Exit The Tandem, Enter The Team


Who is truly calling the shots in Russia, Brian Whitmore asks in RFE/RL’s Power Vertical. Analysts are pointing out that Russia is run by a collective leadership. Vladimir Putin and Dmitry Medvedev are the front men, but decisions are arrived at largely by consensus among a group that includes 10 to 30 people.

Chatham House has issued a report by Andrew Monaghan of the NATO Defense College about Russia’s ruling elite. He argues that “there are no major gaps between the political agendas of Medvedev and Putin” and that “there is unlikely to be major change in Russian domestic or foreign policy in the short to medium term.”

Monaghan also argues that the terms used to describe Russian politics — “The Tandem” and “The Vertical” — are becoming obsolete: “The tandem has become outdated — not because of a split between the two men, but because of the emergence and emphasis on a unified team, albeit one with some internal rivalries.”

The team around “The Tandem” includes Deputy Prime Minister Igor Sechin, Kremlin Chief of Staff Sergey Naryshkin, Deputy Kremlin Chief of Staff Vladislav Surkov, Moscow Mayor Sergey Sobyanin, Finance Minister Alexey Kudrin, and businessmen Yuri Kovalchuk, Gennady Timchenko, Roman Abramovich, and Alisher Usmanov.

One of the reasons why the duumvirate appears to disagree is that it seeks to appeal to different audiences: Putin cultivates an image of brutal machismo to speak to the ordinary, simple Russian citizen, while Medvedev appeals to the intelligentsia and business class. The tandem may correct the details, but the wider course will remain.

Monaghan’s report dovetails with another widely discussed paper by Kremlin-connected political analyst Dmitry Orlov, in which he argued that the decision about who would be president in 2012 was being decided by “the most influential 25-30 Russian politicians and businessmen” behind closed doors.

Orlov argues that the alliance between Putin and Medvedev will endure beyond the election and “grow into a lasting political alliance.” The tandem’s main task as Russia gears up for elections to the State Duma in December and for the presidency in March 2012 “is to ensure the unity of the ruling elite.”


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