DELA I LITSA
Great mystery of the authority
The Ministry of Transportation and Communications — one of the 14 Russian superdepartments — fell apart after two month of existence. Now even the optimists have realised that attempts of Mikhail Fradkov and his comrades-in-arms to optimise the government structure are nothing but an expensive babbling. For example, on April 14, 2004, the Russian prime minister’s staff was busy drafting for the signing by Fradkov of the resolution No 477-r about Leonid Reiman’s appointment as a deputy of Igor Levitin, the Minister of Transportation and Communications. However, Mr Reiman did not work for long as a deputy and on May 20 returned to head the Ministry of Information Technologies and Communications (in the government of Mikhail Kasyanov it was called the Ministry of Communications and Informatization). Levitin, in his turn, remained the Minister of Transportation. Why would they want to change names, forms, and seals so feverishly? Why would they want to issue orders and resolutions? And who will explain why Levitin found time in his busy work schedule to attend on May 11 the “Svjaz Expocomm” communications exhibition, while Reiman skipped it (our journal participated in the exhibition, so this is firsthand information)? And who will be punished for squandering budget funds?
Obviously nobody will be punished, as the main quality of modern Russian political elite is its supernatural and logically unexplainable (at the first sight) ability to survive and always remain afloat. Having once joined the elite team, they never drop out, as that inevitably tells on their financial wellbeing. No matter how hard is the life of most Russians, the elite will prosper despite anything.
The hasty restoration of the abolished ministry is symptomatic and makes one recall that Reiman, 46, was born in Leningrad (now St. Petersburg). Vladimir Putin also comes from St. Petersburg, and as soon as he headed the government in August 1999, he appointed Reiman the chairman of the State Telecommunications Committee of the Russian Federation. In November of the same year, the committee was transformed into the Ministry of Communications and Informa-tization.
As a minister, Reiman did not quit his passion for business. Upon graduation from the Leningrad Electrotechnical Institute Reiman honestly served in a missile battalion near the northern capital, as St. Petersburg is often called. Most likely it was the army where he got the habit of achieving his aims persistently and aggressively. After the army the young expert worked at the Leningrad long-distance telephone station and soon became one of its leaders. When the station was privatised in 1998, Reiman was already first deputy director general of the “Petersburg Telephone Network” open joint-stock company.
In April 2004 our journal wrote that Minister Reiman promoted the creation of the holding company “Telecominvest”, a major shareholder of the mobile carrier Megafon. Although at an economic forum in London Reiman claimed he “has never had a financial interest in Megafon”, it is hard to believe him also because of such an occasional coincidence, which is the latest attack of supervising authorities at Vympelcom (Bee Line brand), a major competitor of Megafon.
Another outstanding figure in the entourage of the Russian president is 51-year-old Georgy Poltavchenko, the presidential envoy to the most significant Central Federal District. Poltavchenko graduated from the Leningrad Aircraft Instrument-Making Institute. However, he never careered in aircraft and space medicine instruments (which was the topic of his thesis), as he preferred to work in the Young Communist League (Komsomol) and in 1979 entered the Higher School of the Soviet KGB.
In 1992 Poltavchenko headed the tax police department of St. Petersburg. Putin was first deputy mayor at the time and supervised the law enforcers in the city. The two men developed friendly relations. However, since December 31, 1999 when Putin became acting president, Poltavchenko has been always addressing his friend with great respect using both the first name and the patronymic — Vladimir Vladimirovich.
Tax police Lieutenant General Poltav-chenko accepted the offer to become the presidential envoy to the Central Federal District at once and without hesitation (according to the Soviet motto: the Communist party ordered — the Komsomol said “Yes!”). Frankly speaking, Poltavchenko’s efforts to coordinate the regional governors’ activities have not been evident until recently. The envoy mounted efforts when the administrative reform began: today the 18 Central Federal District governors have to rush to be on time at numerous meetings, which the retired tax policeman arranges now in Moscow, then in Kaluga or in Torzhok...
Neither Reiman nor Poltavchenko can be compared to the other two influential people from St. Petersburg — Alexey Kudrin, 44, and German Gref, 40. Kudrin was a graduate from the economic faculty in the Leningrad State University and upheld a thesis in economy. He engaged in reforms in 1990—91 when he was deputy chairman of the economic reform committee of the Leningrad City Executive Office. After the city was renamed, Kudrin became deputy chairman of the economic reform committee at the office of St. Petersburg Mayor. In 1992—96 Kudrin headed the finance committee of the office and, along with Putin, became a first deputy of Mayor Anatoly Sobchak.
Soon after Sobchak lost the 1996 election of the city mayor, Kudrin moved to Moscow where he was promoted to the post of deputy chief-of-staff of the administration of President Boris Yeltsin and headed the Main Control Department of the Kremlin. In March 1997 he was appointed Russian first deputy finance minister. From May 2000 Kudrin combined the posts of a deputy prime minister and finance minister.
