The new members — all men — have themselves failed to excite political commentators, who see the appointments as largely technocratic. But many pointed to the mechanics of the reshuffle as a sign that Mikhail Mishustin, who was appointed prime minister in a surprise move at the start of the year, is gradually exerting his authority over the cabinet.
“I wouldn’t say this is a revolution, but it’s important in the context of Mishustin’s position,” said Tatiana Stanovaya, founder of the R.Politik political analysis outfit. “He is fine-tuning his cabinet and getting rid of those he doesn’t want to work with. It means he’s reinforcing his political position.”
Putin’s last hope
By appointing a new cohort of technocrats — or “interchangeable functionaries,” as Andrei Kolesnikov, chair of the Russian domestic politics and political institutions program at the Carnegie Moscow Center said — Mishustin is preparing to refocus the government on delivering its socio-economic agenda following a year of fire-fighting the coronavirus pandemic.
“Mishustin is Putin’s real hope — his last hope in some ways — to boost the economy and secure a growth breakthrough,” Stanovaya said.
That makes him personally more important to Putin than perhaps any of his previous prime ministers, she added, who “were always the result of some compromise” and were often not tasked with a “special mission or project” that Putin particularly cared about.
“Of course [Mishustin’s predecessor] Dmitry Medvedev was a special figure, but Putin never really liked him. Especially after the presidency and tandemocracy. It was just a deal.”