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Smart Prime Minister assisting the President

Nominating Mikhail Fradkov Prime Minister is our reply to the West and anti-Semites.
The period of vagueness is over. However, nominating the new Russian Prime Minister became an important event only for Russians. Western online media did not put this piece of news on their top news list, and commented on the Prime Minister nomination much later than Russian press did.

Dismissing former Prime Minister Kasyanov and nominating Fradkov for this post confirmed that Prime Minister is not a key player on Russian political scene, he is just a tool in the hands of the President who has supreme authority. The first issue the new Prime Minister will face will be recruiting officials to his Cabinet. At that point he will be shown who is the real boss. However, experienced bureaucrat Fradkov is well-aware that his authority is limited.

Let us remember the procedure for forming the Cabinet during the last 12 years: former Prime Minister Gaidar had deputies Shumeiko and Khizha appointed against his will, Chernomyrdin had Lobov, Soskovets and Chubais, Stepashin was “assisted” by Aksenenko and Kasyanov, even Vladimir Putin did not nominate his own people in his first Cabinet in 1999. “Technical” Prime Minister especially lacks independence in appointing the government officials. Under strong and popular President as Vladimir Putin, Prime Minister becomes just an element in the team mechanism.
Mikhail Fradkov is obviously not a successor for President Putin. Fradkov is required to shovel aside the Augean stables of Yeltsin’s legacy, and after doing this job he will have to resign because people will be displeased by his unpopular reforms.

The President said that he had replaced the Cabinet before the elections to send the voters the message of his intentions for his next term in office. What does Fradkov’s name say to Russians? Can the new nomination improve more the enormous popularity rating for Vladimir Putin and will it change anything in the election campaign?
Vladimir Putin’s words about Fradkov, “Highly professional, honest, having rich experience in different spheres of the state activity” can be applied to many other Russian officials as well. Political scientists’ attempts to guess whom Vladimir Putin would nominate the Prime Minister looked funny. Because of absence of real politics in the country, all the guesses came to the contest of fantasies: what is going on in Vladimir Putin’s head?
“President’s “consultations” with the representatives of the State Duma majority were supposed to conceal the absence of real politics and soothe the disappointment of the deputies promoting the idea of the government representing the Parliament majority. The fact that the Prime Minister has no connections with other political forces, except for the President, can affect Fradkov’s future work in a negative way: this circumstance gives Fradkov tactical, but not strategic advantage. Foremer Prime Minister Kasyanov’s destiny proved this. The Prime Minister of this kind becomes indifferent to the needs of other forces except for the Kremlin.

The other problem Fradkov will have is lack of knowledge on the notorious “administrative reform”. Former Deputies Prime Minister Aleshin and Shuvalov did much preparation work for this reform, including planning changes of many directions of the country policy, but Fradkov is not aware of all this work. By implementing the administrative reform, he can become a conductor for other people’s ideas.

For which reasons has Fradkov been nominated? Successor for President Putin cannot be Prime Minister, he may not be attached to conducting unpopular policy. Therefore the new Prime Minister cannot belong to the circle of the closest associates of Vladimir Putin. The advantage of Fradkov is his unique experience as an official, he passed all stages of career ladder. Most of Russian Prime Ministers in the last decade had no this experience. Fradkov faced market economy during Socialist period – he has been working in foreign trade since 1973.

Working in Tax Police and Security Council, Fradkov became aware of the real origin of big capitals and how shadow economy operates. Mikhil Fradkov was the CEO of the company managing finances –  extremely valuable experience. Fradkov was a Minister twice and can communicate well both with the Soviet-style bureaucrats (representing the majority in Russian government) and with modern business executives. 

Fradkov spent a year abroad and lost connection with the intrigues within the officials’ circle. For this reason he is perceived as an impartial figure not being somebody’s ally or opponent. On the other hand, for one year in a foreign country one cannot absolutely forget Russian realities.

Nominating Fradkov Prime Minister demonstrates the priorities of Vladimir Putin: improving the relations with the West and the EU, Russia’s integration in global economy and joining WTO. The recent deterioration of the relations between Russia and the EU has not been Fradkov’s fault: he was just a conductor of the Kremlin’s policy.

Speaking of domestic policy, many government officials’ posts will be abolished. The number of Deputies Prime Minister will be reduced. No Head of the Cabinet has been able to reduce the number of his deputies before. Part of the Ministries and government departments will receive the status of agencies.

The President has set the task of modernizing the country. Probably Health Care will undergo reforms in the first place. Health Care Minister may be dismissed despite being close to Vladimir Putin and “Petersburg Group”.  The President himself will decide on the future of the Heads of Financial and Economic  bloc of the government – Mr. Kudrin and Mr. Gref.
As for the national aspect of the new nomination, Prime Minister-Jew is a good counter-argument to foreign critics accusing Russia of nationalism and violating the rights of minorities. One cannot say that Fradkov is “a smart Jew assisting the ruler”, our President will outlast representative of any nation in intellect and will not allow to be manipulated. Fradkov looks more like a German in the government who is required to set order and discipline.

State Duma Deputy Chairman Vladimir Zhirinovsky and his LDPR party criticized nominating Fradkov Prime Minister. Zhirinovsky has connections with the President Administration, and for this reason one can guess that not everybody in the President’s team approved the nominating Fradkov. The fact that a week passed before announcing the nomination of Fradkov can result from the contradictions within the Administration of the President.

Маksim Artemiev

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