Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Is Putin, like Stalin, Going to be a General Secretary? ‘Nezavisimaya Gazeta’ Asks

Paul Goble

            Staunton, February 19 – In a lead article today, the editors of Nezavisimaya gazeta suggest that the format in which Vladimir Putin’s new national projects are being discussed looks like a test of what may become the future “mechanism of power” in the Russian Federation, one in which the Kremlin leader would retain power under a new title.

            The State Council, which some have suggested could become the governing body of Russia after 2024 and allow Putin to continue in power in a new position, showed this past week how that body might be constituted, including ministries and governors working under someone who might be a general secretary (ng.ru/editorial/2019-02-19/2_7512_red.html).

                At one level, of course, what has occurred looks only like a brainstorming session given that it brings together officials who themselves have organized discussions in advance of the meeting.  But Sergey Kiriyenko, the first deputy chief of the Presidential Administration, implied that it could be something more in comments to the media by his praise of this arrangement. 

            Kiriyenko called the use of the State Council in the way Putin has just done “a qualitatively different system of administration.” The only way this arrangement was new is that governors and ministers were included in a common body and allowed to discuss things on that basis.

            This reflects an important reality, the editors of the Moscow paper say. “People live not in ministries but in regions; the country is enormous and varied, and there cannot be a one-size-fits-all approach” to many policies. And that does represent a change in how business is done in Moscow.

            As a result, Nezavisimaya gazeta suggests, “it would be more logical” to consider that what is taking place is the outgrowth of decisions by the Kremlin leadership to do away with “the aging power constructions” of the present and come up with new ones, especially given what has come to be called the “2024 problem” of political transition.

            If the State Council became the central organ of power in Russia, the editors says, it would be something like a Politburo; and then the key official would be its secretary general just as was the case during Soviet times. Putin could occupy that position, continue to control all that goes on in the country, but not violate the constitution by continuing as president.

            That after all is how Stalin ran the Soviet Union for most of his career, a model that Putin, one of his admirers, has certainly considered. 

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