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New Russian Cabinet Will Have to Become a Team

The cabinet is pretty balanced – there are people who worked with Dmitry Medvedev when he was President, and there are people who worked with Putin during both his terms as President and Prime Minister.

Valdaiclub.com interview with Vyacheslav Nikonov, Co-Founder and President of the Polity Foundation ,Executive Board Director of the Russki Mir Foundation, member of the Valdai Discussion Club.

In general, how would you assess the new composition of the Russian government?

This is really a new cabinet. About three quarters of the ministers are new. Moreover, the change of the ministers can probably lead towards a younger and probably more professional government. As for surprises, I don't think there are any. Some of the ministers were replaced by their deputies, and most of the appointments were predictable, which is atypical of Putin, who usually surprises everybody with his personnel appointments.

Would you say that this government is more presidential than prime-ministerial? Who has a bigger influence: Medvedev or Putin?

I wouldn't say that this cabinet was influenced more by the President than by the Prime Minister or vice versa. The cabinet is pretty balanced – there are people who worked with Dmitry Medvedev when he was President, and there are people who worked with Putin during both his terms as President and Prime Minister.

Is it a team, or rather a group of individuals who were appointed for political reasons?

At this point the cabinet is more a group of individuals. However talented and well-informed they are, they still have no experience working together and working at the ministerial level. But needless to say that in order to address economic issues they will have to become a team – and they will.

In your assessment, is the government more liberal or more conservative? For example, Sechin is gone and Dvorkovich has been appointed vice prime minister.

It is rather hard to describe Russian politics in terms of some standard political models, be it a liberal-conservative framework or left-right framework. For example, Dmitry Medvedev who heads the new cabinet described himself as a conservative; Vladimir Putin is also a conservative himself. As for Arkady Dvorkovich, his views also can be described as conservative in the European context. The European political spectrum is divided between Christian democrats, conservatives on the one side, and socialists on the other side. Dvorkovich is definitely not a socialist, thus in the framework of European politics his views can be described as conservative. This cabinet is not ideological, it is professional.

However, if we compare Arkady Dvorkovich to Igor Sechin, the former is more free market, and he will be the official responsible for fuel and power sector. But Sechin will still be quite active as the head of Rosneftegaz, which is one of the biggest and most influential government corporations in the carbohydrates sector.

As for the new ministries -- what will be the function of the minister for ties with Open Government, and why did Putin decide to make a new ministry for Siberia and the Far East instead of a corporation, which had been proposed?

We can't speculate about that until the new ministries receive orders and guidance both from the President and the Prime Minister. Why a ministry instead of a corporation? Medvedev probably wanted to have it in the cabinet, rather than the outside. As for the Open Government ministry, this is definitely Medvedev's creation, and it will be mostly conferencing and working with the Russian expert community.

How will the functions of Open Government and the real government interfere with each other?

They will interfere to the extent that Medvedev would like them to interfere.

Are there any appointments -- special appointments or dark horses -- that you would like to comment on? Maybe some strange appointments that you didn't expect?

No, they're not strange, there's nothing sensational. I wouldn't say it was all-predictable, but at least there was nothing that blew my mind.

Where will the former ministers go? Will they join business corporations, or...?

It's up to them. But many of them will find jobs in the government or in the administration, one way or another. There will be both horizontal and vertical changes.

Views expressed are of individual Members and Contributors, rather than the Club's, unless explicitly stated otherwise.