Volume 1, Number 4; 15 November 12

Eurasia Analyst

Volume 1, Number 4;  15 November 12

The Bases of Russian Foreign Policy, Part 2:  Who? By Susan J. Cavan

“The need for constant analysis and strategic planning regarding all security issues, as well as the drafting of presidential decisions, necessitates the existence of a special constitutional advisory body accountable to the President. This body is the Security Council.” (1)

In an interview with Rossiyskaya gazeta to mark the 20th anniversary of the founding of the Security Council, the Secretary of the Council, Nikolai Patrushev, provided insight into the range and import of the Council’s work, as well as its structure:  “[I]t is the Security Council that is responsible for drafting practically all conceptual doctrinal documents in our country. (…) The Security Council includes permanent members as well as members in an advisory capacity.  (…)  Strategically important subjects are brought up at Security Council sessions, and Security Council permanent members and members are invited to attend. Operational conferences involving only permanent members also are held for discussing current and future issues, usually on a weekly basis.” (2)

In its present iteration, the permanent members of the Security Council are the President (Chairman of the Council); Prime Minister; Directors of the Federal Security Service (FSB) and Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR); Ministers of Interior, Defense, and Foreign Affairs; the Speakers of the Federation Council and State Duma; the president’s Chief of Staff; and the Secretary of the Council.  Currently, Nikolai Patrushev, former Director of the FSB, is the Secretary of the Council.  Boris Gryzlov, Chairman of United Russia, also has been named a permanent SC member.

The membership of the Council represents the highest level of the security elite in Russia and many members share similar employment paths that have brought them together in earlier stages of their careers.  Half of the members, including, of course, President Putin, have strong links to former Soviet power organs, primarily the KGB.  Several members are linked to Putin through work in Leningrad/St. Petersburg and with the former mayor, Anatoli Sobchak.

There are permanent members who currently have primarily legislative remits, notably Valentina Matviyenko, Sergei Naryshkin, and Boris Gryzlov.  All three have connections to St. Petersburg.  As has been noted many times before, Vladimir Putin’s years working with Sobchak in the Leningrad City Executive offices seems to have been formative in many ways, not least in building close ties to trusted companions, whom Putin later brought to Moscow to work with him.   Of the twelve permanent SC members (other than Putin), seven have connections through Leningrad/St. Petersburg.

Most of the permanent members are of an age with Putin, raised during the stagnation of the Brezhnev era, but also seeped in the reform battles that followed.  (3)  Like Brezhnev’s successor, Yuri Andropov, as well as President Putin, several members have had explicit KGB careers, including Alexander Bortnikov, Sergei Ivanov, Rashid Nurgaliyev and Nikolai Patrushev.  The newest member, recently-appointed Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, along with Boris Gryzlov, distinguished themselves in supporting Putin in his early days as Yel’tsin’s anointed successor and have retained important roles either in the Kremlin, cabinet, or legislature in the years of Putin’s leadership.

The two members with specifically international portfolios, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Foreign Intelligence Director Mikhail Fradkov have ties with Russia’s foreign policy touchstone, Yevgeni Primakov.  (4)  Federation Council Speaker Valentina Matviyenko, is also a graduate of the Soviet Diplomatic Academy of the USSR Foreign Ministry  and served in the 1990s as Ambassador to Malta, then Greece, during Primakov’s tenure as Foreign Minister.  Primakov  brought Matviyenko to Moscow to serve as deputy prime minister in his cabinet in 1998. (5)

Yevgeni Primakov clearly has been a strong influence on both Soviet and Russian foreign policy, although his influence has not been a constant force, but rather it has waxed and waned.   As was noted in Putin’s first term as president: “In the days after Sept. 11, Putin moved away from the so-called Primakov doctrine of “multipolarity” — advocating cooperation with India and China to balance the global reach of the United States — and toward the ostensibly pro -Western yet firmly pragmatic and often even hard-line views of his behind-the -scenes advisers.”  (6)  In the early stage of Putin’s presidency, the political battle between Putin’s supporters and the Primakov-Luzhkov Fatherland movement was still fresh, and Putin may have sought to distance himself from Primakov’s policies.  Before long, it appears Primakov’s “multipolarity” gained traction, and it doesn’t take much more than a cursory reading of Putin’s foreign policy formulation of February 2012 to realize that Primakov’s influence once again may be ascendant.

It would seem remiss not to note the connections on the Security Council to a figure who has maintained a Kremlin role for many years, through most of the Yel’tsin presidency, Putin’s first two terms, Medvedev’s interregnum, and Putin’s return.  Although not currently a member of the Security Council, Sergei Stepashin served Yel’tsin as Chief of the Federal Security Services, Head of the Federal Counterintelligence Service, Justice Minister, Interior Minister, and acting Prime Minister (immediately before Putin).  In 2000, Putin appointed him head of the Control Directorate/Audit Chamber.  Stepashin also hails from St. Petersburg and became acquainted with several Council members there.  Although his early career was in the Interior Ministry, Stepashin returned to St. Petersburg after the attempted coup in 1991 as Head of the Leningrad City and Oblast’ Directorate for the Federal Security Agency.  It has been reported that early in Putin’s Presidency, Stepashin became interested in “turning the Auditing Commission into the most powerful financial secret service in the country.”   (7)  In his role as “financial watchdog,” which provides, in part, the ability to trace and identify sources of funding, Stepashin clearly exerts not inconsiderable influence on foreign and defense policy, as well as domestic issues. (8)

Dmitri Rogozin, Vice Premier with oversight of the defense and space industry, is not a member of the SC but nonetheless represents a possible wild card among Russia’s foreign policy elite.  Formerly Russia’s Ambassador to NATO and leader of the Rodina political party, Rogozin is an outspoken Russian nationalist, who has harshly criticized NATO expansion plans and staunchly defended Russian actions across the former Soviet Union.  Earlier this year, he explained his ideas on Russian foreign policy as the need to act with an “iron fist in a kid glove.”  (9)  While Rogozin’s views are forcefully expressed, it is unclear just how much weight they carry with President Putin.

