06:34 GMT +320 August 2019
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    President Vladimir Putin meets with Sergei Ivanov and Anton Vaino

    Time of the Technocrats: What to Make of the Kremlin's New Chief of Staff

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    On Friday, the Kremlin announced that Vladimir Putin had appointed a new presidential chief of staff, replacing veteran statesman Sergei Ivanov with up-and-coming official Anton Vaino. Putting together an analysis of the shuffle, one of Russia's leading independent newspapers spoke to several Russian politics experts about its implications.

    On August 12, Sergei Ivanov, a veteran senior official who had served as the chief of the presidential administration since December 2011, was relieved of his post, and appointed presidential envoy for conservation, environment, and transport. Prior to his job as presidential chief of staff, Ivanov served as deputy prime minister, defense minister, and secretary of the Russian Security Council, a body reporting to the president charged with formulating the nation's security policy.

    According to the president, Ivanov's successor, Anton Vaino, was proposed by Ivanov himself. Thanking the official for his work, Putin emphasized that he understood Ivanov's desire to move on. Ivanov had previously asked to serve as the head of the presidential administration for a period of no more than four years, but ended up serving four years and eight months, Putin noted.

    "We have successfully worked together for many years. I am satisfied with the way you have carried out the tasks you have been entrusted with," Putin said, speaking at a meeting with Ivanov and Vaino which was broadcast by the Rossiya-24 news network on Friday.

    Commenting on the reshuffle, and the background of new Kremlin chief of staff, Svobodnaya Pressa contributor Andrei Ivanov wrote that remarkably few details are available about the official. 

    "His father was the vice president of the Russian Chamber of Commerce. Anton Vaino was born in 1972, graduated from the Moscow State Institute of International Relations (MGIMO), and worked in the Russian Embassy in Japan. Since 2003, his career has been closely linked to state administration."

    "Starting off as an advisor the Presidential Protocol Office [responsible for protocol during visits abroad and trips to Russian regions by the head of state], he rose to become deputy head of the structure. In 2008, Vaino became chief of protocol for the government; with Putin's return to the presidency he was appointed deputy head of the presidential administration."

    So what's actually behind the reshuffle? For answers, Svobodnaya Pressa turned to several respected Russian political analysts.

    For his part, political consultant Evgeny Minchenko suggested that the move was part of a conscious effort by the president to advance loyal technocrats through the government apparatus, with Vaino himself being taken into the presidential administration earlier specifically as a candidate for future promotion. 

    According to Minchenko, the administrative new blood has fewer connections to the old cadres, and connected with the president personally. At the same time, "most important for them is the effectiveness of their work, rather than loyalty to one group or another."

    At the same time, the analyst suggested that the shuffle was part of a natural process of replacing old cadres with new ones. "Putin had a task of cultivating new cadres, which he has been working to address in recent years," Minchenko said.

    For his part, Konstantin Kalachev, the head of a Moscow-based political think tank, emphasized that Vaino is a "representative of a new generation of Russian officials," with great experience and whose career path commands respect. At the same time, "it's likely that a great deal of commentary will come out of Japan, where Vaino has worked."

    "At one time," the analyst recalled, "Sergei Ivanov was seen as a possible successor to Putin, on par with Dmitri Medvedev. Ivanov is a man of the old school, sufficiently firm, strong-willed, and a good organizer. As head of the presidential administration, he showed himself to be an effective worker. But it appears that changes were needed — new people. This means that we will see a new approach. Different generations means a different style of work. Vaino did not come from the security services. He is a graduate of MGIMO, and has more diplomatic skills and abilities."

    Ultimately, in Kalachev's estimation, the shuffle demonstrates that the system of state administration is evolving, cadres are changing, career elevators are working, and that young people are being allowed to grow into new roles. "We can only guess what happens next, and whether the new appointments are connected to the upcoming elections. Only recently everyone was saying that everything was predictable [in Putin's cadre policy] and could be figured out in advance. It turned out that the president knows how to surprise everyone."

    Finally, political analyst Alexei Makarkhin believes that this decision regarding the chief of staff is part of a generational change in Putin's inner circle. The analyst recalled that just in the last period, former Russian Railways head Vladimir Yakunin, former Federal Narcotics Service director Viktor Ivanov, and now Sergei Ivanov have been moved on to other roles. 

    "Putin simply does not want to cultivate a gerontocracy around himself, as was the case in the Brezhnev era," Makarkhin noted. "We remember how much speculation there has been about Putin's unchanging entourage. Apparently, the experience of the Brezhnev era is regarded as unfortunate. After all, Putin lived under Brezhnev, and remembers what [the policy of no changes in cadres] led to."

    "We see that the president is making cadre changes rather decisively. He is changing them out to people from his inner circle, people whom he can trust. Vaino, as is known, has long served as a head of the government apparatus; he held a key post in the presidential administration. He has always been close by."

    Whatever else occurs, Makarkhin suggested that "policy itself is unlikely to change – only the mechanisms [of power] are being adjusted. But the essence of policy will remain the same."

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    Tags:
    chief of presidential staff, expert commentary, analysis, Presidential Administration, Russian Government, Anton Vaino, Vladimir Putin, Sergei Ivanov, Russia
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