Shuvalov Gets Same Job on a Much Bigger Stage

In Group of Eight parlance they're called sherpas — the personal representative of a head of state tasked with setting the stage for a successful summit.

With his appointment on Monday as a first deputy prime minister, it appears Igor Shuvalov has been chosen to tackle a similar role on a much larger scale.

Since his election, President Dmitry Medvedev has repeatedly stressed his desire to promote Russia as a trustworthy international partner and a safe haven for business following the tenure of President Vladimir Putin, under whom many of Russia's largest corporations were effectively renationalized.

The decision to place an experienced technocrat with strong international connections into the coveted and high-profile position of first deputy prime minister is likely intended to convey Medvedev's seriousness about reassuring the global business community.

Although Shuvalov's role as the chairman of the interdepartmental commission for Russia's participation in the G8 is by far his most high-profile position, he arrives at his new post as one of Russia's most influential, if not well-known, figures.

Shuvalov was born on January 4, 1967, in the Magadan region, far from the Kremlin power base of St. Petersburg. Like Medvedev, he is a lawyer by profession and described by many as a steely-eyed professional with a strong pro-reform bent.

From January to September 1998, he served as deputy state property minister of Russia, where he was in charge of cooperation with financial institutions, a position he quickly left to head the Federal Property Fund. He remained in that post until May 2000, when he became the government's chief of staff.

In May 2003, he became an aide to Putin, a post he held until October of that year, when he was appointed deputy chief of staff of the presidential administration. Shuvalov returned to the post of presidential aide in March 2004, becoming one of Putin's speechwriters and chief economic advisers.

Marina Larionova, a vice rector at the elite Higher School of Economics in Moscow, stressed Shuvalov's stature on the world stage following his selection Monday.

"Mr. Shuvalov is well respected internationally," she said. "I would consider this an important signal to the international community that the new government can be trusted."

Although there is some doubt concerning the extent of Medvedev's involvement in today's appointments, analysts praised the selection of Shuvalov as sending the right signal.

"I think it has been significantly influenced by Putin, but in any case, it was a very good decision," said Katya Malofeyeva, an analyst at Renaissance Capital. "It strengthens the image of the Russian government as very pro-reform and Western friendly."