil reserves, to the detriment of Russia's interests. The articles insinuated that Ivanov had been paid off, and they made other damaging allegations against him (Trud, 29 June; Moskovskiy Komsomolets, Tvoy Den, 5 July).
The tabloid Nasha Versiya published a long article detailing "unsavory episodes" and financial misdeeds from Ivanov's time at the Foreign Ministry (2 July). Solomin, a bogus LiveJournal blog account reportedly linked to the popular scandalmongering Compromat.ru website, (2) and Compromat.ru itself also posted the article, ensuring that these allegations reached members of Russia's active blogging community and Internet users (2 July).
A late-night program on the Moscow city government's Center TV aired allegations against Ivanov and called on the General Prosecutor's Office to investigate him (6 July). Anti-Ivanov Campaign Said Commissioned...
Both Ivanov himself and several media sources indicated that the defamatory reports had been published for payment.
Ivanov said he had met with leading editors who "recounted with surprise that messengers with large bundles of money (tens of thousands of dollars) had approached them and asked them to publish compromat (compromising material) about me" (Izvestiya, 19 July).
Aleksey Venediktov, chief editor of editorially independent Ekho Moskvy radio, described the "wave" of allegations against Ivanov as "artificial" and said he had been called by other chief editors who asked: "Have people come along to see you and promised you money for badmouthing Ivanov?" (Ekho Moskvy, 7 July).
The pro-Kremlin tabloid Komsomolskaya Pravda said that it had received "a bundle of compromat" about Ivanov, but, after perusing the material, the paper held off from publishing it since "some things seemed to us to be only too implausible" (10 July).
Perhaps reluctant to be seen as yielding to pressure over Ivanov, Putin was slow to accept Ivanov's resignation, which was submitted 15 June, according to the business daily Kommersant (19 July).
On 14 July, after the flurry of media attacks on Ivanov, Putin pointedly held a conference of the Security Council in which Ivanov took part along with other senior leaders (ITAR-TASS, 14 July). According to Ivanov, who said he was quitting politics for academic work, at the conference Putin "spoke kind words about me and spoke highly of my work as foreign minister and Security Council secretary" (Izvestiya, 19 July).
Only on 18 July did Putin formally accept Ivanov's resignation (Interfax, 18 July) and appoint the little-known Valentin Sobolev, a former first deputy director of the Federal Security Service (FSB) who had served as deputy secretary of the Security Council since 1999, as Ivanov's acting replacement (Lenta.ru, 18 July). Saying he saw no need to extend the Security Council's powers, Putin indicated that he was considering various options "as regards who should head this structure" and declared: "I think this question will be closed soon" (Agentstvo Voyennykh Novostey, 20 July)....
Linked to Elections
Although media reports indicated that Ivanov had been out of sympathy with Russia's recent anti-Western course and had opposed the introduction of sanctions against Georgia in 2006 (Vek, Vremya Novostey 19 July; Moskovskiy Komsomolets, 7 July), (3) several observers linked his departure to Kremlin infighting prior to the end of Putin's presidential term, citing the anti-Ivanov campaign as evidence for this theory.
Recalling the "compromat" about Ivanov, Tatyana Stanovaya of the independent Political Technologies Center asserted that his replacement "involves the career interests of a political figure in Putin's entourage. The tough negative campaign regarding Ivanov shows that the apparatus struggle within the regime is intensifying with the approach of the presidential elections" (Politkom.ru, 16 July).
Pundit Dmitriy Badovskiy declared that Ivanov's post was "the focus of attention of various groups within the president's entourage as one item in the formation of a new balance of forces in connection with Putin's upcoming departure. And this was the main reason for the media campaign against Ivanov" (Obshchaya Gazeta. ru, 19 July).
Mikhail Rostovskiy, the perceptive Kremlin observer for the mass-circulation Moskovskiy Komsomolets, noted that "reportedly representatives of the Kremlin siloviki had several times hinted" to Ivanov that he should go. Rostovskiy said this was "indirectly confirmed by the real media war" against Ivanov (7 July). Media Tip Hardliners, Putin for Security Council Job...
Although Sobolev knows Putin "well," served as Putin's deputy during the latter's brief stint as Security Council head (Kommersant, 19 July), and is "a member of the president's team" (Moskovskiye Novosti, 20 July), most observers dismissed him as a temporary placeholder and predicted that Putin would appoint a prominent figure to head the Security Council, perhaps extending its powers too. Most of the mooted appointees were figures seen as Kremlin hardliners, in sharp contrast to the pro-Western Ivanov.
The pro-Kremlin weekly Moskovskiye Novosti suggested that Putin will need "a reliable structure that will not betray him" pending his possible return to the presidency in 2012. The weekly also suggested that Putin may choose the Security Council for this purpose, in which case "it may be transformed into a security organ monitoring the activity of the Kremlin, the government, and the special services in order to ensure the conditions for Putin's activity as head of a state oil and gas corporation and for his subsequent return to the post of president. In that case, the Security Council will go to another chekist -- (Federal Service for Control Over the Trafficking of Narcotics head) Viktor Cherkesov, (Putin aide) Viktor Ivanov, or (Deputy Chief of Presidential Staff) Igor Sechin. Someone whom Putin trusts and who will not betray him" (3 August). Cherkesov (v1t.net, 18 August 2003)
The elite-oriented Nezavisimaya Gazeta similarly tipped Cherkesov and Viktor Ivanov, adding Foreign Intelligence Service head Sergey Lebedev as another possible candidate (25 July). Anti-Kremlin commentator Stanislav Belkovskiy not only named Cherkesov as the "priority contender" for the Security Council post but also bluntly asserted that Cherkesov had been behind the compromat campaign (City - fm. ru, 9 July). Belkovskiy also claimed that Cherkesov had the support of "influential people like (former Chief of Presidential Staff) Aleksandr Voloshin and (oligarch) Roman Abramovich" (APN.ru, 9 July).
