Letter From the Editors: July 25 - 31, 2016

Author: Matthew Larson

Kremlin Unleashes Massive Government Reshuffle; Security Agencies Step Up Clan War; Donald Trump - Is He a Putin Agent or Unwitting Kremlin Toady?

Things got a little topsy-turvy in Russian government and security circles this week as the Kremlin launched another round of sweeping personnel changes. The reshuffle saw many "old guard" governors and officials sacked and replaced with younger, mid-level bureaucrats. RBC suggests that Putin is giving his administration a face-lift ahead of the 2018 presidential election. The president is getting rid of ineffective administrators, but since in many cases they have deep-seated ties to him, and because the unwritten rule is that loyalists get an "honorary retirement," the result is indeed very much a game of musical chairs, with cushy jobs for the officials who have fallen out of favor. The upshot is that more governors are former security officials. Mikhail Komin writes that these "general governors" will rule with an iron fist: "Their appointment means that the time of consolidation through negotiation is over; it is now time for consolidation through intimidation." The new policy, Komin says, will be one of managed chaos, designed to instill fear and anxiety among the elite in order to keep them in line. The ultimate goal is to purge politically unreliable officials from all levels of government.

A similar "purge" is taking the form of an "anticorruption campaign" in the security agencies. This week, the FSB arrested numerous Russian Investigative Committee employees on corruption charges, and the Federal Customs Service chief was arrested on bribery charges. The splashy arrests were part of what some observers consider an interclan war among Russia’s many security agencies. What makes the latest spate of arrests unique is that they are playing out in front of TV cameras. The flustered FCS head was shown with shoe boxes full of cash in a scene deliberately intended to publicly humiliate him.

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