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Snakes And Ladders

Tracing the policy movements of Presidential power-handler Vladislav Surkov is rather like witnessing a three-point turn in a dark alley – as a piece in the Power Vertical points out today.  Whilst transparency is the last thing once can expect from the Kremlin’s shadowy ideologue, his moves of late are dizzying analysts.  Brian Whitmore identifies some of Surkov’s recent twists – from the motives for his alleged involvement in the Duma walkout – to the matter of his oscillating stance on liberalizing political structures to aid economic development.

Whitmore quotes from a Stratfor.com analysis, which suggests that Surkov’s maneuvring is underpinned by a familiar motive: power rivalry. 

In a recently published four-part series titled “The Kremlin Wars,” Stratfor.com offers up one possible answer.

According to Stratfor, the Kremlin is divided into two roughly equal clans — one headed by Surkov and one led by his archrival, Deputy Prime Minister Igor Sechin:

It is the classic balance of power arrangement. So long as these two clans scheme against each other, [Prime Minister Vladimir] Putin’s position as the ultimate power is not threatened and the state itself remains strong — and not in the hands of one power-hungry clan or another.

In an effort to inflict a decisive defeat on Sechin and his “siloviki”clan, Surkov has reportedly teamed up with a group of technocraticeconomic liberals who are close to President Dmitry Medvedev.

Thisgroup of economists and specialists in civil law, who have been dubbedthe “civiliki,” include Finance Minister Aleksei Kudrin, Sperbank headGerman Gref, Economics Minister Elvira Nabiullina, and NaturalResources Minister Trutnev.

As I have written here, the civilikialso include Justice Minister Aleksandr Konovalov and other lower-levelofficials who studied law with Medvedev in St. Petersburg.

Stratforargues that the economic crisis has led the Russian authorities torethink the statist and top heavy economic model dominated by Sechinand the siloviki:

The global economic crisis has led the Kremlin to examine its decisions about running Russia’s economy, financial sectors and businesses. A group of intellectuals including Russian President Dmitri Medvedev, called the civiliki, want to use the crisis as an opportunity to reform the Russian economy. The civiliki’s plan will lead to increased investment and greater efficiency in the economy, but it will also trigger a fresh round of conflict between the Kremlin’s two powerful political clans.

Surkov is less interested in economic reform than in buttressing his own power vis-a-vis Sechin. But, according to Stratfor, he sees the value in using the economic reforms proposed by the civiliki to purge Sechin and his allies from the commanding heights of the Russian economy.

Keep reading here.