- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 29, 2001

Russian President Vladimir Putin yesterday tapped an old KGB colleague to be the Defense Ministry's first civilian chief ever, in the Kremlin's biggest personnel shake-up since Mr. Putin came to power a year ago.
Sergei Ivanov, like Mr. Putin a 48-year-old St. Petersburg native who spent his formative years in the Soviet spy service, replaces Defense Minister Igor Sergeyev.
The 62-year-old Gen. Sergeyev had been appointed by Boris Yeltsin, Mr. Putin's predecessor, and had been widely seen as lukewarm to the sweeping force reductions and defense reforms Mr. Putin wants.
"It's a step toward demilitarizing Russia's public life," Mr. Putin said in televised remarks in Moscow yesterday after announcing the shift.
In addition, Mr. Putin increased his personal stamp on the top echelons of government by naming Boris Gryzlov, head of the pro-Kremlin Unity party faction in the State Duma, as the new interior minister. He replaces Vladimir Rushailo, who inherits Mr. Ivanov's old post as head of the Kremlin's Security Council akin to the U.S. national security adviser.
Mr. Putin also replaced the ministers overseeing Russia's lucrative nuclear power industry and the country's tax police.
Heritage Foundation Russia analyst Ariel Cohen said that Mr. Putin observed the barest of decent intervals before moving to overhaul the team assembled by Mr. Yeltsin.
"Mr. Putin proved a man of his word," Mr. Cohen said. "He gave his word he'd make no major changes for a year, and he waited a year and two days."
Mr. Cohen noted that there was a history of tension between the intelligence services and the military, dating back to Soviet times. Appointing a career KGB agent to the defense post sends a clear message, he said.
"My sense is that a KGB general has a better understanding of the real security challenges to Russia today than does a career military officer like Sergeyev," said Mr. Cohen. "And it shows Mr. Putin understands that fear is the best motivator in politics."
This is not the first time Mr. Putin has used his old KGB connections to fill key government posts. Two of the seven regional administrative chiefs he appointed last year to rein in Russia's regional governors came from the intelligence ranks as well.
Kremlin watchers predicted that yesterday's personnel moves were just the beginning. Mr. Putin has governed for a year with an odd mix of holdovers from the Yeltsin "Family," KGB associates, and colleagues from his days serving under liberal St. Petersburg Mayor Anatoly Sobchak in the early 1990s.
"All the power ministers were unchanged since Yeltsin, so this is Putin's attempt to create his own team," Yuri Korgunuk, director of the Moscow-based think tank Indem, told the Bloomberg News service. "These changes are not a surprise. It's more a question of why Putin waited so long."
Political oddsmakers in Moscow say that Prime Minister Mikhail Kasynov may not survive long, and Mr. Putin's changes yesterday did not affect the government's economic policy team.
Mr. Putin yesterday only promised more personnel announcements soon that will "attract attention."
Gen. Sergeyev, who resisted efforts to shift Russia's defense focus from nuclear arms to conventional forces, was named a security adviser to Mr. Putin, but it is expected that his real influence will be greatly reduced.
Mr. Putin has backed a plan to sharply reduce Russia's bloated military ranks while increasing pay and training for those who do serve. Both Defense and Interior Ministry troops are involved in the grinding guerrilla struggle in the breakaway republic of Chechnya, which shows no signs of flagging.
Although he rose to the rank of lieutenant general in the successor organization to the old KGB, Mr. Ivanov left the service last year and thus will be the first civilian ever to hold the Russian defense portfolio.
"While conducting military reform it's necessary to appoint a civilian to the job of defense minister," Mr. Putin said yesterday. "The time has come for personnel changes, which would be the logical conclusion of the modernization of the military structure."


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