Monday, May 12, 2008

New Cabinet in Russia

The composition of the cabinet, as selected by prime minister designate Vladimir Putin for ratification to new president Dmitry Medvedev, is a further signal of the importance of maintaining a united consensus. It also suggests that the message to all Kremlin factions is that it is better to be part of the large tent than cast outside of it.

The cabinet, as noted, will have seven vice prime-ministers serving under Putin; starting with the two "first vice premiers"--the former prime minister Viktor Zubkov and the G-8 sherpa and former deputy chief of staff for Putin, Igor Shuvalov. Putin aide Igor Sechin will now supervise industrial policy. Sergei Ivanov remains a vice prime minister, although no longer one of the two deputies. Putin's chief of staff remains in that position, switching from the presidential administration to the prime ministerial one, while another "Petersburger", Sergei Naryshkin, moves into the position of the presidential chief of staff.

Finance Minister Kudrin retains his portfolio, along with Economic Development minister Elvira Nabiullina, while Sergei Lavrov and Anatoly Serdyukov retain the foreign ministry and the defense ministry, respectively.

Viktor Khristenko, who in the past served as energy minister, is the new minister of industry, and he will supervise a number of key agencies, among the Russian Fund for Federal Property and the Federal Agency for Industrial Development (Rosprom).

Signals so far? A strong sense of continuity--very few personnel shakeups. Second, a desire to avoid radical breaks or conflicts; many of Putin's presidential administration is migrating into the government, freeing up new appointments for Medvedev. Finally, my early read--a "balancing" effect where cabinet ministers are balanced with the deputies to the prime minister.

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