Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Window on Eurasia: Competition among Russian Force Structures Intensifying, Stanovaya Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, May 20 – Vladimir Putin’s recent cadres shifts at the top of the force structures of the Russian Federation not only highlights an increase in their influence in Russian political life but also about “heightened competition among them,” according to Tatyana Stanovaya, the head of the analytic department of the Moscow Center for Political Technologies.

            In an essay on Politcom.ru yesterday, she identifies three trends, each of which she suggests calls attention to both these aspects of the role of the force structures in Putin’s Russia and collectively suggest that Putin is seeking to prevent any one of these structures from acquiring unquestioned dominance (politcom.ru/17594.html).

            The first trend, Stanovaya suggests, is “the exit of cadres from the Federal Protective Service.  In July 2013, Viktor Zolotov, then head of that institution, was sent to head the Internal Forces.  Some treated that as an honorable retirement, but others saw it as providing him with a new launching pad.

            Now, the analyst says, “it has become known that Zolotov not only became commander in chief [of those forces] but also first deputy minister,” unlike his predecessor who was only a deputy minister.  Zolotov, Stanovaya reminds, has been close to Putin since the latter’s 1990s days in St. Petersburg.

            While the Federal Protection Service had gone into eclipse during the presidency of Dmitry Medvedev, its people are now engaged in “an active cadres expansion,” one that recalls the events of 1983 when cadres from the KGB filled [the top ranks] of the Ministry of Internal Affairs” of the Soviet Union.

            Now, it has been reported but not yet confirmed, Zolotov will be given “the politically significant project” of creating on the basis of the internal forces a National Guard.” Moreover, Zolotov is not the only Federal Protective Service official to be reassigned elsewhere. Others include Dmitry Mironov who has been sent to a senior post in the Interior Ministry.

            The second trend, Stanovaya says, is the intensification of attacks by the FSB on the Interior Ministry, most clearly shown in the arrest on May 8 of Denis Sugrobov, who had been head of the economic security and counter-corruption administration there, until his arrest for exceeding his authority, an action initiated by the FSB.

            The situation is still murky, the analyst continues, but one thing is clear from “the stylistics of Putin’s cadres decisions regarding the Interior Ministry: He clearly does not want to see any one part of the force structures become so predominant that it cannot be challenged and therefore is taking steps to create “counterweights” to each of them.

            And the third trend, the analyst says, is the broadening of the representation of people from the force structures in other parts of the government.  The most prominent example of this was his appointment of two generals to be presidential plenipotentiaries in the federal districts of the North Caucasus and Siberia. 

            It may be too early to generalize from this, Stanovaya says.  In many respects, the plenipotentiary position was especially important “only in the North Caucasus,” and putting a general in there indicates a new concern with security issues.  And the Siberian appointment may simply be an honorary retirement.

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