The appointment of Sergei Lavrov as foreign minister and the transfer of his predecessor, Igor Ivanov, to the Kremlin were among the loudest signals given by the president. They mean that Russia's foreign policy will not change because it does not need radical reform. Indeed, when a department or sector needs reform, Putin appoints a complete newcomer there, as has happened with the Ministry of Culture and Mass Communications, which is now led by the former rector of the Moscow Conservatory, Alexander Sokolov. An older example is the appointment of Sergei Ivanov, who was not directly connected with the armed forces, to the post of defence minister, which he has retained in the new cabinet.
Since the day Igor Ivanov became foreign minister in 1998, representatives of the liberal camp, some business corporations and many other claimants aspired to snatch the post from him. Throughout the six years of his work in the ministry, Igor Ivanov upheld a fundamentally different concept, saying that in the modern situation a layman could not head the Foreign Ministry because Russia has very few people that do not belong to the system and can hold the post without making gross mistakes. Like his predecessor, Yevgeny Primakov, Ivanov suggested his successor (in fact, several of them) and the president chose the best.
There are ambassadors in faraway countries who have to adjust to new Russian realities for a long time after their return. Sergei Lavrov, though he worked for eight years in the UN, the epicentre of world politics, contacted the top leaders of the country on key foreign policy issues almost every day. The UN is the planet in miniature and working there is a unique experience, which offers a wide range of new important acquaintances and a feeling of world realities. Lavrov may become a very popular minister thanks to his socialite nature and rare talents: he is the second musical and artistic foreign minister of Russia in the past century. Hence, we can expect changes in the working style at the ministry.
Proof of the continuity of Russia's foreign ministry is a clear signal to bureaucrats throughout the world: sources say that there will be no major reshuffles in the ministry, with the exception of those planned last autumn (two deputy ministers were preparing to leave as ambassadors to major countries, and now one more diplomat will have to fill Lavrov's vacant place at the UN).
The role of Igor Ivanov is much less apparent, above all because the general public knows little about the workings of the Security Council and the powers and duties of its secretary. However, his transition from the government to the Kremlin administration, which stands closer to the president, can make the post of Security Council secretary more important. US experience shows that leadership in the endless duet of the state secretary and the national security adviser depends on the person of the adviser.
Unlike during the Yeltsin era, foreign policy under Vladimir Putin has obviously been presidential, clearly structured and understandable. It has been formulated at regular sessions of the ministers and heads of departments who sit on the Security Council, as well as on the Council itself. Igor Ivanov was a key, though not the only, figure there and Putin has grown used to his style. So, they will just take up where they left off.