Staunton, July 21 – A close examination of Moscow’s appointment of two deputy prime ministers as curators for the Southern Federal District (Aleksandr Novak) and the North Caucasus Federal District (Marat Khusnullin) has sparked speculation as to where this reform is heading.
Commentators elsewhere have suggested that the reform has the potential to reform the Putin system but that it may collapse of its own weight because it creates dual chains of command whose heads almost certainly will compete with each other to the detriment of the system.
Andrey Krasno of the Kavkazr portal discusses this change with three analysts, each of which points to a different possible set of consequences of these appointments (kavkazr.com/a/mega-regiony-i-vozvraschenie-krasnoyarskogo-klana-chto-zhdatj-ot-kuratorov-yuga-rossii/31369844.html; cf. windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2021/07/putting-vice-premiers-over-federal.html).
Vitaly Arkov, founder of the PolitRUS expert-analytic group, says that these appointments may only reflect a finding by Moscow that the political plenipotentiary system is not working as it should or they may represent the first step toward the amalgamation of regions, beginning with the North Caucasus.
But he says that the resistance of regional elites and especially non-Russian ones to full amalgamation means that this new arrangement may be a half-way house involving economic but not political amalgamation. That may be why Moscow has put different officials in charge of it.
Among the agglomerations Arkov says are most likely are Rostov (including Rostov Oblast and, if the Donbass is absorbed, the Donbass republics), Krasnodar (Kuban and Adygeya) and Volgograd (Volgograd and Astrakhan oblasts and Kalmykia).
Gennady Kosov, head of the Stavropol branch of the Civil Society Development Foundation, says he is sure that the reform reflects the center’s unhappiness with how the plenipotentiary system has been working and notes that the idea of appointing curators based in Moscow over them has been discussed for some time.
But there are two sets of unresolved issues, Kosov continues. On the one hand, how will the new arrangement avoid the problems of duplication and dual subordination? And on the other, given the difference in status of the deputy PMs appointed, does Moscow intend to treat all these super-regions the same or has it decided to focus on some one way and on others another.
But Anton Chablin, head of the Aktsenty Analytic Center, says that the differing appointments make sense because the challenges in the two places are so different. The only real question is how effective Khusnullin may be in overseeing Russian-occupied Crimea together with the Southern FD components.
Krasno for his part concludes by noting that some of the component parts of the North Caucasus FD are already appointing curators for portions of their regions and republics. Last fall, for example, Chechnya named a relative of Ramzan Kadyrov, Idris Cherkhigov, to oversee two districts within that republic (kavkazr.com/a/30853961.html).