Install

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

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Bordyuzha Seen by President as Loyal




Nikolai Bordyuzha, the new chief of the Kremlin staff, owes his incredible rise in the Russian bureaucracy to two lucky breaks: Twice in the past year, his immediate superiors were dismissed over politics.


Bordyuzha, then the unknown deputy chief of the State Border Service, was promoted to head the service in late 1997 after his chief, Andrei Nikolayev, had a fight with President Boris Yeltsin over finances.


From there, Bordyuzha moved to a job as deputy secretary of the Kremlin's influential but shadowy Security Council. Within months, his boss, Andrei Kokoshin, was dismissed for backing the candidacy of Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov in the August Cabinet shakeup. Once again, Bordyuzha stepped up.


This record of advancing by default gives an insight into a man who many say Yeltsin chose precisely because he is not a threat.


The ailing Yeltsin appeared in the Kremlin for a few hours Monday to dismiss Valentin Yumashev, his top aide for the past two years and a doyen of political manipulation.


Bordyuzha's appointment answered Yeltsin's need for a faithful manager who would implement the president's decisions and avoid palace intrigues, analysts said Tuesday.


"Rule No. 1: The president commands the power structures," Bordyuzha said in an interview two weeks before his latest promotion.


"The president just decided he was tired of people distracting him from being sick," said Alexander Golts, military affairs correspondent for Itogi magazine. "He appointed Bordyuzha so he could just be sick for the two years until his term ends."


Bordyuzha, in contrast to his former bosses, is liked by Yeltsin for his willingness to seek compromises. As head of the border guards, Bordyuzha began implementing a 20 percent troop cut that Nikolayev had hotly protested.


Bordyuzha "abandoned the demands of Nikolayev, who said he'd leave if he didn't get financing on the necessary level," said Dmitry Trenin, a military analyst at the Carnegie Moscow Center. "Bordyuzha dealt with what he had."


As border service chief, Bordyuzha followed the Kremlin's orders faithfully, Trenin said, but it cost the service prestige, both due to the loss of financing and the lack of a "bright personality," he said.


Bordyuzha will head both the Security Council and the president's administration.


Russian media said that once again Bordyuzha was chosen because he would accept a downgrading of the Security Council. As evidence, newspapers cited the decision to move the council secretary's offices from the Kremlin to the building on Staraya Ploshchad that houses the presidential administration.


Bordyuzha has good relations with his former colleagues in the defense and security forces, with whom he had to rebuild relations after Nikolayev had alienated them in the funding fracas. Defense Minister Igor Sergeyev has praised his professional relations with Bordyuzha, and the two play volleyball together, Golts said.


Relations between Bordyuzha and Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov are also described as positive, but analysts deny any KGB connection between the two.


"The distance between the First Directorate [the foreign-intelligence arm in which Primakov worked] and the Frontier Service [the KGB's border defense arm] is enormous, monstrous," Golts said.


Bordyuzha was educated as an engineer and served in the Frontier Service, the KGB department responsible for borders before the Border Service was created in 1992, as well as other KGB departments. In 1991, he took a strange career dogleg to work as the chief political officer of FAPSI, the powerful security department responsible for monitoring communications. The post was ill-defined, as communist ideology was collapsing at the time, and involved "psychological work," Trenin said.


Primakov and Bordyuzha are said to know each other, but analysts agree that Bordyuzha was appointed to serve Yeltsin's interests.


In the Kremlin, Trenin said, "there's only Yeltsin now."