Publication: Prism Volume: 2 Issue: 14

The Fight for Access to Yeltsin

By Andrei Zhukov

The recent personnel reshuffles at the top have led to the formationof a fundamentally new balance of political forces in the president’sentourage. By all indications, the president continues to employhis favorite tactic of "divide and rule," which alsoreflects a long-standing tradition in Russian history.

Both "hawks," i.e. pragmatics headed by Aleksandr Korzhakov,and "doves," i.e. democrats headed by Viktor Ilyushinhave been replaced by new people with new ideas.

Three groups are currently being formed around the president.The first one (under the patronage of Security Council SecretaryAleksandr Lebed) is a patriotic-oriented group and is composedmainly of government officials, Minister of Defense Igor Rodionovbeing one of the most noticeable figures. Besides the SecurityCouncil, this group relies on the Defense Ministry and the military-industrialcomplex. However, the position of this group has weakened recentlywith the establishment of the Defense Council. The Defense Councilis headed by the president while Aleksandr Lebed is just an ordinarymember of the Council. Besides, one member of the Defense Council,Anatoly Chubais, is Lebed’s antagonist. It was Chubais who preventedthe appointment of Sergei Glaziev to the Security Council. (Lebedplanned to have Glaziev in the Security Council as a man responsiblefor economic security issues.)

In fact, the Kremlin administration is currently trying to neutralizeLebed by transforming the Security Council into a sort of "serviceto consider complaints and proposals" seeking to have theGeneral bogged down in day-to-day routine work. Besides, the Kremlinadministration is trying to discredit those industrialists andbusinessmen who supported Aleksandr Lebed during the campaign.

Aleksandr Lebed is not prone to panic at this moment and his ownanalysts have already considered all possible options. For example,one of the plans provides for consolidating and activating thepopular associations which are friendly to Lebed, such as theCongress of Russian Communities (headed by Rogozin), Russia’sDemocratic Party (headed by Glaziev) and the "Honor and Motherland"movement headed by Lebed himself. Furthermore, a scenario hasbeen prepared in which Lebed leaves the Kremlin, slams the door,and acquires the image of a martyr for truth. For the moment theGeneral is trying to show tolerance and is seeking to establishfriendly contacts with the mass media.

The second group is being formed around Viktor Chernomyrdin. Thisgroup is composed of pragmatics, mainly those connected with theexport of raw materials rather than goods producers. One of themost noticeable figures in this group is Fuel and Energy MinisterYuri Shafrannik. The spheres of interests of this group are clear:Oil and gas and foreign economic relations. The advantages ofthis group are obvious: According to the constitution the premieris the No. 2 man in the country: if the president proves unableto perform his duties it is the premier who will take his place.

The third group, by all indications, is going to have a double-headedeagle decorated with the profiles of Viktor Ilyushin and AnatolyChubais as its "coat of arms." With regard to theirideological convictions these people are liberals and democratsand with regard to their social status they belong to the intelligentsia.This group is fully in control of the presidential administrationwhich is in fact a "framework" within which almost allthe ministries are functioning. Besides, it is precisely thisgroup (by force of tradition) which controls the access of peopleand information to the president. Furthermore, this group is supposedto provide analytical support for the president’s activity. Insteadof the president’s Analytical Service, Anatoly Chubais has establishedthe so-called Analytical Group composed of the most distinguishedrepresentatives of the top leadership of Boris Yeltsin’s campaignstaff, specifically Georgy Satarov, Vyacheslav Nikonov, etc. Thegroup includes Vasily Shakhnovsky (a Moscow mayoralty senior logisticsofficial and Yuri Luzhkov’s close friend) and Boris Yeltsin’sdaughter, Tatyana Diachenko.

The appointment of Shakhnovsky is in the first place a rewardto the Moscow mayor for the perfect organization of the mayoralelections in Moscow, and, secondly, serves to connect the groupwith Yuri Luzhkov who has dramatically strengthened his positionrecently.

As far as Tatyana Diachenko is concerned, the reasons are notthat plain. During the election campaign she actively advertised(to the president) precisely those ideas and schemes which wereelaborated in the corridors of the President hotel by the Chubais-Yarov-Malashenkogroup. Her presence in the group served drastically to strengthenthe influence of the group and the probability of president’schoosing the projects proposed by this group. The existence ofan additional (and informal) opportunity to prevail upon the Presidentwith regard to any issue provides this group with a decisive advantage.

The appointment of Yuri Yarov (one of the three co-leaders ofBoris Yeltsin’s campaign team) as deputy head of the presidentialadministration serves to confirm that the campaign organizersare going to seize the key posts in the presidential administration.Given the approaching local elections this tendency can have onlyone explanation: The ruling elite plans to make the presidentialadministration a sort of huge election headquarters whose task(for at least the next 12 months) will be to prepare and organizepropaganda campaigns for the appointees of the "party ofpower" in the regions.

At this point, the forces of the three groups described abovedo not appear equal. Nevertheless, such a structure is more stablethan the former bipolar one: The two groups continually pushedthe president from one extreme to the other. Now, in additionto the "extremes" personified by Lebed and Chubais,we have the "center" personified by Viktor Chernomyrdin.By all indications, the premier will serve as a kind of a "buffer"to extinguish any radical inclinations of the other two groups.In this situation his position will naturally strengthen. At thismoment Chernomyrdin’s group looks weaker compared to the othertwo groups: Aleksandr Lebed is popular and has 14 percent of electoralsupport to back him, while Chubais and Ilyushin are distinguishedfor their ability to play a "subtle game" uniting manypeople to form a coordinated administrative mechanism. At thesame time the premier is often forced into situations in whichhe does not look very good. (Let’s recall, for instance, the recentincident where Aleksandr Lebed prevented yet another coup attemptin the country while Chernomyrdin was completely unaware of theplot). At the same time, the fact is that the two "extreme"groups need Chernomyrdin to combat their political rivals andform a "majority" in the eyes of the president.

And what about the president? On the one hand, presidential powerresting on the groups appears more representative. On the otherhand, this situation will give the President more opportunitiesto maneuver between different opinions.

For the time being, as our sources have informed us, Kremlin inhabitantsare very nervous "packing and unpacking" several timesa day awaiting reshuffles and trying to decide which side to take.Meanwhile, the groups are anticipating reinforcements to theirranks. Apparently, it is the president who feels most self-confidentin this situation just because he has already built up a new modelof rule. Imperfect as it is (structures duplicating each other’swork will apparently be present in the spheres where interestsof more than one group are involved), this model will nonethelesspromote a competition where each group is trying hard to makeits way to the president, and where the rivalry promotes an "allagainst all game" which is convenient, and, what is evenmore important, relatively safe, for the president.

Translated by Aleksandr Kondorsky