Same Old Kremlin, Same Old Surkov
Published: October 8, 2013 (Issue # 1780)
The decision by President Vladimir Putin to appoint Vladislav Surkov as a presidential aide for social and economic relations with Abkhazia and Ossetia came as a bombshell to the political establishment, surprising nearly everyone and shocking many. It also revealed a great deal about the way Putin rules Russia today.
First, Surkov was appointed shortly after he celebrated his 49th birthday, making the new job seem like a gift that Putin chose to bestow upon one of his key associates. For centuries, Russian politics has been heavily influenced by purely personal and emotional motives, and this appointment is no exception.
Second, Putin consistently pursues an extremely conservative staffing policy, moving the same people from one senior post to another. In this case, Surkov replaced Tatyana Golikova, who had previously served as the health and social development minister and who will now head the Audit Chamber. Similarly, former Natural Resources Minister Yury Trutnev was recently named deputy prime minister and presidential envoy to the Far East Federal District. Putin reshuffles the same cast of players, rarely reaching beyond the tight circle of associates he put together in the early 2000s.
Rumor has it that Putin had a meeting with Surkov on Sept. 20 and issued a decree for his appointment the very same day.
Third, for anyone in Putin's inner circle, the formula for professional success is simple: maintain personal loyalty to the president and forget all thought of personal ambition, much less independent action. Surkov was dismissed from his deputy prime minister post on May 8, 2013 after he took exception to Putin's remark that the government — the management of which was his responsibility — had done a poor job of carrying out presidential decrees.
After that incident, Surkov disappeared from public view and refused to give interviews. He stoically withstood corruption charges brought against him in connection with his role in the Skolkovo project he had helped the government manage. In all things he demonstrated uncomplaining submissiveness, a refusal to blame the leadership for his troubles and acquiescence toward his fate and the will of the president. Now he is getting his reward.
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