07MOSCOW3581, THE SUCCESSION RACE: MEDVEDEV AND IVANOV AT THE

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
07MOSCOW3581 2007-07-23 06:20 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Moscow

VZCZCXRO9444
RR RUEHDBU
DE RUEHMO #3581/01 2040620
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
R 230620Z JUL 07
FM AMEMBASSY MOSCOW
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 2278
INFO RUCNCIS/CIS COLLECTIVE
RUEHXD/MOSCOW POLITICAL COLLECTIVE

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 MOSCOW 003581 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 07/23/2017 
TAGS: PGOV PINR RS
SUBJECT: THE SUCCESSION RACE:  MEDVEDEV AND IVANOV AT THE 
STARTING LINE 
 
 
Classified By: Ambassador William J. Burns.  Reason:  1.4 (b). 
 
------- 
Summary 
------- 
 
1. (C) Elections for President Putin's successor are slated 
for March 2008 and two candidates --First Deputy Prime 
Ministers Sergey Ivanov and Dmitriy Medvedev-- have the 
blessing of the Kremlin and are already campaigning 
feverishly.  This message discusses their recent efforts, 
while a subsequent report will examine the prospects for 
other potential candidates. End summary. 
 
---------------- 
Putin Will Leave 
---------------- 
 
2. (C) President Putin's continued insistence that he will 
abide by the Constitution and leave office when his term 
expires next year seems finally to have registered even with 
third-term diehards like Federation Council Chairman Sergey 
Mironov and Center for Real Politics Director Gleb 
Pavlovskiy.  Mironov has dropped his efforts to stimulate a 
groundswell for Putin in the regions, while Pavlovskiy has 
reluctantly acknowledged the President's determination to 
leave office, although he continues to suggest that Putin's 
popularity will allow him to look over the shoulder of 
whomever will replace him in 2008. 
 
---------------------- 
Ivanov, Medvedev Have 
Inside Track 
---------------------- 
 
3. (C) With the waning of speculation about Putin's 
intentions, attention has fully shifted to First Deputy Prime 
Ministers Sergey Ivanov and Dmitriy Medvedev, who are widely 
regarded as the most likely candidates for President at this 
juncture.  Observers here are careful not to exclude 
completely other politicians, of course, and a separate 
message will list the dark horses, but relentless television 
coverage of Ivanov and Medvedev, accompanied by near-weekly 
polls that measure their inroads on the public consciousness, 
and their ambitious travel schedules have given them the 
inside track. 
 
------------------------ 
Fall Re-shuffle Possible 
------------------------ 
 
4. (C) It seems unlikely, however, that the succession race 
will continue between Ivanov and Medvedev alone.  Citing 
Putin's penchant for surprise, the need to stave off as long 
as possible his lame duck status by introducing uncertainty, 
and the importance of stirring voter interest as the campaign 
progresses, many think it likely that Putin in the fall will 
re-shuffle the government or otherwise act to introduce a 
third, credible player into the mix. 
 
-------------------------- 
Ivanov's Popularity Surges 
-------------------------- 
 
5. (C) On February 14, Putin had Ivanov join Medvedev as a 
First Deputy Prime Minister, and with that promotion, the two 
were evenly positioned for the unofficial start of the 
presidential campaign.  Until Ivanov's elevation, Medvedev 
was the candidate being most assiduously groomed for the 
presidency.  A February 9 VTsIOM poll pegged Medvedev's 
popularity rating at twenty percent, twice that of Ivanov's. 
Since February 15, Ivanov's rating has surged.  Polling by 
the Levada public opinion research firm showed that voters 
would prefer Ivanov over Medvedev 52 to 48 in March, with the 
margin widening to 55 to 45 in April.  Much of Ivanov's 
improved standing was likely traceable to his increased 
presence on national television.  According to the research 
firm Medialogiya, Ivanov received 40 percent more airtime 
than Medvedev from the date of his promotion until the end of 
April.  (Although the polls that measure the candidates' 
popularity are scientific enough, the media's obsessive focus 
on Medvedev and Ivanov to the near exclusion of many other 
public figures --Putin excepted-- make it difficult to know 
if they are measuring popularity or simply recording the 
inevitable name recognition quotient of the candidates.) 
 
6. (C) Underpinning Ivanov's surging ratings has been the 
change in portfolio that accompanied his promotion.  On 
February 14, Ivanov ended his tenure as Minister of Defense. 
The position was seen as a net negative.  The Ministry's 
resistance to reform, its association in the popular mind 
 
MOSCOW 00003581  002 OF 003 
 
 
with the sometimes brutal hazing of recruits, and its 
reputation for corruption had put Ivanov at a disadvantage in 
his contest with Medvedev, who could travel the country 
offering money for the "national projects" of affordable 
housing, healthcare, education, and agriculture.  With his 
promotion Ivanov acquired, in the words of one contact a 
"national project" of his own; he was tasked by President 
Putin with diversifying the economy and with innovation. 
With that came 130 billion rubles in start up capital for 
nanotechnology, responsibility for the defense industry, 
transportation, communications, and 26 other federal 
programs.  Ivanov's expanded portfolio allowed him to roam 
the country --he made eleven domestic trips in April alone-- 
and be featured doing so in both the national and regional 
media. 
 
