- Power Shifts – Putin/Medvedev – required reading for the week. Nezavisimaya Gazeta asks the increasingly popular question, “who actually runs Russia?” What I like about this piece and what distinguishes it from related stories is that they look at the makeup of the bureaucracy. The author breaks down the percentage of officials from the Yeltsin (13.2%), Putin (77.4%), Medvedev (9.4%) eras. Clearly, the numbers show we are still looking at a Putinist Russia, but equally important is the trajectory. I would expect that a similar breakdown in 2003 would reveal an overwhelmingly Yeltsinite bureaucracy. The article also examines where Medvedev’s ‘people’ are located (unsurprisingly more are in the courts and business than in executive organs).
- Other Power Vertical Coverage – for those as interested as I am in this subject, here are some other relevant pieces of news since I last posted – CrisisCrunch asks whether Medvedev’s Go Russia! is going anywhere, and notes Russia’s history of leaders who sit back for the first few years before consolidating power. The Russian elite awaits systemic personnel changes, while Putin and Medvedev prepare for chistki. Chuichenko and Chaika will audit the state-owned monopolies, a well-known source of wealth and power for the siloviki (btw, beginning to think Chaika will be around for awhile…what a survivor).
- Storchak’s Trial to Begin Soon (English coverage) – the former Deputy Finance Minister will soon go to trial for embezzlement charges. The Prosecutor General’s office has ten days to decide whether or not to pursue the case based on the findings of the Investigative Committee.
- Strategic Industries Law Update – on October 17, the Russian government issued Decree No. 838 “On the Approval of Rules for Obtaining Preliminary Approval for Foreign Investments in Strategic Enterprises,’ in conformity with Article 11.6 of the Strategic Industries Law. It is mostly a procedural reform to the law with regards to the submission of applications. I haven’t had enough time to figure out for sure, but I think it might simply be a binding codification and supplementation of the rules issued by the Federal Antimonopoly Service (FAS) last year. Also, for readers who work at member-companies of the U.S.-Russia Business Council, FAS Head Igor Artemyev will be in D.C. on November 11, and will address the Strategic Sectors Law in his presentation.
- Russia in the Journals – for the non-Russian speakers, there is plenty of material to get through in the Fall issues of The National Interest and The Journal of International Security Affairs. Over at TNI, Paul Saunders and Dmitri Simes write in “The Kremlin Begs to Differ” that Russia’s biggest problems are domestic but the U.S. shouldn’t obsess over these issues etc. At TJISA, they have a whole series of articles on Russia/Eurasia, covering Russia’s demographic problem, a prediction of future Euro-Russian conflict, and an update on ‘the great game’ in Central Asia. I guess anyone can appreciate these articles from a factual standpoint, in that they provide the most recent information relevant to the topics. Still, I fail to see how many of these articles constitute ‘scholarship’ (propaganda might be a more fitting term). I like TNI and Dmitri Simes, but this is essentially the same U.S.-Russian relations article they print every four months. Also, I don’t see anyone trying to publish yet another article on Russia’s demographic crisis can expect to be taken seriously. The article on a coming conflict with Europe gets brownie points for boldness, but we all know that the author is anticipating the same old end-of-the-year gas price dispute between Gazprom and Ukraine/Belarus. I don’t understand the lack of diversity of ideas in the West’s geopolitical scholarship on Russia/Eurasia. Instead we’re constantly given the same tired narratives, sometimes in the exact same packaging.
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