Among the SC’s permanent members, clearly some are more influential on presidential decision making than others.  Sergei Ivanov enjoys a longstanding, close relationship with Putin, and seems long ago to have earned his trust.  The new Interior Minister, Vladimir Kolokoltsev, on the other hand, seems to have neither the trademark KGB experience nor the St. Petersburg connections.   He served most recently as Moscow Police Chief and his input on security matters may relate primarily to domestic affairs.

FSB Director Alexander Bortnikov is also head of the National Counterterrorism Committee’s (NAK’s) Federal Operational Staff.   The NAK has broad control of any large-scale antiterrorism operation.  When such an operation is launched, Bortnikov directs the work of the “chiefs or deputy chiefs of all the enforcement structures – 24 departments in all.” (10)  With such broad authority, it seems likely that Bortnikov holds significant sway, particularly in matters pertaining to terrorism.

There are, of course, other heavyweights among the Security Council’s permanent members, even among the advisory members.   The advisory members include regional representatives, such as the Mayor of Moscow, Governor of St. Petersburg, and presidential envoys to the regions, as well as the Chief of the General Staff, Head of the Border Guards, Finance Minister and Director of the Federal Narcotics Service.  In its current configuration, the Security Council provides President Putin with both broad ranging input and advice and the more pointed counsel available from a small group of trusted advisers.

By Susan J. Cavan


Copyright © 2012 resides with individual authors.  All rights reserved.  Send requests for permission to EurasiaAnalyst@gmail.com

End Notes:

(1) “About Security Council,” Official Kremlin website via http://eng.state.kremlin.ru/security_council/about_sec.

(2) “Russian security supremo interviewed on council’s agenda, national concept,” Interview with RF Security Council Secretary Nikolay Platonovich Patrushev by Rossiyskaya Gazeta Correspondent Ivan Yegorov.  Rossiyskaya gazeta, 31 May 12 via LexisNexis Academic.  Also, see “Putin’s Militocracy,” by Olga Kryshtanovskaya and Stephen White, Post-Soviet Affairs, 2003, 19, 4, pp. 289-306 for a discussion of Security Council structure.

(3) For more on the legacy of post-Brezhnev reform, see “Brezhnev’s Children,” by Brian Whitmore.  The Power Vertical blog, 8 November 12 via http://www.rferl.org/content/brezhnevs-children/24765431.html.

(4) Mikhail Fradkov is often described as a “technocrat,” who landed the post of prime minister, and then FIS Director as either a compromise or for his loyalty and  pliancy — This despite his history in the USSR Embassy in India and the USSR Ministry of Foreign Economic Relations.  In his book, Minnoye polye politiki, Evgenii Primakov notes in a caption under a picture of himself with Fradkov that he has been acquainted with him for a long time.  Perhaps Fradkov’s technical work abroad fell under the jurisdiction of the Soviet power organs.  In any event, Fradkov clearly has long ties with Primakov.  For more on this subject, see “Fradkov: Silovik or Liberal,” by Olga Kryshtanovskaya.  Moscow News, 10 March 04 via LexisNexis Academic.

(5) “’Auntie Valya’ Awaiting Orders,” by Kevin O’Flynn.  The Moscow Times, 9 November 07 via LexisNexis Academic.

(6) “Putin’s Foreign Policy a Private Affair,” by Gregory Feifer.  The Moscow Times, 2 April 2002 via LexisNexis Academic.

(7) “Winter Hunt,” by Konstantin Smirnov. Kommersant-Vlast, No. 48, December 2001, pp. 20 – 21, What the Papers Say, 6 Dec 01 via LexisNexis Academic.  For biographical background of Sergei Stepashin, see http://persona.rin.ru/eng/view/f/0/10571/sergey-v-stepashin or his official biography on the RF Accounts Chamber website at http://www.ach.gov.ru/en/about/chairman/.

(8) On Stepashin as “financial watchdog,” see, for example: “Russia’s defense spending gradually taking off,” By Oleg Vladykin.  The Moscow News, 9 June 06 via LexisNexis Academic.

(9) “Russia should pursue “Iron fist in kid glove” foreign policy – Rogozin,” 26 February 12 RIA-Novosti via http://en.rian.ru/russia/20120226/171539262.html.  It is noteworthy that Rogozin’s statement came one day before the publication of Putin’s foreign policy tract.

(10) “Serious Consequences from Trivial Arguments. Speculation About Military Operation in Dagestan Acquires Real Features” by Milrad Fatullayev.  Nezavisimaya gazeta, 7 September 12; BBC Worldwide Monitoring via LexisNexis Academic.


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