Volume III, No. 6 @eurasiaanalyst February 26, 2015
Apparat Cracks? By Susan J. Cavan
Federal Drug Control Service Chief Viktor Ivanov has had a rough month. Rumors of the impending dissolution of the Federal Drug Control Service (FSKN) suggest that the Service’s function may end up incorporated into the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MVD) and possibly the Health Ministry. As for Ivanov, he is reported to be heading back into the presidential administration. Ivanov, asked for comment on the rumors claimed, “reports of my agency’s death have been greatly exaggerated.” (1) Nonetheless, the Moscow Times does have a document signed by the head of the Kremlin’s Legal Directorate, which confirms an order to disband the FSKN as of March 1.
Ivanov also denied reports that he was moving to a position within the presidential apparat: “”There have not been any such proposals or discussions.” (2) Ivanov, and others, have suggested that any attempts to reduce the personnel levels at FSKN might be related to budgetary concerns in the wake of western sanctions. If Ivanov, in fact, has not been privy to conversations about the fate of the FSKN or his own future position and the plans go ahead, it would be a serious indicator of displeasure from the president. It likely would also send his patronage “tail” scurrying for other cover.
Viktor Ivanov’s name also figured prominently in news from the public inquiry into the death of Alexander Litvinenko, currently ongoing in London. A report presented to the inquiry by the lawyer (Ben Emmerson QC) for Litvinenko’s widow Marina, claimed that in the months before his poisoning and death from the radioactive substance polonium-210, Litvinenko had been investigating top Putin allies, including Viktor Ivanov. Putin protected Ivanov, according to the report, during their days in St. Petersburg, when Ivanov allegedly was cooperating with mafia-like organizations. (3) Luke Harding, in The Guardian, provided an analysis of the report with quotes from Marina Litvinenko’s lawyer: “Ivanov vigorously supported one mafia faction, the notorious Tambov gang, against its rivals, it was alleged. He became friends with the gang’s leader, Vladimir Kumarin, and acquired a share of the port’s “murky” activities. Ivanov also founded two companies, one with Boris Gryzlov….Reading from the report in court, Emmerson said that “ironically” while Ivanov was “cooperating with gangsters” he was promoted to boss of the department that was supposed to fight smuggling in St Petersburg. “ (4)
President Putin can mark the re-opening of the Litvinenko inquiry down to another bit of “fallout” from his Ukraine foray. Debate over national security and foreign relations concerns had seen the Litvinenko inquest repeatedly postponed. (5) However, in the wake of Russia’s annexation of Crimea and invasion of Ukraine, authorities in London apparently decided that discretion was not the better part of valor.
Another interesting report made its way out of the Kremlin this week and involves analysis of the political situation in Ukraine, as well as possible Kremlin responses to the Maidan protests. Novaya gazeta published a redacted copy of the analytical report and identified a possible author, who has since vigorously denied involvement. According to Novaya gazeta, events might have altered the plans in the report somewhat, but the report, nonetheless, is either remarkably prescient or represents a blueprint of actions to be taken at the Kremlin’s directive: “Current events in Kyiv convincingly show that the Yanukovych’s [sic] time in power could end at any moment. Thus, there is less and less time for an appropriate Russian response. The number of dead in riots in the capital of Ukraine is direct evidence of the inevitability of civil war and the impossibility of reaching consensus if Yanukovych remains president. In these circumstances, it seems appropriate to play along the centrifugal aspirations of the various regions of the country, with a view to initiate the accession of its eastern regions to Russia, in one form or another. Crimea and Kharkiv region should become the dominant regions for making such efforts, as there already exist reasonably large groups there that support the idea of maximum integration with Russia.” (6)
Analyses of this Kremlin paper on Ukraine emphasize the incomplete or erroneous interpretation of events surrounding the Maidan protests and the key figures, most notably the Ukrainian oligarchs, and of their presumed influence on developments. The tone has been termed “strained, imperialistic paranoia,” (7) but it more likely reflects a developing style of communication within the Kremlin when discussing foreign relations. This “specialized lingo” has its genesis, at least, in propaganda rather than paranoia.
The mot significant aspect of this leaked document has something in common with the order regarding Viktor Ivanov and FSKN, and that is the fact that they were leaked from Kremlin sources at all. Putin’s administration along with his closest advisers, have shown remarkable discipline over the long years of Putin’s control of Russia, whether from the Kremlin or the White House. Without such discipline, the “castling” maneuver with Dmitri Medvedev and the years of tandem rule would never have been possible, let alone Putin’s resumption of the presidency in 2012. Yet now, documents are finding there way free of the Kremlin. The Ivanov leak may even suggest stress in the inner circle as infighting among the sometimes-fractious siloviki breaks into the press.
Putting aside considerations of a post-Putin Russia, western sanctions are designed to hamper Putin’s ability to project power, particularly in the form of armed invasion, annexing territory, or destabilizing neighbors. Creating even small cracks in discipline among Putin’s apparat may be a positive sign of the stressful effects of sanctions and international critique. Even if it simply reflects a bit of under the Kremlin carpet skirmishing, any independence of action among the members of Putin’s team can be encouraged and cheered. This may one day represent just the kind of spanner in the works that can frustrate or wreck some new Kremlin expansionist initiative.
By Susan J. Cavan
1) Russia’s Drug Tsar Invokes Mark Twain in Denying Agency’s Closure, by Peter Spinella, Moscow Times, Feb. 17 2015 20:34, via http://www.themoscowtimes.com/news/article/russia-s-drug-tsar-evokes-mark-twain-in-denying-agency-s-closure/516111.html.
2) Ibid; A report of the Kremlin directive and its possible implications and justifications can also be found in Vedomosti, via http://www.vedomosti.ru/politics/news/39434931/vesna-bez-narkokontrolya.
3) Litvinenko report on Putin ally was motive enough for murder, inquiry told, by Luke Harding, The Guardian, 23 February 2015, via http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/feb/23/litvinenko-report-putin-ally-motive-murder-inquiry.
5) Alexander Litvinenko ‘killed on third attempt,’ 27 January 2015 last updated at 03:34 ET, BBC News, via http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-30994242.
6) Novaya Gazeta’s ‘Kremlin Papers’ article: Full text in English 25.02.2015 | 15:59, via http://www.unian.info/politics/1048525-novaya-gazetas-kremlin-papers-article-full-text-in-english.html. Text in Russia: http://www.novayagazeta.ru/politics/67389.html.
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