Staunton, October 13 – On Ekho Moskvy’s “Personally Yours,” Vladmir Pastukhov develops the ideas he first laid out in a recent essay, “Vayno – Why Not?” in which he described the way in which the Presidential Administration is being formalized, bureaucratized and institutionalized in ways that reflect Putin’s preferences but affect his rule.
(His latest comments are available online at echo.msk.ru/programs/personalno/2724193-echo/. The London-based Russian analyst’s original article is at mbk-news.appspot.com/sences/vajno-vaj-not/. It is summarized and discussed at windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2020/10/putin-increasingly-more-like-gorbachev.html.)
The evolution of the decision-making process under Putin recapitulates the history of that in Soviet times, Pastukhov says. Initially, many people clamored for the attention of the ruler and the ruler made decisions or didn’t in a largely informal way. Over time, given the strength of Russian statehood traditions, the entire process was bureaucratized.
The very same thing has been happening in Russia under Putin. Initially, there was a congeries of people seeking to influence him; now, there is a bureaucratic structure that limits the ability of such people to affect outcomes and also ensures that the bureaucracy itself gains in strength relative to the ruler, who must find ways to ensure his all-powerful position.
Pastukhov suggests that one can call this “a secondary institutionalization,” one in which efforts to ensure efficiency in implementing decisions have the effect of changing how the decisions are made and, effectively, who decides because the options presented to Putin are options that do not fall from the heavens but that someone decides to include or not.
“If an authoritarian system is incapable of evolving in this direction, it will simply be destroyed from within,” he continues. But once this evolution occurs, the roles of the ruler and of the bureaucracy change, with the latter gaining more power, sometimes with the approval of the top official and sometimes against him as Soviet history shows.
Anton Vayno, head of the Presidential Administration, is not the only player in this bureaucratic system, but he is far more powerful than Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin because the latter heads an institution “which is losing its influence in Russia” and which is becoming ever less political and ever more simply an administrative structure.
While Putin remains on top and can impose his will on any issue he chooses, he lacks the time and the interest to get involved in everything. And in those areas and even in others he does care about, the bureaucrats will assume a larger role and change the nature of his regime with his support or even against his interests.