Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Zubkov is In


Vladimir Putin has nominated Viktor Zubkov, head of the agency that investigates financial crimes, to serve as prime minister.

It's difficult to see Zubkov as being the designated "heir" to become president. It is important to note that if one looks at the last years of the second term of the Yeltsin Administration, a series of prime ministers were appointed, in part to keep the political establishment off balance.

This also gives some "breathing room" if the overall succession issue has not been settled by having another technocratic prime minister in place for the next several months, while negotations would continue over how power would be distributed. Remember, the lesson many in the Russian elite learned from the Orange Revolution of 2004 in Ukraine was that when the elite is divided and cannot reach consensus, the system becomes destabilized.

I assume many would consider Zubkov part of the extended "Petersburg" group, given that he is a 1965 graduate of the Leningrad Agricultural Institute and worked for many years in different positions in the Leningrad Communist Party apparatus. He served in the St. Petersburg mayoral administration (deputy chair of the external affairs committee) when Putin was vice-mayor under Anatoly Sobchak. After leaving the mayor's administration in 1993 he moved over to the Tax Inspectorate and has held various positions for both the St Petersburg region, the Northwest region and in the federal government, and held cabinet-level rank in the government under both Prime MInister Kasyanov and then Prime Minister Fradkov.

Those who look for increasing family ties as a sign of the development of a new political oligarcy might take note of the fact that Zubkov's daughter is married to the curretn defense minister, Anatoly Serdyukov.

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