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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Giving Ivanov the Necessary Promotion

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In many countries, being moved from defense minister to first deputy prime minister might sound like a demotion. Logic suggests that this is even more the case in Russia, where the defense minister is one of the few Cabinet members who reports directly to the president rather than to the prime minister.

But an entirely different logic comes into play in the year ahead of the 2008 election to choose a successor to President Vladimir Putin. The almost unanimous opinion among Kremlin watchers is that Putin's decision to move Sergei Ivanov from defense minister to first deputy prime minister is good news for Ivanov.

At face value, the new position puts Ivanov on par with Dmitry Medvedev, the other favorite in the race for Putin's blessing ahead of the 2008 vote.

It also relieves Ivanov of the responsibility for the functioning, or perhaps more appropriately malfunctioning, of the Defense Ministry. Under Ivanov, the armed forces have done little toward establishing a professional army -- something Ivanov named as a top priority when he took over in 2001.

Under Ivanov, media coverage of defense issues has been devoted largely to political infighting -- like the replacement of Anatoly Kvashnin as chief of the General Staff by Yury Baluyevsky in 2004 -- or to shameful cases of hazing. The high-profile case of Private Andrei Sychyov, whose legs and genitals had to be amputated following a New Year's Eve hazing, has dogged Ivanov's image as defense minister for most of the past year.

The advantage of Ivanov's new post is that his responsibilities will probably be just as nebulous as Medvedev's. In announcing the appointment, Putin told Ivanov that he would be "coordinating a part of the civilian sector of the economy."

Medvedev's job of implementing the national projects translates into daily opportunities to parade confidently in front of news cameras without responsibility for results, which will only surface after the presidential election anyway. Even if Ivanov proves to be overambitious in making economic decisions, it is highly unlikely that he would be able to severely harm Russia's booming economy in the short period left before the election.

So we are likely to see even more of Ivanov on the television news for the next year. Shorn of direct responsibility, he will be able to devote more of his time to developing his public image. Thursday's announcement was, indeed, all about promotion -- in every sense of the word.