Welcome to the jungle: Putin approves new government amid ‘tough times’
Putin’s endorsement comes at a time when the country is facing a multi-pronged challenge on the economic, social and military fronts.
"The situation in which the world economy finds itself is an uncertain one,” Putin warned the officials, many of them fresh faces to government. “It is in these conditions that you will have to implement the development program for Russia."
Currently, much of the global economy is struggling to escape the clutches of a grinding downturn, which has rattled consumer confidence at home and abroad. Experts fear that the slightest push could trigger a domino effect that would probably not spare Russia some degree of economic fallout.
In a series of articles published in Russian newspapers prior to the presidential election, Putin outlined his ambitious plans for stoking the economic fires at home. Among some of the tasks, Putin stressed the need for the Russian economy to generate 25 million new, high-tech, well-paid jobs for people with higher education, while raising the wages of teachers, doctors and other professionals.
In order to fulfill this tall order, approximately 75 per cent of government posts will be filled by fresh faces, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev informed the Russian leader.
"The government will be renewed by approximately three-quarters,” Medvedev said. “These are new people, who have appeared just recently or have not been government members before."
Aside from its concern over economic stagnation, Russia has other equally worrisome dragons to slay, but that will not happen without the experience and knowledge of experienced veteran in the ranks. Therefore, many high-ranking government officials will keep their seats. Among them, Sergey Lavrov, 62, will carry on as Minister of Foreign Affairs, a position he has held successfully since 2004.
Lavrov has been Russia’s ubiquitous point man in the so-called Russia-US reset, which has been engineered to bring about renewed relations between the two former Cold War enemies. One of the fruits of those efforts was the signing of New START, an arms control document that slashes nuclear ballistic missiles to 1,500 on each side.
However, as former NATO ambassador Dmitry Rogozin understands firsthand, the much-trumpeted reset is not out of the woods yet. Not by a long shot. With the Alliance’s relentless drive eastwards, which now includes a missile defense shield bolted down in former Warsaw Pact real estate, the heat is on Russia to bolster its national defenses.
Given his past experience in playing hardball with NATO officials – who announced at the weekend during the Chicago Summit that the missile defense system has already gone online – Rogozin as Deputy Premier is the perfect choice to modernize Russia’s sagging military assets.
Rogozin is joined by Anatoly Serdyukov, 50, will is entering his fifth year as minister of defense. In early 2010, Serdyukov launched a massive $430 billion program to provide the conventional forces with new weapons over the next 15 years. He is also responsible for trimming the fat on Russia’s war machine, reducing its dependency on conscript soldiers as the military brass makes the turn toward a professional, volunteer army.
All told, the new Cabinet – structured as it is with a mixture of fresh young blood and gritty experience – seems perfectly calibrated to meet the next generation of challenges that Russia must face. As Putin clearly understands, Russia does not have the luxury of sitting still in a globalized, highly-interconnected world.