Just like that Russian Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin is gone after a 24 hour imbroglio that put him tet-a-tet with outgoing President and soon to be Prime Minister Medvedev. During a shocking announcement in Washington on Saturday, Kudrin responded to Putin’s return to the Presidency with “I do not see myself in a new government. The point is not that nobody has offered me the job; I think that the disagreements I have will not allow me to join this government.” That is the government soon to be headed by Medvedev. The differences between the two power players are well known, particularly around issues of budget austerity, which Kudrin is a staunch advocate of.
Nevertheless, Kudrin was expected to continue on as Finance Minister well on into 2012. Just two weeks ago said he was prepared to stay on. Apparently, Saturday’s big announcement blindsided him. Some are suggesting that Kudrin’s gunning for the Premiership himself, and being released as Finance Minister allows him to gun harder.
All that said, what is most surprising about all this is its publicity. Russian elite political tussles are rarely aired in open. I believe it is for this reason that Kudrin had to go. He basically violated Russian political ethics dating back at least a century.
Of which, he made three mistakes:
1) He undermined Medvedev’s authority precisely at a time when it is so shaky.
2) He broke “democratic centralism” by making public statements that diverged from agreed policy.
3) He made these statements outside of Russia, and worse, from the United States.
And this is why, Medvedev decided to undress Kudrin for all eyes to see. Medvedev’s comments weren’t for just for him. They were for everyone in the government.
Here’s a transcript of the undressing:
I want to say a few words about discipline in the Russian government. Everyone knows that we entered into an electoral campaign, that this is difficult test for the governmental system and for individual people. I believe that this affects the nerves. Apparently connected to this is a whole host of statements that have reverberated recently in our country from abroad, specifically from the United States. We generally have a entire class of citizens who make departing declarations from the other side of the ocean. There’s Alexei Kudrin, who is present here, announcing the happy news that he doesn’t plan to work in the new government and has serious differences with the active President, in particular over questions of expenditures, including military expenditures. In this context, I would like to note several things. First, there is no new government whatsoever, and no one has made any kind of invitations to anyone. But there is an old government which I formed as President and is accountable to me and will proceed within the framework of my constitutional authority. This government will carryout the course of the President and under all key decisions made under government’s leadership, including, of course, those under the Minister of Finance on issues of budgetary finance policy and generally to widest class of problems, including, of course, those having to do with expenditure on armaments.
I understand that Alexei Leonidovich has previously had the possibility to state his position and has accepted his decision on his political future. To the purpose of joining with the Right Forces, as they call it. But Alexei Leonidovich apparently refused this for some reason. Nevertheless, I would like to say that a statement like this, made in the US, appears to be offensive and cannot be excused. Second, no one can abrogate the discipline and subordination to the government. If, Alexei Leonidovich, you don’t agree with the President’s course, and the government is taking the President’s course, then you have only one option–submit your resignation. Therefore I turn directly to you here with such a suggestion–if you think that you have another viewpoint on the economic order of the day from the President, that is from me, you can write a corresponding letter of resignation. Naturally you can answer directly here and now. Would you write such a letter?
Dmitry Antolevich, I have real disagreements with you, but I have to talk with the Prime Minister before I arrive at a decision to your suggestion.
You know that you can consult with anyone you want including the Prime Minister. But I am President at the moment and I make such decisions myself.
Now you have offered me to make the decision for me, I can decide for myself . . .
I repeat again — You need to make up your mind very quickly and give me an answer today.
Or you proceed that a disagreement, as you call it, doesn’t exist and then it’s necessary for you to explain your comments. If these disagreements exist, about which you recently spoken about, I don’t see any other conclusion, although to me, of course, it would be unpleasant to do what I have said.
Lastly, I would like to say a few words about this context. If there is anyone who doubts the course of the President or the government, or if there is anyone who has their own plans, you have the right to give me your resignation. But if it must be done out in the open, I will need to put an end to any irresponsible chatter. I will accept all necessary decisions up until 7 May of next year. I hope everything is understood?