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By John Helmer, Moscow

President Vladimir Putin is considering whether to appoint a vice president for negotiating an end to sanctions with the US and the European Union (EU), and an about-turn in Russia’s foreign and defence policy.  

In the scheme proposed by former finance minister Alexei Kudrin (lead image, centre), the job would hold more power than the prime minister, allowing Dmitry Medvedev to remain in his place, but subordinating him to the new man.  Kudrin’s idea is that he would become this de facto vice president; the dominant policymaker of the government after Putin; and his likely successor.

Vice president is the term being used among Kremlin officials and advisors. Not since the constitutional crisis of 1993, when Vice President Alexander Rutskoi led the Russian parliament in rebellion against President Boris Yelstin, has the position of vice president existed in Russia, with the power to succeed or replace the incumbent president. It is an arrangement for which Kudrin claims to have the backing of the US and the EU.  Kudrin would also draw on the support of the Russian oligarchs, inside and outside the country.

The Kudrin scheme is being opposed as capitulation by the leadership of Russia’s defence, military and security forces. The Defence Minister, Sergei Shoigu, the chief of the General Staff, General Valery Gerasimov, the deputy prime minister in charge of the military-industrial complex, Dmitry Rogozin, and other senior officials have been trying to persuade Putin to appoint a new prime minister to fight the military, economic and information war which they believe the US intends to wage against Russia until the Kremlin accepts  the West’s terms. For the story of their Stavka, read this.  

These officials are fiercely opposed to Kudrin, and to his attempt to make an alliance with Medvedev to claim the legal succession to Putin, should Putin agree to relinquish the powers and policies against which the NATO powers have planned regime change.    

Igor Sechin, the chief executive of Rosneft and a presidential succession contender himself, is not in the running for the so-called vice presidency. Sources close to him say he is opposed to the ambitions of Kudrin and Medvedev but he is biding his time. As deputy chief of the Kremlin staff when Putin was president between 2000 and 2008, Sechin was the de facto vice president for domestic policy, and dwarfed Medvedev.

The Russian Constitution of December 1992 provided for a vice president as the second ranking official of the state. He was to be elected with the president on the same ticket, American style. The Constitution’s Article 121-7 said:  “The vice-president of the Russian Federation carries out his separate powers at the request of the President of the Russian Federation. The vice-president of the Russian Federation replaces the President of the Russian Federation in case of his absence.” 

There has been only one – Alexander Rutskoi (right), a major-general in the Soviet Air Force and decorated combat veteran of the Afghan War. After he led the rebellion against Boris Yeltsin in 1993, he was suspended by Yeltsin in a decree the Constitutional Court ruled to be illegal. With a vote of parliament Rutskoi became acting president on September 22, 1993. Two weeks later he was defeated in the Yeltsin-ordered attack on the parliament building, and imprisoned. Yeltsin then arranged for a new constitution which was  ratified by a fraudulent referendum in December 1993. In the new Yeltsin charter the vice president’s post was erased. In its place, a subordinate prime minister, named by the president but not voted by a general election, was substituted.

Kudrin’s ambition to take power is so well-known, in September 2011 it brought him into open conflict with Medvedev, then president and hoping for a second term.  Kudrin declared his power grab in Washington. When he returned to Moscow, Medvedev gave him a tongue-lashing on television and sacked him. Putin, then the prime minister and intent on recovering the presidency for himself in 2012, defended Kudrin by saying “our very personal and my good friend” had suffered an “emotional breakdown”.

Three months later, at Putin’s national call-in television show, he was restored.  “Aleksei Leonidovich Kudrin has not left my team.  We are old comrades, he’s my friend. He did a lot for the country. I’m proud that this man worked in my government. Such people are needed and will be needed in current and future governments.”  The US state broadcaster RFE/RL headlined the rehabilitation: “Putin And Kudrin: Russia’s Real Tandem”.


