BOFIT Viikkokatsaus / BOFIT Weekly 2019/23

Observers note that the Duma’s increasingly proactive role in legislating and the rise of competition among security services and state-owned companies exemplify Russia’s shifting domestic internal power balance. It reflects behind-the-scenes jockeying for position among Russia’s elites and preparations for the end of president Putin’s fourth term in 2024.

As the latest example of the confusion created by the dispersed political landscape, experts cite the March arrests of Michael Calvey, CEO of the private equity firm Baring Vostok, along with five other businessmen. While Calvey was accused of embezzling billions of rubles, he atypically avoided being held in custody while the case was investigated and granted house arrest while awaiting trial. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peshkov said this week that he hoped that Calvey and the other accused would be vindicated. Observers say the inconsistent treatment shows a lack of official coordination.

President Putin’s long-term goal has been to create a tightly concentrated vertical power hierarchy. Observers say current system relies too heavily on micromanagement from the top, i.e. everything that is not specifically permitted is forbidden. Inverting this power hierarchy means that the Kremlin relaxes its grip on guidance of other institutions. Doing so, however, reduces the predictability of official measures. Some observers claim the Security Council is emerging as the principal body of power, where the top members of the power elite meet to decide on national security and economic issues.