Liberal Democratic Party of Russia leader Vladimir Zhirinovskiy, who is reputed often to cooperate with the Kremlin, tipped Sechin as the leading candidate, declaring: "He is ripe for such a post" (Regnum, 18 July).
Other possible candidates mentioned by media sources included Duma speaker Boris Gryzlov, Putin aide Igor Shuvalov, General Prosecutor Yuriy Chayka, FSB head Nikolay Patrushev, Emergencies Minister Sergey Shoygu, and Southern Federal District representative Dmitriy Kozak (Vek, Strana.ru, Nezavisimaya Gazeta, 19 July).
A handful of media sources suggested that Sobolev's appointment could be permanent. For instance, while conceding that "experts almost unanimously regard" Sobolev's appointment as "technical," Izvestiya suggested Sobolev may stay on in view of his past connections with Putin (20 July).
A few commentators suggested that Putin himself might become head of a Security Council with expanded powers once he steps down as president. Moskovskiye Novosti
Chief Editor Vitaliy Tretyakov declared that "after he has left the post of president (but not the Kremlin, which is critically important) Vladimir Putin himself will become secretary of a Security Council with greatly expanded powers." Tretyakov made a similar prediction in June (Moskovskiye Novosti, 10 August, 15 June).
Citing Kremlin sources, the informative daily Gazeta reported that the Presidential Administration is drafting a bill extending the Security Council's powers and said that "experts do not discount the possibility" that Putin will become its secretary after his presidential term ends. Gazeta quoted pro-Kremlin pundit Sergey Markov, who observed that the Security Council's functions are "strengthened during periods of transition.... We are now preparing for the 2007-2008 transition, and the Security Council is reverting to the same role as a parallel supervisory government whose duty is to guarantee implementation of the national leader's political course" (26 July).
Andrey Malashenko of the Carnegie Moscow Center observed that "various candidates are being named, right up to Vladimir Putin. In that case, the Security Council would indeed be quite an effective organization" (Moskovskiye Novosti, 27 July).... Say
Putin Balancing Kremlin Factions
Several observers argued that Putin had made only an acting appointment because he wished to avoid favoring any of the interest groups within the Kremlin.
Igor Bunin, head of the Political Technologies Center, said that "any other appointment" besides Sobolev "would have meant a strengthening of the position of one group: the Sechin group, the (Sergey) Ivanov group, or the Cherkesov group. So Vladimir Putin decided to maintain the balance of forces" (Moskovskiye Novosti, 27 July). Badovskiy argued that Sobolev's appointment "gives Putin time to think and to calm the tussle between various contenders and, at the same time, to 'suspend' the situation and retain political control." He suggested that Putin might also "regard this post as important from the viewpoint of establishing a system of collective leadership, a 'collective Politburo' to lead the country" after his departure (Obshchaya Gazeta.ru, 19 July). Implications Putin's assurance that Ivanov's successor would be decided "soon" and that he saw no need to strengthen the Security Council is starkly at variance with his failure so far to appoint a permanent replacement for Ivanov and with media reports that the Kremlin has plans to boost the council. This discrepancy may indicate that Putin's freedom of action is circumscribed amid continuing division and uncertainty within the Kremlin over the institutional structure of the post-Putin regime and over various interest groups' place within that structure.
Appendix: Sobolev's Biography
Valentin Alekseyevich Sobolev, the son of a border guard, was born 11 March 1947 in the Turkmen Soviet Socialist Republic. He graduated from the Moscow Construction Engineering Institute in 1964 and the KGB Higher School in 1974. From 1972, he worked for the KGB and its successor organizations, serving as head of the KGB's Tomsk Directorate in the early 1990s and making several trips to Chechnya in 1995 to coordinate the actions of the special services there.
Sobolev became first deputy director of the FSB in 1997, working under Putin from July 1998. Shortly after Putin became FSB director and Security Council secretary, he transferred Sobolev to the Council as deputy secretary. Sobolev served in this capacity under Putin, Sergey Ivanov, Vladimir Rushaylo, and Igor Ivanov (Kommersant, 19 July).
In 2000, Sobolev helped draft the Information Security Concept, "which was seen by many people as an instrument for limiting the freedom of the mass media and, in particular, the emerging political Internet media" (Vremya Novostey, 19 July).
According to Moskovskiye Novosti, the transfer of leadership of the Security Council "from a diplomat to a counterintelligence officer could lead to certain changes in Russian foreign policy" (20 July).
(1) Although the functions and powers of the Russian Security Council are unclear, both President Putin himself and leading succession contender First Vice Premier Sergey Ivanov formerly served as its secretary, leading many observers to regard this as a key post and even as a "launchpad for the successor" (Strana.ru, 19 July).
(2) For more on Solomin and Compromat.ru, see the 6 June 2006 OSC Translation, Russia: Compromat.ru Website Ceases Operation (CEP20060606025003).
(3) According to Moskovskiy Komsomolets, Ivanov was "virtually the only major official who would occasionally venture to argue with Putin over foreign policy issues" (7 July).
This OSC product is based exclusively on the content and behavior of selected media and has not been coordinated with other US Government components.
Сайт открыт 22-08-2000, автор: Ба-лдей Ага