Interview with Sergey Brilev

Sergey Brilev, a political commentator on national Rossiya TV and a member of the Foreign and Defence Policy Council, believes there won’t be a major Government reshuffle, but expects changes in the ‘economic bloc’.

Russia Today: The nomination of Viktor Zubkov for the Prime Minister's job has come as a surprise, as was the case with Mikhail Fradkov back in 2004. Do you think the nomination is part of a strategy?

Sergey Brilev: I am a journalist, not a political scientist, who have made so many speculations in the last 48 hours. So I’d rather talk about what I know rather than about what I suggest what might have happened. I think President Putin has tried to calm down the political class to calm nerves. Do not forget that just two days ago Mr Fradkov was mentioned in the list of Vladimir Putin’s possible successors.  He is not on that list anymore. We’ve got another person now. So I think it is basically about calming the nerves of the political class and about controlling the government and somehow guaranteeing that there will be a handover process in the next six to seven months.

RT: You speak about public nervousness. Why was it there?

S.B.: It is not about public nervousness – it is actually about the nervousness of the political class. As far as the outside world’s reaction is concerned, the Foreign and Defence Ministries are still there, so I would doubt there will be a reshuffle in this part of the Government.  At the same time, there might be changes in what is called the ‘economic bloc’ of the government, I think.  In fact, if you want to analyse Russian politics properly, it is not about the intra-strata changes, but about who controls the economic agenda. That is: which companies will benefit  from the economic agenda of the government and whether the government is going to be looking after the interests of certain companies or not. I know all I’m saying sounds confusing, but that is the nature of Russian politics.

RT: Mr Zubkov is a very good candidate because of his financial background. He knows where the money comes from and where it has to be spent.  Still, there are so many pros and cons connected with him being a possible successor. Some say he is too old, for example. What are his chances of becoming president in your opinion?

S.B.: Given what I know, Mr Zubkov will be a Prime Minister who will oversee the transition process.  Has a Russian Prime Minister a chance of becoming a President? Yes, he’s got one. At the same time, the nomination of Viktor Zubkov does not rule out the ‘usual suspects’, such as Mr Ivanov of Mr Medvedev.  If he runs the government properly, he’ll become a popular figure. But he hasn’t started running the Government yet. 

As for public reaction in Russia and abroad, we could say there hasn’t been any. This is very much an internal thing. There’s a chance there will be changes in the ‘economic bloc of the government’. As for the foreign policy, I think it will remain roughly the same.

Nobody knows anything at the moment, only President Putin knows things. That’s why I’m not going to speculate. I would not expect anything today or tomorrow.  There'll probably be certain changes next week. But then we’ll have to wait for the congress of the United Russia party – where we’ll see some hints in the majority party agenda as to whether yesterday’s and today’s changes will mark big changes in Government policy. 

RT: How different will Viktor Zubkov be from his predecessor? Some have already called him a technical figure…

S.B.: I suppose an anti-corruption struggle is a milestone he might put in the Russian political agenda.  I wouldn’t say he is likely to become a technical figure. The next couple of weeks will show: if he changes the Government drastically, he is not a technical Prime Minister. If he repeats what he said today – please note he was answering a question – that he is going to run for the presidency, then there’s a chance we’ll see major changes in Russian policy.