------------------ 
Set-Piece Campaign 
------------------ 
 
7. (C) Th
e Ivanov-Medvedev campaign often has a certain 
set-piece quality to it, with an at times almost comical 
symmetry to the two candidates' efforts.  Medvedev's January 
24 presentation on "national projects" in the Duma was 
followed, on February 7, by Ivanov's Duma speech on military 
reform.  Medvedev's January 27 "coming out" speech at Davos 
was accompanied by an equally high-profile visit by Ivanov to 
India, where the sale of fighter aircraft was discussed. 
Both men spoke at the early-June St. Petersburg International 
Economic Forum, and their comments were so similar in tone 
that observers speculated, correctly it turned out, that they 
had been drafted by the same team. 
 
8. (C) Still, there have been differences that suggest Ivanov 
will occupy the pole position when the official race begins 
at the new year. Ivanov has ventured more frequently into 
foreign policy.  He touched on international questions at his 
May 23 press conference which, observers noted, featured 
link-ups to the regions, like Putin's annual press 
conference.  Ivanov, unlike Medvedev, was among those who 
criticized the Estonian government's decision to re-locate 
the Soviet-era memorial to the country's liberation by the 
Red Army, and Ivanov stepped into the missile defense fray 
with comments about deploying Russian missiles in Kaliningrad 
region. Medvedev's only real foray was his Davos speech, and 
the tone it set was undercut one week later by Putin's Munich 
jeremiad. 
 
------------------------------- 
Medvedev:  Constraining Factors 
------------------------------- 
 
9. (C) Constraining Medvedev is the factor that gave him an 
advantage before February 14:  his portfolio.  National 
projects offer Medvedev scant opportunity to go global, and 
he likewise has been unable to date to fashion from his other 
responsibilities as Chairman of Gazprom, Chairman of the 
Foundation for Housing Reform, and Head of the Board of 
Trustees of the Association of Russian Lawyers a platform 
from which he could insert himself into the foreign policy 
debate. As one observer here has noted, however, Medvedev has 
never taken the opportunity offered by "national projects" to 
talk politics.  He has preferred the role of the technocrat, 
and is seemingly content to attempt to administer GOR's 
struggling efforts to improve housing, education, healthcare, 
and agriculture. 
 
10. (C) Medvedev's technocratic inclinations and exclusively 
domestic portfolio have led many to suggest that underway is 
not a presidential campaign, but an emerging division of 
labor, with Medvedev preparing to become prime minister and 
Ivanov slated to succeed Putin.  In addition to Ivanov's 
recent, higher visibility and freedom to comment on foreign 
policy issues, Gleb Pavlovskiy cites his "multivalent 
political capital" that allows him, "like Putin," to move 
fluidly among all camps. Also in Ivanov's favor is his close 
relationship to the voter who counts most, Vladimir Putin, 
who has called Ivanov one of the three persons closest to 
him. 
 
----------------- 
Post-Putin Russia 
----------------- 
 
11. (C) There has been much speculation about what an Ivanov 
or a Medvedev-led Russia would look like.  As is the case 
with most such questions here, there is no consensus, with 
some arguing that Ivanov's alleged links to the "siloviki" 
would mean a more flinty Russia, while others point to 
evidence of a pragmatic Ivanov, juxtaposing, for example the 
harder line remarks he made in a June 6 encounter with 
 
MOSCOW 00003581  003 OF 003 
 
 
pro-Kremlin youth organizations against the "liberal spin he 
offered for Russia's dirigiste economic course" three days 
later at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum. 
Medvedev has explicitly rejected sovereign democracy and has 
been quick to point approvingly to Western healthcare and 
housing practices in his administration of the "national 
projects," leading some to suggest that a Medvedev presidency 
might be more economic reformist-minded than Ivanov's. 
Contacts who are more critical of Putin have claimed to us 
that Medvedev would usher in a more liberal Russia.  They 
cite as evidence his lack of FSB connections and his 
willingness to at least accept information for consideration 
from more critically-disposed think tanks. In fact, it is 
difficult to differentiate the two; not least because they 
are still operating in Putin's shadow. 
 
------- 
Comment 
------- 
 
12. (C) Whoever takes the reins in 2008, and it may not be 
either Ivanov or Medvedev, the lack of institutions will 
continue to place a premium on the ability to mediate among 
competing factions and to chart a course acceptable to the 
country's elites.  Putin's success in these areas was aided 
by an unpopular predecessor, record oil and gas prices, and 
the newfound stability and prosperity that flowed from them. 
His successor will have the in some ways unenviable task of 
governing a Russia that is already stable and reasonably 
prosperous, and he will follow in the footsteps of a 
President whom one-third of Russians have said they would 
like to have as leader for life. 
BURNS

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