Staunton, January 22 – At the start of his third decade in power, Vladimir Putin is behaving as have many other leaders in office for long periods of time, Aleksey Shaburov says. He has changed his relationship to those around him from “first among equals” to “simply first without any equals” by distancing himself from those with any claim to a higher standing.
The Yekaterinburg commentator says that Putin’s address to the Federal Assembly provided clear proof of that (politsovet.ru/65248-pervyy-bez-ravnyh-putin-distanciruetsya-ot-svoey-elity.html):
“Putin said a lot about his plans but did not say anything about the main plan, how, over the next few hours after this, he would send the government into retirement.” Almost no one among them knew anything and there were no leaks, an indication that this was Putin’s decision without the kind of consultation and discussion they might have expected.
The next signal of Putin’s changed relationship with those around him was the retirement of Dmitry Medvedev, his “devoted” partner in the past who had “reliably served Putin almost 30 years.” He was ousted without ceremony and given an honorific post “without real power or authority.”
Moreover, two officials who had worked with Putin since his time in St. Petersburg, deputy prime ministers Dmitry Kozak and Vitaly Mutko, were also ousted. They may get something profitable in business but they are no longer to be close to Putin or the center of power.
Their departure means that “in the new government in general do not remain any ‘Petersburgers,’ those who began their ascent to the heights of power together with Putin” when he was “a simple official.” And that means that “a new era has really begun,” one without such people and the special access they had.
And then there is Yury Chaika, Shaburov points out. He had been procurator general since 2006 and, before that, justice minister in the first Putin government in 1999 but now is out. He will now be only presidential plenipotentiary in the North Caucasus, again very far from the center of power.
“The trend is obvious,” the editor of the Politsovet portal says. “Putin is removing from the power structures all those with whom he once had any personal relations and even more personal obligations. In their place are coming people with a different background, those who began their careers when Putin already was at the top.”
“Putin doesn’t have any obligations too them, and they owe him everything,” Shaburov says. It is likely that “Putin wants to complete the total transformation and rotation of elites in the course of the next several years [because] he wants to leave the presidency surrounded by a new class of administrators.”
The issue now is not whether they are technocrats or siloviki. Instead, it is about installing those who cannot imagine “in Putin’s own opinion” a state without him as the main force and who do not consider themselves in any way his equal. “This will be a guarantee of his power even after his exit from the office of president.”
Such people will “not ask excessive questions, always stand behind their chief, and fulfill any order. And it is precisely with an elite of that kind that Putin wants to rule Russia in the coming years.”