July 19, 2007

Vladimir Putin Lets Igor Ivanov Go into Science

// The Security Council might become the new center of political power in Russia

Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a decree on the resignation of Igor Ivanov, secretary of Russia's Security Council (SC). He shifted the duties on Valentin Sobolev, deputy secretary of the SC. Kommersant’s sources in the Kremlin believe it might take several months to find a new candidate for heading the SC. Experts think it means the renovated SC might become one of Russia’s centers of political power, and even a “counterweight to presidential structures” after the election in 2008.
Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a decree on July 17th, satisfying Igor Ivanov’s resignation request, and appointed Valentin Sobolev as the Security Council’s acting secretary, the Kremlin's press service said Wednesday. Ivanov confirmed to Interfax news agency that he had asked the president for resignation because he decided that “the specific tasks to organize the Security Council’s and its staff’s work” set to him in 2004, when he was appointed, “have been carried out on the whole”. Moreover, Igor Ivanov, who was Russia’s foreign minister from 1998 to 2004, said he does not intend to do politics or business, but wants to devote himself to teaching and science. Ivanov, as a professor of the Moscow State Institute for International Relations (MGIMO), will obtain the position of MGIMO’s first deputy principal.

Meanwhile, the newly-appointed SC acting secretary Valentin Sobolev knows the president well. First, he was Vladimir Putin’s deputy director in the Federal Security Service (FSB), and then – in the Security Council (SC). However, experts think that Sobolev is just a temporal SC secretary. It is not so much due to his age (Sobolev turned 60 in March). It is rather because he does not fit into either of the two traditional concepts describing the role of the SC and its secretary. The SC has always been either a state body really affecting the important decision-making in Russia, or a ‘reserve airfield’ for high-placed resigned officials.

The first variant was implemented in 1996, when General Alexander Lebed, who ranked third in the first round of the presidential election, became SC secretary. It was Lebed who signed the Khasavyurt agreement with Chechnya, on Russia’s behalf, which actually put an end to the first Chechen war. He was also mixed in the resignation of the Defense Ministry’s top officials headed by Pavel Grachev. Ivan Rybkin, who replaced Lebed, continued developing the ‘Chechen issue’: he prepared the signing of a peace treaty between Boris Yeltsin and Aslan Maskhadov in 1997. For Vladimir Putin and Sergei Ivanov, the position of SC secretary served as a launch pad for further career growth. Putin came from the SC to presidency, via premiership. Sergei Ivanov developed the military reform’s concept while serving as SC secretary, and went to the Defense Ministry to implement it.

On the other hand, the position was a typical ‘honorary exile’ for a whole number of SC secretaries. That is why the SC did not play an important role when headed by former Interior Minister Vladimir Rushailo or current SC Secretary Igor Ivanov, dealing with analytic reports and memorandums only. Although, these documents sometimes came in handy to the Kremlin. For instance, it was the SC that for the first time suggested measures to restrict the activities of NGOs as vectors of “orange infection”. Yet, the real authors of these documents remained in the shadow anyway.

So far, it remains unknown which of the two concepts will prevail this time. However, there is more evidence now that the new SC secretary will be a politically important figure.

The Kremlin had more than enough time to find the next resigned official for the position: Igor Ivanov submitted his resignation request to the president back on June 15th. Moreover, a high-placed source in the Kremlin said Wednesday, when answering the question whether a new plenipotentiary SC secretary will appear within several days or several weeks: “It might be the question of several months.” Apparently, it means the new candidate for the SC is to become a compromise between various Kremlin groupings. Consequently, that politician will have much more political weight than his predecessors.

It is indirectly proved by the list of candidates regarded by the Kremlin. Sources said the top candidates are State Duma Speaker Boris Gryzlov, Federal Drug Traffic Control Service head Viktor Cherkesov, and President’s Assistant Igor Shuvalov. These three are people quite close to President Putin. The Kremlin source’s remark about “several months” suggests that Gryzlov has most chances. He might move from the Duma to the CS in December, after bringing his United Russia party to victory in the Duma elections.

