Medvedev Is Doomed by Weak Links to FSB

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Dmitry Medvedev, who was "elected" by President Vladimir Putin, is one of the few people in Putin's close circle who does not have any connections, as far as we can tell, with the Federal Security Services.

This creates a whole series of problems regarding his chances of becoming the next president. In the United States, for example, new presidents don't have these problems. After elections are held, they accept the oath of office and new cabinets are formed. Moreover, the question "Will the new president be able to manage the old bureaucratic apparat?" is never posed.

But in Russia, the situation is entirely different because the security services are the most important element of the vertical power structure. It has enormous political and economic power with few, if any, checks and balances. The media from time to time publish certain scandalous leaks, but they can't influence events in any significant manner. Even government officials admit that it is difficult to speak about an independent judicial system. Moreover, the State Duma, as far as I remember, never once investigated a matter related to the security services. The FSB answers to only one person -- the president.

Does the FSB really answer to the president or is it the other way around? The answer to this question can be found not in clearly written laws or organization charts, but in personal relations as well as secret coalitions and side agreements.

Presidential powers, as provided by the Constitution, laws, decrees and tradition, are enormous. But in a closed administrative system, where so much carries the stamp of "top secret," the president must be very careful in how he deals with the FSB and other security organizations. He must know their top brass well and be able to trust them. Putin, who has many years experience working in the FSB, knows how to work with security and intelligence officials, but Medvedev, it would appear, does not.

If Putin understands that Medvedev is weak in this area, why did he choose him as a successor?

One can assume that Putin does not want the security services to gain any more power than it has already amassed and, thus, he may have looked to Medvedev as a sort of counterbalance to the siloviki.

But Medvedev hardly serves as a counterbalance to the siloviki if he never worked there and doesn't have his own people in place at the top. Medvedev has only one link to the security services -- Putin himself.

The challenge for Putin is to somehow subordinate the FSB to Medvedev. But in what capacity will Putin be able to do this? This is the big question facing the country.

Leonid Radzikhovsky hosts a political talk show on Ekho Moskvy.