Former Kremlin ideologist returns as presidential aide
One of the most prominent Russian politicians has returned to a post in the president’s administration. Vladislav Surkov was named aide to the president and will handle Russia's relations with Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Experts predict that, over time, he may expand his sphere of influence across all the former Soviet republics.
Publications repeatedly reported that Vladislav Surkov would be returning to the Kremlin, yet the reports were all denied. Nonetheless, rumors continued to circulate about different posts that he could be offered. Finally, the Kremlin website reported that he would in fact return. Russian President Vladimir Putin appointed Surkov as his aide, but his duties were not disclosed.
The situation was clarified by presidential press secretary Dmitry Peskov, who said that Surkov will oversee relations with Abkhazia and South Ossetia. "He will handle exactly the same issues that [Tatiana] Golikova handled as presidential aide," said Peskov on the Russian News Service radio station.
Asked when Surkov would start work, the press secretary said, "The decree has been issued: That means he is already working."
Experts note that it is unlikely the former Kremlin ideologist would be given greater authority right away, but maybe this post will be a stepping stone to further his political career. "Appointing Surkov as aide to the president is an attempt to keep him as a player in the same political environment," said political scientist Dmitry Abzalov in a conversation with RIA Novosti.
"It is possible that this post may be temporary for Surkov and, in the future, he will again be handling innovations." He believes that Surkov's portfolio in this post is rather narrow.
Abzalov added that this post might be short-term for Surkov, as it was for Golikova. "Maybe this is a temporary position, as was the case with Golikova; and maybe he will go the innovative route, but I doubt that he will return to politics," said Abzalov.
Vice president of the Center for Political Technologies, Alexei Makarkin, noted that, at this stage, Surkov is unlikely to influence domestic policy. "He will address specific issues in the post-Soviet environment. The main thing that is happening is that authorities want to keep Surkov inside, not outside. Despite the fact that he reiterated his unconditional loyalty to Putin many times, his free style is less acceptable," said the analyst.
"Perhaps Surkov will be given the task of uniting the Eurasian states. This, however, is a difficult task. For example, it is difficult to attract Ukraine to our side, because it is more interested in cooperation with the European Union. On the other hand, Belarus and Kazakhstan are part of the Customs Union, but they are very wary of the possibility of Russian interference in their internal affairs," said Makarkin.
Mikhail Vinogradov, head of St. Petersburg Politics research center, contends that Surkov's return to the Kremlin cannot be considered a turning point, because he has been given too little authority.
"There will be high expectations for his work. For now, both Surkov and his opponents are winners. He is, because he returned, and his opponents are, because he was given a small area of influence," said the expert.
The general director of the Center for Political Information, Alexei Mukhin, said that Surkov will have to rebuild relationships with the president's team.
"Vladislav Surkov has returned to the basics and is starting his relationship with the presidential staff with a clean slate. He will have to rebuild relationships within the complex configuration that exists now in the administration," Mukhin told RIA Novosti. According to him, whether Surkov can find a place there or not is all up to him.
It is still difficult to assess whether Surkov will be able to have much of an impact on politics in his new post. He was given one of the most complex issues to tackle, believes political analyst Mikhail Remizov.
Vladislav Surkov resigned his Kremlin post as Deputy Chief of Staff in May 2013. He had served in this position for 12 years, overseeing domestic politics. In his most recent government position, he oversaw innovation.