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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

EDITORIAL: Government Is No Place For Tycoon




Boris Berezovsky is back. Hopefully, he will not do too much damage.


Berezovsky's appointment as secretary of the Commonwealth of Independent States returns him to the government after an absence of some six months.


Berezovsky was sacked from his post as deputy secretary of the influential Russian Security Council not so much for any obvious failure in the performance of his official duties, which focused on relations with separatist Chechnya, but rather for his extracurricular intrigues.


Although he denies it, while in government, Berezovsky continued to lobby for his private business interests, which include the Sibneft oil company, ORT television, Aeroflot and the LogoVAZ car company.


He was eventually sacked, but the battle between Berezovsky and the so-called young reformers in the Cabinet over who would control the privatization of state assets continued. Berezovsky's intriguing ultimately backfired on him when Yeltsin, apparently jealous of the tycoon's power, dismissed the government and with it Berezovsky's allies.


Berezovsky's return to an official position and the possibility that he is once again in favor with Yeltsin are thus deeply unsettling.


The great consolation about the tycoon's return, however, is that he has been given a truly insignificant job. The position of CIS secretary that Berezovsky has just been handed is scarcely a glittering prize.


The CIS is itself a moribund organization that over the past six months has barely been able to hold a meeting.


The body is headquartered in the Belarussian capital of Minsk, one of the former Soviet Union's least salubrious backwaters. It is hard to imagine that the jet-setting Berezovsky will enjoy spending a lot of time there.


And Berezovsky will get little joy from a job that involves reconciling the fundamentally opposed interests of the CIS states.


Thus the short-term potential for Berezovsky to do damage is limited. The question is whether his appointment is a sign that he has really regained influence in the Kremlin.


Yeltsin reportedly joked recently that he would like to send Berezovsky into exile. If he is now offering him a post, it may be a harmless way of mollifying the tycoon's wounded pride and ending a damaging feud. Outside of government, Berezovsky devoted himself to mischief, most recently to funding Alexander Lebed's election campaign in Krasnoyarsk.


Perhaps, Berezovsky is only motivated by vainglory and all he seeks is to strut on the CIS stage. But caution is called for. Berezovsky is a man with a pathological tendency toward Kremlin intrigue and his presence in any government constitutes a glaring conflict of interest.