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The Emergence of Medvedev

Jeffrey Tayler has an interesting new article in the Atlantic Monthly about how the clan wars within the Kremlin continue to roil, potentially upsetting the Putin-Medvedev dyarchy and leading to an emerging role of greater influence for Russia’s new president:

Dyarchy has never worked in Russia. Most recently, in 1993, the standoff between President Boris Yeltsin and his vice president, Alexander Rutskoi, ended only when the former shelled the latter’s lair in the White House. (Russia has had no vice president since then.) Traditions of autocracy, in fact, extend back to the 15th-century rise of Muscovy and have left an indelible, even determining, imprint on Russian political consciousness. For many Russians, the chaos of the Yeltsin years—when the Kremlin commanded little respect and ceded powers to other branches of government, regions, and up-and-coming oligarchs—only affirmed the validity of autocratic traditions. Now, with two centers of power forming, the situation is inherently unstable. (…) Having amassed considerable power that they could now lose, Putin’s siloviki must be feeling something other than gratitude toward their boss for choosing Medvedev (who has no ties to them) as his successor. The slighted inner circle includes, most prominently, Igor Sechin, Putin’s deputy chief of presidential administration and chairman of Rosneft (Russia’s largest oil company). Sechin leads a clan comprising FSB chief Nikolai Patrushev and Minister of Justice Vladimir Ustinov, who have at their disposal Russia’s still-formidable apparatus of espionage, arrest, and punishment. Prevailing over Sechin’s group was Medvedev’s “liberal” clan, which includes Viktor Cherkesov, chief of the Federal Drug Control Service; Viktor Zolotov, in charge of presidential security; the oligarch Roman Abramovich; and members of the “Family,” Yeltsin’s old clique. In an environment of “legal nihilism,” Putin cannot be assured of his future should he truly relinquish power. If he were no longer atop the chain of command, he could not protect himself from persecution—especially given the recent shocking allegations in the Western press of a personal fortune in the tens of billions of dollars, including hefty blocks of shares in Russian gas and oil companies. As hard as these allegations would be to prove, they could serve as grounds for investigation and prosecution.