Alexander Khaldey

translated by Scott Humor

The slew of comments on new appointments to the Cabinet of Ministers of Russia continues. The comments of most analysts are nothing but puzzling.

Infamous satirical literary provocateur Kozma Petrovich Prutkov once wrote that any expert resembled a dental abscess, due to its one-sidedness.  

In fact, the expert is not a narrow specialist, but someone who understands what is happening far more than all the others. However, with regard to appointment of new Cabinet of Ministers of Russia experts agreed on one common statement: “I don’t understand” – and further variations on this topic:

“I don’t understand why Putin appointed Medvedev.”

“The order in which numbers are added does not change their sum.”

“Nation is tired of same old line-up and change is necessary to blow off steam.”

“New key players are needed for a new game.

“Don’t change horses in midstream.”

“Putin can’t find people due to shortage of skilled personnel.”

“Again, for 6 years to see the same faces, waiting for nothing, God save Russia!”

“The popular President has unpopular Ministers. It’s wrong.”

These and other similar statements, the depth of which makes you ask yourself are those experts speaking, or a group of grandfathers gathered on a backyard to play domino and discuss what would happened if Herbert Hoover placed his finger inside Paul von Hindenburg’s mouth.[Reference to The Golden Calf, a satirical political novel by Soviet authors Ilf and Petrov, released in 1931.]

Why invite an expert for an interview if he starts with the words “I don’t understand…” I am deliberately not naming any names, but there is a slew of publicists, writers, and doctors of economic sciences, and Putin’s supporters, opponents, and neutrals who sound the same.

What’s shocking is not even the naiveté of the experts, but the degree of their immaturity. Things like what I quoted can normally be said by idle Internet dwellers, who  wander from blog to blog and expressing accumulated wisdom of their entire life in three to ten words. An expert need to see a little deeper and understand a little more than that. Otherwise, they are not experts, but delegates from some pensioners’ party.

They rebuke Putin for appointing Medvedev. Which means nothing more for them than to keep going around in circles. He is weak, detached from reality, unpopular, with the largest anti-rating, tired and so on. His Deputy Prime Ministers are also not some bright new things. They just switched seats and it’s all over. But we are waiting for change, as Viktor Tsoi’s song goes. That’s all for experts’ wisdom. This is the main pool of the popular “talking heads” who constantly comment on current events on YouTube.

However, there are answers to all there puzzled questions. Experts don’t even need to think – just browse some federal analytical sites. Experts might not like them, but they should take notice of their content that just standing there. Experts might disagree with those site content, but it’s something that they need to know. Just if you call yourself an expert, then go to the main government’s sites and after that go and save Rome, taking into account all the latest news.

Those sites say it all. They say that Putin has created the most politically weak government ever. And for the first time, he has created the most technically strong government. They are no longer lobbying for some clans’ interests, but perform specific tasks for the President. To do this, we did not have to make a long-distance call “through the Far East,” or change the Constitution. 77% of the votes given to Putin at the elections were enough.

Why Medvedev? Because the prime minister now is not a politician, serving his clans, but a separated from any special interests and hanging in midair character. Using a chess term, he is not a Queen, but a hanging pawn. How come? Now all decisions in the government are made by the President. That’s what you all have been wanting for all those years? You got it. Now the government is not a special interests club, but the apparatus of officials without opinions. Figuratively speaking, if commanded “Lay down and die!” they will do just that without bargaining and putting forward conditions, “I want that” and “I don’t want that”. What would it be like now, if someone else was appointed as a Prime Minister, instead of Medvedev? Lobbyists would immediately form a queue. Elites would be considering if it’s beneficial for them to push a new PM to betray Putin now, or to wait? Is this a state for the country in a state of war that must do urgent things and be managed and united?

The indictment of brothers Mahomedovs, elimination of influence of oligarchs Shuvalov, Dvorkovitsch, Prichodka, all this has ensured that Medvedev is not a puppet in the hands of clans, any longer. To seek his protection is useless, he doesn’t address such issues. Is he now a “technical Prime Minister?” Yes, he is. Is that so hard to understand? No, not really. So, what’s the problem? Where this flood of whining is coming from?

Furthermore, in addition to understanding meaning of visible processes, an expert should be able to observe and compare. Putin has weakened the government as a place for clan compromises, and strengthened it by turning it into a working body. Even so it’s too early to judge, since the names of ministers have not yet been named. But the role of the new government in the political process is already visible. Isn’t this the kind of action that should have been taken in the run-up to major change? Where’s your expertise, experts?

What does Putin do, setting the government in a “box”, as they say in the administration?  He issues his first Presidential Decree “On the national goals and strategic objectives for the development of the Russian Federation till 2024.” According to the Kremlin’s press service, the document contains a number of instructions that cover social, economic, environmental and other issues of the country’s development. There are specific things:

  1. To ensure a breakthrough in scientific, social and economic development.
  2. To provide conditions for stable growth of real incomes of Russian people.
  3. To guarantee an increase in the level of pension provision above the level of inflation.
  4. To increase life expectancy of Russian citizens to 78 years by 2024, by 2030 — up to 80 years.
  5. Reduction of poverty level in the country by 50%.
  6. To improve the housing conditions for at least 5 million families annually. For 6 years for 30 million people.
  7. To make Russia one of the five largest economies in the world.

How all of these will be accomplished and paid for is another matter for another conversation. If we don’t find some particular solutions, we can also find some other. Solve the problems as they come. This government composition is not an icon, so nobody will pray at it.  The roles of  Timoshenko, Budyonny and Voroshilov in Stalin’s Stavka also had changed as the war went on.  What interests us now is not the way ministers act, but the nature of the government – whether it is new or not. Have there been such specific tasks before? No, there wasn’t. Were more general tasks. Because the government had not been fully subordinated to the President. Now, the tasks are very specifically. Why? Is it not because, for the first time since Gorbachev and Yeltsin, the government obeys the President without external influence?

We see that the government itself is in a managed state. Roughly speaking, collective Trotsky has been expelled, and only collective Kaganovich and Voroshilov are left. There is no longer “every gopher is an agronomist”, but it’s an army and the commander, as expected. Orders are not discussed, but implemented. Non-execution of an order means a tribunal.

The government and the contents of the first presidential Decree of Putin after his appointment say to every reasonable person, whether an expert or not, that Putin is as serious as he has never  been before. Changes has already began, and they began not with bringing into government some charismatic cult figures, but with putting together the most non-charismatic Cabinet of Ministers. Cabinet is not a meet up of contenders for leadership in a party. The Cabinet is for routine work. Like in the army, is not necessary to think  here, but it is necessary to perform. The President thinks. he sets up tasks. And those who won’t be able to perform, will be giving “advices from the sideline,”  as Lenin wrote.

Putin transitions from defense to offense. He rebuilt the government for this concrete tasks. Its composition is not a sacred cow. It’s specifically contracted with an opened exit, and people will be changing, when the time is right. For each objective stage will be its own Cabinet of Ministers.

In what way the western experts are different from domestic? They have, suddenly, shut up. They, unlike ours, understand Putin’s maneuvers. They feel intentions for which all this is done. They don’t express any illusions and joy. Taking control over the army is always a major undertaking before the battle. Trump can only dream of such control over his government. that  Putin has achieved. We will see the results soon.

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