ROAR: “Effective manager” for North Caucasus

Vladimir Kremlev for RT
The Russian president has appointed Aleksandr Khloponin as the man “responsible” for Russia’s most troubled region.

Khloponin, the former Krasnoyarsk region governor, will be the presidential representative to the newly created North Caucasian Federal District and the vice premier of the Russian government. The district will include the Republic of Dagestan, Ingushetia, Kabardino-Balkaria, Karachay-Cherkessia, North Ossetia, Chechnya and the Stavropol Region.

“A quasi-Muslim federal district is being created, which will incorporate multinational republics where conflicts are not rare,” Aleksey Malashenko of the Carnegie Moscow Center told Kommersant daily. “Thus, it has been recognized that the North Caucasus is a special and dangerous region,” he said.

The new district will have the non-Muslim Stavropol Region, the paper noted. “One region [populated mainly by ethnic Russians] got there because it was necessary to have not just national republics in the district,” Dmitry Badovsky, director of the Institute of Social Systems, told the daily.

Governor of Stavropol Region Valery Gaevsky told the daily that his territory borders eight southern regions. “Practically all the republics are our neighbors,” he said. “We have many joint projects and ideas, and I think they will get the green light now.”

The new district has three different zones, but they have “similar social and economic problems, ethnic tensions and a subversive war waged by those who want to turn the Caucasus into a Sharia emirate,” Vremya Novostey daily said.

The change of the North Caucasus’s map is nothing new, the paper noted. Before the 1917 revolution, the most present North Caucasus territories were part of Terskaya Region. The leadership of the USSR also performed an experiment and created the North Caucasus region. In 1929-1934, it existed roughly in the borders of the district that is being created now, the paper said.

Leaders of the North Caucasus republics have supported the creation of the new district and appointment of Khloponin. Ingush President Yunus-Bek Yevkurov said that the region lacks business-like and active officials. “Khloponin knows how to attract investment, which is very important for the region,” Kommersant quoted him as saying.

President of Kabardino-Balkaria Arsen Kanokov told the daily that Khloponin is a modern man and he understands “the ideas of modernization that have become ripe in all spheres.”

However, some officials were not so optimistic. An anonymous high-ranking official from Dagestan told Kommersant that the creation of a new district means “increasing expenses and stress for unsettled regions.”

“The president’s initiative reflects the new approach of the federal authorities to the control over the North Caucasus,” believes Oksana Goncharenko, an analyst at the Center for Political Conjuncture. The priority for the center is to improve living standards of the population and boost economic development, she added.

This approach is fully justified, she said, taking into account the fight against terrorism because the social base of terrorism remains an important factor in the destabilization of the North Caucasus.

The appointment of the governor of Krasnoyarsk region is corresponding to these priorities, she believes. He is known as an effective manager with vast experience in business and has successfully implemented an anti-crisis program in the region.

Now the chief tasks for Khloponin will be attracting investment to develop southern republics and increasing their economic potential, as well as control over spending funds coming to the region from the federal budget, she said.

Vyacheslav Glazychev, chairman of the Public Chamber’s committee on regional development and local government, described Khloponin as “an extraordinarily energetic and clever leader of a region.”

However, “being thrown into the Caucasian knot” and into a situation which he is not very accustomed to, he will face incredible difficulties; Glazychev told Russian News Service radio.

It is difficult to say how the surprising combination of the functions of the presidential representative to a federal district and the vice premier will work, Glazychev added. However, it may give Khloponin “certain financial instruments – something that presidential representatives have never had.”

Analysts think that Khloponin has been chosen because he is a new figure in the North Caucasus. Aleksey Malashenko of the Carnegie Moscow Center believes that the president’s representative “does not have any ‘roots’ there.”

Khloponin, who is “a really good manager,” will report only to the federal center, the analyst told Russian News Service radio. He is not incorporated into local elites, he is rich, and it will be difficult to corrupt him, Malashenko believes.

Some analysts, however, stress that insufficient knowledge of the region will be a problem for Khloponin. It will take time for him “to get into the swing of things,” said Viktor Chernous, director of the Center of System Studies at the Institute of Socio-Political Research. “And the situation is rather difficult there,” he told Rosbalt news agency.

Chernous also believes that the creation of the new district may undermine Russia’s interests in the North Caucasus and the country’s integrity. Peoples of the region will get the feeling of “psychological separation from Russia,” he said. “This will prompt the migration of Russians from the region, and the existing plans for their return will be jeopardized.”

However, Vremya Novostey believes that the new district may help federal authorities to be closer to the Caucasus regions. Recently, many regional politicians, facing “clear problems of regional government, floated the idea of creating a bigger territorial entity,” it said. The creation of a compact district “without hurting ethnic feelings” may become a step to a certain territorial homogenization of the Caucasus,” it added.

Some analysts believe that the experiment with the combination of authorities of the president’s envoy and deputy prime minister may be applied to other districts in the future. Thus, the president’s representatives may turn into “envoys of the federation” because they will be responsible not only to the head of state, but also to the government, Dmitry Badovsky of the Institute of Social Systems said. “The rotation of personnel in other districts is also possible, where the representatives may become ‘managers’ rather than members of power structures and bureaucrats.”

Badovsky described Khloponin as one of the first people who came to the state service from business. He was also one of the few governors who were engaged in expanding their regions, the analyst said. Medvedev wanted to appoint a manager for the North Caucasus to solve the economic problems and deal with socio-economic modernization, he added.

Ideally, Khloponin should do what the federal center has planned by replacing the presidents of the North Caucasian republics of the 2000s, Vremya Novostey said. Even loyal, honest and talented people failed to remove “predominantly ethnic-oriented groups, which devoured federal budget transfers from the levers of power in the North Caucasus,” the paper said.

Khloponin’s office may become helpful for the presidents of the region’s republics in controlling expenditures, taking personnel decisions and coordinating law-enforcement agencies, it added.

Sergey Borisov, RT