Install

Get the latest updates as we post them — right on your browser

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Analysts and Influence

Yury Andropov's successor as the head of the KGB, Vitaly Fedorchuk, is best remembered for the way he terrorized the leadership of Soviet intelligence trying to get them to explain who their experts were and why they were necessary to assess and interpret information sent in from field agents. And this was quite recently -- just back in 1982. Now, though, in the shadows of Russia's powerful gray cardinals, lurking behind Gazprom, the presidential security service and the so-called New Russians, a new power is arising: the analysts.


This new power first appeared openly on the political stage in the fall of 1991, when Mikhail Gorbachev's advisors ordered the preparation of a controversial report on the potential negative consequences of the collapse of the Soviet Union.


Just a little more than a month later, experts under Yeltsin aide Gennady Burbulis prepared a memorandum evaluating the unfolding political situation. That memo contended that the political gains that Russia had made over Union authorities during the August 1991 coup were being squandered because of the inaction of Russian authorities and the intrigues of Gorbachev. It concluded that Russia should fight for the complete liquidation of the Soviet Union: In retrospect, it is obvious that Burbulis' experts created the ideological ground for the Belovezhsky Agreement that sealed the fate of the Soviet Union.


Of course, the concept of "analysts' power" is conditional. They do not make political decisions. Their sphere is the realm of scenarios, analyses, prognoses and recommendations. However, their influence is both real and growing.


A year and a half ago, a major analytical center was set up within the presidential administration to be headed by a certain Professor Yevgeny Yasin, now economics minister. More recently, another analytical center was set up under the chief of President Boris Yeltsin's security service, General Alexander Korzhakov. Clearly, it is not just politicians who are aware of the power of the analysts.


Since that time, these two major analytical centers have conducted a behind-the-scenes struggle for influence over the thinking and decisions of Russia's leadership. And this is not merely interdepartmental rivalry; it has an ideological element as well. The security service's center is distinctly conservative compared to the presidential analytical center headed by Mark Urnov, which brings together a variety of liberally inclined intellectuals.


In my view, the security service's analytical center has a definite advantage in this struggle. Unlike the presidential center, which is largely oriented toward fulfilling orders from various government agencies, Korzhakov's center is much more active in lobbying on behalf of its ideas and is considerably more free to choose what it studies.


Inasmuch as the higher leadership does not have the time to read everything churned out by these "idea factories," the battle is really for the hearts and minds of mid-level bureaucrats. Analysts understand that substantial political decisions are made even at the fourth and fifth levels of the bureaucracy. However, researchers at these centers are in an even more enviable position since they often are able to send their findings directly to second- and third-rank officials. Occasionally, they even report directly to the president.


A third center, under the Foreign Intelligence Service and headed by Yevgeny Primakov, is no less influential. In Soviet times, Primakov was the director of the Institute of Asian Studies and, later, the Institute of World Economy and International Relations where he developed his oft-repeated maxim: "The right document on the right desk at the right moment." Since 1994, Primakov's center has been openly issuing reports on specific foreign-policy issues, especially Russia's relations with the former Soviet republics and nuclear-security issues.


The influence of analysts with society at large has also grown noticeably. While just a couple of years ago our underpaid political scientists were all competing for opportunities to emigrate, now they are remaining in Russia since the rapid development of civil society has greatly increased their possibilities to influence policy decisions. While in most cases their hopes of pushing policy in one or another direction are illusory, they are spurred to keep trying by the examples of the above-mentioned "intellectuals in power." Nonetheless, the influence of analytical centers associated with the Academy of Sciences, as well as that of the innumerable private centers that have been formed, is palpably greater than it was just four years ago.


One of the reasons for this has been increased opportunities to influence policy through the press, which more and more often is publishing material from analysts -- some of which is capable of setting off major reactions both among the general public and in the Kremlin. In March 1994, Obshchaya Gazeta published the infamous "Version No. 1," which claimed that a serious attempt to remove Yeltsin was being perpetrated. In November 1994, Rossiiskaya Gazeta published an analytical bombshell that claimed a group of Moscow financial and political leaders was trying to make Mayor Yury Luzhkov president. This article has generally been seen as the first round openly fired in the long-running battle between the mayor and the presidential security service.


Such examples give some idea of the shape that analysts' influence is taking in Russia's new political climate. The more complex and entangled the domestic political situation becomes, the more opportunity there will be for analysts to push their own agendas with the Kremlin and the public. Their unique ability to shape decision-making and then also largely determine public perception of those decisions is the danger lurking in the analysts' growing influence.





Vladimir Razuvayev is an independent media consultant. He contribute this comment to The Moscow Times.