Experts do not discuss specific candidates yet. However, they agree the renovated CS might gain more political weight. Boris Makarenko, Deputy Director of the Center for Political Technologies, believes whether the SC secretary is “inert” or “influential” will completely depend on “the person who holds the position”. So, the expert thinks that if the SC remains a state body just forming the international agenda for the president, then the appointment will be quick, and the new secretary will have “foreign affairs background”. If choosing the candidate is prolonged, it might mean that each of the Kremlin groupings is trying to bring a potential presidential successor into the SC, believes Makarenko.

Gorbachev Fund expert Andrei Ryabov considers the latter variant more likely to happen. He thinks Igor Ivanov’s resignation means that “Putin, apparently, began implementing a new scheme of political power arrangement, which should already exist in the successor’s époque”. Ryabov believes the SC might become one of Russia’s centers of political power, and even a “counterweight to presidential structures” in this “new arrangement”. In other words, the expert considers it quite likely that the SC will become a “certain shadow structure” through which Vladimir Putin will be able to influence politics in Russia when he is no longer the president. So, Ryabov predicts the next SC secretary will be “someone like Anatoly Serdyukov in the Defense Ministry or Alexander Bastrykin in the Investigatory Committee”, that is “a new figure, personally devoted” to Vladimir Putin.

Dmitry Kamyshev, Viktor Khamraev

Record: What did Igor Ivanov do while being the Security Council’s secretary

March 9, 2004. Igor Ivanov leaves the position of Russia’s foreign affairs minister, and becomes the Security Council’s secretary. He is mentioned in mass media mostly due to his foreign policy activities. So, he was the first to deliver Russia’s offer to Iran to enrich uranium on Russia’s territory. Yet, he received a loud refusal from Iran’s Vice President Gholam-Reza Agazade on November 12, 2005.

April 18, 2004. Ivanov visited Qatar and managed to obtain pardon guarantees for two officers of Russia’s special services, during the negotiations with Qatar’s foreign minister Sheikh Hamad ben Jasem ben Jaber al-Tani. The Russian officers, accused of murdering Chechen leader Zelimkhan Yandarbiev, were sentenced to life terms on June 30, but were extradited to Russia on December 23, 2004.

May 5, 2004. Ivanov visited Batumi for negotiations with Ajaria head Aslan Abashidze. Abashidze had earlier said he did not intend to resign and to leave Ajaria. After the meeting, however, he gave up his struggle for power in Ajaria, and flew to Moscow in Ivanov’s plane.

March 14, 2005. It was Igor Ivanov who brought the news about the Russian president’s intention to visit the country to Israel’s Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. Vladimir Putin’s visit to Israel began on April 27. Before, Israel had never been visited by a Russian or a Soviet leader.

January 29, 2007. Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei suddenly suggested creating a “natural gas OPEC” after his negotiations with Ivanov.

Personal record: Sobolev Valentin Alexeevich

Born on March 11, 1947, in Gudri-Olum village of Turkmen SSR, in a family of a frontier guard officer. Graduated from the Moscow Institute for Civil Engineering (1969) and the KGB Academy (1974). Since 1962, worked as a foreman at construction sites in Ashgabat and Moscow. Since 1972, worked in the KGB, and served as the KGB Party Committee’s Secretary. In the early 1990s, headed the KGB department in Tomsk. Later, headed the Federal Security Agency, the Security Ministry, the Federal Counterintelligence Service. In late 1994, became deputy director of the FSK (later the Federal Security Service), under Sergei Stepashin. In 1995, repeatedly visited Chechnya, commanding special services there. After Stepashin’s resignation, he remained FSB deputy director, serving under new directors: Mikhail Barsukov, and later Nikolai Kovalev. At the same time, headed the counterintelligence department for strategic objects. In 1997, became FSB first deputy director. Since July 1998, worked under Vladimir Putin.

In March 1999, Putin became FSB director and Security Council Secretary. In April, he transferred Sobolev from counterintelligence to the position of Security Council’s deputy secretary. In the SC, Sobolev supervised the department of state and public security, working under four SC secretaries: Vladimir Putin, Sergei Ivanov, Vladimir Rushailo, and Igor Ivanov.

Sobolev is Colonel-General, awarded with Courage Medals, “For Services to Homeland” of III and IV grades, “For Military Services”, and other medals. He is an honorary officer of counterintelligence, a laureate of Yuri Andropov’s award “For outstanding contribution to Russia’s national security”.

All the Article in Russian as of July 19, 2007

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