Interview with Andrey Kortunov

Andrey Kortunov, President and a political analyst of the New Eurasia Foundation, joined Russia Today to comment on the make-up of the new Russian Cabinet.

Russia Today: It was largely predicted that German Gref as Head of the Ministry of Trade and Economic Development is going to be replaced. Tell us a bit more about the person who takes over his post – Elvira Nabiullina.

Andrey Kortunov: Elvira Nabiullina is a well-known economist, one of our top experts in economic issues. Besides, she was in charge of the Expert Board which handled national projects. So she has very good connections in the Kremlin and a lot of experience in the Government. At some point she was also deputy to Mr Gref himself.

RT: Is she going to be different to Mr Gref if she worked with him so closely?

A.K.: I think the major difference is that German Gref is perceived as a political figure. He is not only a bureaucrat but also a politician. Elvira Nabiullina is a technocrat, I don’t think she is going to position herself as a politician. In general, if you look at the changes made in the Government, I think the it has become more technocratic and less political. In my opinion, some of the people are going to stay in the government even after next year’s presidential elections.

RT: Aleksey Kudrin has been given a big boost. This is probably the biggest surprise of the reshuffle…

A.K.: My personal judgment is that the promotion of Mr Kudrin is a very clear signal to the outside world that the reforms are not going to change. It is a signal to investors: you can come in, you can rely on Russia, we will proceed with macro-economic stabilisation. So Russia continues to be a reliable partner.
RT: What kind of situation are we having now, with the re-appointment of Sergey Ivanov and Dmitry Medvedev  as Deputy Prime Ministers and also Aleksey Kudrin’s promotion to this post?

A.K.: I think a lot will now depend on how they split their responsibilities. I assume that will be difficult as the logic of any bureaucracy implies that every top manager tries to get as much power as possible. I guess Mr Kudrin will not be an exception. I can imagine some kind of bureaucratic competition – if not between these people, then at least between their staff.

RT: If we turn back to the presidential elections, do you think anything will change for the unofficial front-runners, Mr Ivanov and Mr Medvedev? Of course, they haven’t announced their intentions but they are most likely to actually run for presidency.

A.K.: I don’t think on Monday we saw dramatic changes. However, since we have yet another deputy Prime Minister as well as some other potential figures in the Government I think it will be a little bit more difficult for Medvedev and Ivanov to claim their exclusiveness. Maybe now we have more people who can compete with these two guys for power – at least in theory.

RT: Why do you think the Defence Minister, Anantoly Serdyukov, has retained his post though he said he would not like to be accused of any kind of nepotism given he is the Prime Minister’s close relative?

A.K.: Some cynics claim that this has been staged from the very beginning and that Mr Putin had no intention to replace the Defence Minister. But Mr Zubkov has demonstrated he is not going to tolerate nepotism. By doing that he can definitely boost his own standing. I’m not sure this was the case but his controversial decision should have added some popularity to Mr Zubkov.