It seemed like German Gref made a fatal mistake at the beginning of his career: in 1982 he was recruited into the army after he was expelled from the prestigious Moscow State Institute of International Relations. After demobilization, he entered the law department of the Omsk State University where he remained to work as a teacher upon graduation. In 1991 when privatization began to smell in the air, Gref became a legal advisor of the Property managing committee of the Petrodvorets district of St. Petersburg.
In 1997 33-year-old Gref became St. Petersburg deputy governor and was in charge of the whole property of the second biggest Russian city (his good knowledge of the German language helped him establish good relations with his colleague Vladimir Putin). In Moscow Gref started as State Property Minister and in 1999 headed the Centre of the Strategic Research that had to draft for Putin a long-term economic development plan.
In 2000 the Ministry of Economic Development and Trade headed by Gref united the liquidated the Ministry of Economy, the Ministry of Trade, the Ministry of the CIS affairs, and the State Committee for the Affairs of the North.
In the spring of 2004 Kudrin and Gref joined the government of Mikhail Fradkov. They are the main generators and driving belts of the economic reforms. However, from these unsinkable liberal “aircraft-carriers” one can only see a mysterious land where any reforms turn harmful or useless.
Muscovite Sergey Yastrzhembsky, 51, differs from the St. Petersburg team. He graduated from the law faculty of the Moscow State Institute of International Relations and defended his thesis in the Institute of International Labor Movement of the USSR. In 1992 Yastrzhembsky headed the information department of the Russian foreign ministry. A year later, he left for Slovakia as the Russian ambassador. After Boris Yeltsin won the 1996 election, Yastrzhembsky became the presidential spokesman and a Kremlin deputy chief-of-staff.
Those were hard times: Russia lost the first war in Chechnya, Yeltsin was getting ready for a heart bypass surgery, and in fact, the oligarchs ruled the state. Yastrzhembsky, a lawyer and an expert in international affairs, displayed high class rhetoric: he corrected all the mistakes of the Russian president in front of TV cameras looking so calm that nobody doubted his frankness.
In the beginning of 2000 when Putin realised the second Chechen war was dragging on he appointed Yastrzhembsky as his aide in charge of information on the situation in the North Caucasus. Yastrzhembsky succeeded to create an illusion about a quick victory of the federal troops and restricted access to Chechnya for representatives of hostile mass media.
Today the Russian president appointed him as his special representative for relations with the European Union. The importance of the new mission is explained by the recent expansion of the EU due to Russia’s traditional economic partners. The Kremlin would like the eloquence of Yastrzhembsky in Strasbourg and Brussels to help the economic situation in Russia. The state desperately needs a modernisation, as the wear-and-tear of its fixed assets is growing, as monopolies rule everywhere, the property remains unprotected, while the wellbeing of the regions depends on the presence of energy resources in their subsoil.
Why does it not work out to modernise our ailing economy? Here is the opinion of Mikhail Delyagin, the director of the Institute of Globalization Problems and an author of annual Yeltsin’s messages to the Russian parliament. He was also an economic aide of three deputy prime ministers.
“The state... is not efficient because of a “nice” quality of our valiant elite. Our current elite... appeared due to the destruction and pillage of society and the country. All these people are smart and responsible and they did it deliberately, although unwillingly... Until the elite does not change radically it will theoretically remain irresponsible without a democracy as an instrument constraining to responsibility. I emphasize: it is possible to have an efficient one-party system without a civilized democracy in South Korea, China, and Japan, because they have a responsible elite. But this option will not work in this country, as our elite was formed in conditions which theoretically exclude its responsibility...” Delyagin believes.
The presidential “guys” are sincerely trying to help Putin in developing real liberal economy. However, they belong to the elite that Dr. Delyagin was speaking about. The entire pro-Kremlin United Russia party consists of such privatization “heroes”, as Reiman or Gref. That is why any economic innovation of the authorities goes along the “one step forward — two steps back” scenario. And the business elite tortured by endless changes of the “rules of the game” follows suit of the authorities.
The president realizes the situation and launched the government reform to change the elite radically. However, officials in office will never oust themselves. Where can Putin get new like-minded people? How can he put them in place of the elite, which formed during the pillage of the country? Neither we, nor Putin can answer the questions. After all the Ministry of Transportation and Communica-tions did not fall apart by itself, the division was ordered by the presidential decree on “The issue of the federal executive authorities’ structure” signed on May 20, 2004. Provisions of the decree mixed up the functions of ministries, federal services, and federal agencies, which contradicts the spirit of the planned administrative reform.
In other words, our authority cannot be reformed today. This is probably its greatest mystery.
By Vyacheslav IZOTOV