Sep 8, 2021
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Friends of Putin: Kudrin, Chubais, who else is aiming at what chairs

Photo: lava of the Accounts Chamber Alexey Kudrin (foreground) and Russian President Vladimir Putin (background)

Photo: lava of the Accounts Chamber Alexei Kudrin (foreground) and Russian President Vladimir Putin (background) (Photo: Vladimir Astapkovich / TASS)

Press Secretary of the President Dmitry Peskov commented on the statement of the head of the Accounting Chamber Alexey Kudrin on the need to reduce the participation of the state in the economy. He noted that the Kremlin listens to Alexei Leonidovich, but there are different points of view on this score and privatization should not be an “end in itself”.

Despite the criticism, Peskov tried to be as correct as possible and did not stint in praise to the head of the Accounts Chamber. He not only noted the merits of Kudrin as an economist, his “vast experience” and “expert knowledge”, but also stressed that his opinion in the Kremlin is considered valuable.

“This is a man who has been the best finance minister in the world for more than one year, so, of course, his point of view is important,” added the presidential press secretary.

Such praises to the head of the controlling body are not accidental, because he is a longtime associate of Peskov’s immediate boss. Recall that Alexey Kudrin began his career in St. Petersburg and in the early 90s worked in the mayor’s administration Anatoly Sobchak together with Vladimir Putin.

In 1996, Kudrin moved to Moscow and was invited by the then head of the presidential administration. Anatoly Chubais to the post of his deputy and head of the Main Control Directorate of the Presidential Administration. As the media wrote then, it was they who contributed to the beginning of the future president’s Moscow career. In 1997, Vladimir Putin replaced Kudrin as head of the Control Directorate.

In 2000, Aleksey Kudrin was appointed Minister of Finance, and he held this post until 2011, periodically combining it with the post of Deputy Prime Minister.

The current head of the joint venture temporarily left the civil service only in 2011 during the presidency Dmitry Medvedev after a disagreement with the latter. But even after he left all posts, Vladimir Putin said in 2011 that Kudrin “will remain in the team” and will continue to work, since he is “a useful and necessary person for us.”

After that, Kudrin was on the presidential expert council on issues on the development strategy of the Russian Federation, in April 2016 he headed the council of the Center for Strategic Research, and in 2018, at the suggestion of the United Russia, the State Duma approved Alexei Kudrin as chairman of the Accounts Chamber, which he holds until so far.

According to famous publicist, economist Yuri Boldyrev, the question is not why the head of state listens or does not listen to the liberal adviser, but that the Accounts Chamber, that is, the body that should control the president, is headed by his close friend.

– I am not a courtier, I am not under the carpet, and I don’t know the details of the current relationship between the sovereign and the courtiers. But for us, as for society, something else should be essential. There are key state institutions, and they must be in institutional opposition to each other. They do not have to be a coherent link in terms of the fundamental antitrust principle applied to politics.

It should not be that in the system of separation of powers, institutionally, best friends turn out to be on different sides. Society should not allow monopoly collusion, guaranteed based on the origin, genesis of specific people. In the same way, society should not allow the head of the Accounts Chamber of the Russian Federation, the main control body in relation to all other authorities, to be a person whom the president initially calls his friend.

Friend? Okay, friends. But only let the friend be where friends should be, and not where there is an institutionally conflict of interest between them. From the point of view of elementary human decency, the same Kudrin, when he was offered to become the chairman of the Accounts Chamber, had to say: “You know, excuse me, I have a conflict of interests, because my main control should be the President of the Russian Federation, and he is my friend. It will be difficult for me, so let someone else head the Accounts Chamber ”.

This is how it should have been. And if he did not do it himself, then the society had to give both the chairman of the Accounts Chamber and the president a hand and say: “No, guys, if you are friends, make friends, but not at the expense of society and the state.” I am primarily interested in this aspect. It should not be that the president / his press secretary and the chairman of the Court of Accounts – “the cuckoo praises the rooster for praising the cuckoo.” Institutionally, they should oppose each other, not praise.

“SP”: – Does this affect the effectiveness of the Accounts Chamber as a whole, can Kudrin criticize the work of other ministers and officials, conditional Golikova?

– In any feudal system, and our system, in essence, is now feudal, the feudal lord can allow his vassals to quarrel and argue as much as they want for his amusement: “You can even fight in front of me with swords, but do not dare to oppose me, the sovereign.”

But we do not have a government policy separate from the president. Either Golikova, Mishustin, anyone – he is pursuing the president’s policy. And since this is the president’s policy, in its key aspects, approved by the president, none of the vassals dare raise their voices against. I should have dared. This is the crux of the problem.

If Kudrin were not a vassal or a friend, he should have dared to raise his voice against the president’s policies. That is why the Accounts Chamber exists – to analyze, compare and issue conclusions not to the president, but to society.

Let me remind you that I am a person who once, when Yeltsin headed the Presidential Control Directorate. This is internal control for the president. I was one of the founders of the Accounts Chamber of the Russian Federation, I was the deputy chairman since its foundation in 1995. So, the Accounts Chamber, in contrast to the Control Department, is not internal control FOR the president, but control by society FOR the president.

And in our country, starting in 2003, then in violation of the Constitution, both the chairman, and his deputy, and auditors began to be elected and appointed by the Duma and the Federation Council only at the suggestion of the president. And since 2020, this has been introduced into the Constitution. That is, they introduced that in Russia there can be no independent control over the ruler, over the president. Institutionally, independent control of society over power was prohibited.

Kudrin can be removed and put Ivanov, Petrov, Golikova. Nothing will change, because these will be the people of the same president. And they cannot oppose him institutionally.

Independent political scientist Pavel Salin believes that two factors play a role in the stability of Alexei Kudrin, and it is not known which of them is greater.

– The first is objective. Vladimir Putin has built the system in such a way that it is based on balance, and he acts as an arbiter between different interest groups. He needs the various elements of this system to balance each other.

When there is a bias in someone’s favor, as now, when a bias towards the security forces is clearly noticeable, this does not mean that the rest of the elite groups have been decommissioned and are subject to destruction. Kudrin belongs to those who are usually called systemic liberals. He staked out this place for himself, and thereby guaranteed himself political survival in terms of the need for a political system.

Add to this the fact that soon we will have a transit, which is clear to everyone, including Vladimir Putin. And he, too, prepares for it from the point of view of preparing those groups of influence whose future is important for him. The post-transit reality is likely to be characterized by a weakening of the screws that are now being tightened and a warming of relations with the West. As part of this warming, figures such as Kudrin and Chubais are simply necessary.

“SP”: – And the second factor?

– There are also subjective reasons for the phenomenon of Alexei Kudrin. Vladimir Putin is known for always paying the bills, which earns him respect among the elite, who recognize him as a leader. He always pays good for good and negative for bad.

It is a well-known fact that Alexei Kudrin, during a difficult period for Vladimir Putin in the 90s, when he cut off almost all ends in St. Petersburg after the loss of Sobchak, seriously supported him while building a career in Moscow. And from the point of view of general intra-elite support, he put in a word, and from a personal point of view, up to assistance in solving housing problems.

Vladimir Putin remembers such things. And this personal factor also helps Kudrin. And it is difficult to say which of them is primary and which is secondary for political survival. In addition, I note that he never goes beyond those red flags that are set personally for him. They are much further than for the same Chubais, but he remains within the framework, and when necessary, he corrects his public behavior.

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