Source: https://www.rferl.org/a/putin_kudrin_russias_real_tandem/24424519.html

Kudrin, a St. Petersburg economist with Putin in the mayoral administration of Anatoly Sobchak in the mid-1990s, has been Putin’s Svengali for austerity budgeting, privatization of state assets, and oligarch control of the economy for twenty years. His record for enriching himself has been attested by sources inside Alrosa, the state diamond miner, whose board Kudrin controlled when he was finance minister.  Start reading the backfile here.

Last week Kudrin advertised his readiness for promotion to Putin’s official deputy, briefing the press on his proposals for “a fair parity — after six years of growth in unproductive spending, move to a six-year increase in productive spending.” Kudrin meant six years since his dismissal from office. He also means to implement sharp cuts in defence spending, and a policy of withdrawal from the Ukraine and Syrian fronts on the terms demanded by Washington.  He favours a massive sell-off of state assets to the oligarchs, whose capital export Kudrin has long protected, and whose bailout by the state banks Kudrin directed in 2008 with his longtime ally, German Gref (lead image, 2nd from left), chief executive of Sberbank.   When Kudrin uses the word reform, he means a privatization of the state’s assets to the oligarchs, and nationalization of the oligarchs’ losses and liabilities.

Last week too, Kudrin advertised that he and Medvedev had met for a discussion, which the prime minister’s spokesman characterised as focusing on “his proposals on improving the system of public administration.” In fact, they discussed how to form a united front in the bidding for Putin’s decision.  

To show Putin he has the support of the anti-Russian alliance in the West, Kudrin arranged for the Financial Times to report yesterday that his promotion is a near certainty.  


Source: https://www.ft.com/content/c1721646-4d51-11e8-8a8e-22951a2d8493

The newspaper calls the proposed job “a heavyweight post in charge of economic strategy and outreach to Europe and the US, said people briefed on the plans….His title could be something like: the president’s representative for international economic co-operation.”

A Kudrin spokesman is also quoted by the newspaper as revealing his boss’s calculation that with Putin’s mandate he will “reform” Russia’s foreign policy. “If Kudrin joined the administration or government, it would indicate that they have agreed on a certain agenda of change, including in foreign policy, because without change in foreign policy, reforms are simply impossible in Russia… Kudrin is the only one in the top echelons with whom they will talk in the west and towards whom there is a certain trust.”

The Financial Times calls the struggle to promote Kudrin with presidential authority to dismantle Russia’s defence capabilities and reverse its foreign strategy, “an effort to repair relations with the west as sanctions and growing international conflict obstruct attempts to reinvigorate Russia’s stagnant economy.”

The London newspaper has been notoriously mistaken in the past, reporting its wishful thinking as if it had already been decided in Moscow.  Once, the newspaper’s Moscow correspondent – married to a lawyer in a firm working with Yegor Gaidar on state asset sales to foreign investors — announced that  Gaidar had been elected prime minister. In fact, he had been defeated in the parliamentary vote, and Victor Chernomyrdin voted in his place. That was in December 1992.

Sources familiar with Kudrin’s campaign against the General Staff say the tension has been running higher than they can remember since then.  They claim Putin has decided not to dismiss Medvedev, but has yet to decide between Kudrin’s scheme for the future and the policies urged by the Stavka.

NOTE: Key to lead image, from left to right, Mikhail Fridman, German Gref, Alexei Kudrin. Missing from the illustration, but included in Kudrin's plan, is Dmitry Peskov, who has been hoping to move from Kremlin spokesman to replace Sergei Lavrov as Foreign Minister. Also in the capitulation faction, Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov announced to the press last week that he doesn't want to be reappointed to his current job. "I want to work where the President will say. I am glad of any work that the President will give".The original of the lead image was a poster by Kukriniksy, the collective of three famous Soviet cartoonists, Mikhail Kupriyanov, Porfiri Krylov and Nikolai Sokolov. Their cartoon, published in Moscow in October 1938, showed the British betraying the Czechs by handing over the Sudetenland to Adolph Hitler, as Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain had agreed with Hitler in Munich on September 30, 1938.   

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