For One Democratic State
in the whole of Palestine (Israel)


FOR One Man, One Vote



10MOSCOW184   27 JANUARY 2010

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 MOSCOW 000184 SIPDIS E.O. 12958: DECL: 01/27/2019 TAGS: PGOV, PREL, PHUM, PINR, ECON, KDEM, RS SUBJECT: THE EVOLVING ROLE AND INFLUENCE OF VLADISLAV SURKOV Classified By: Ambassador John R. Beyrle for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d). 1. (C) Summary: First Deputy Head of the Presidential Administration (PA) Vladislav Surkov remains one of Russia's most influential political officials, but his influence and authority have recently taken a few hits. His focus, moreover, has evolved into protecting the political system he helped create, while at the same time implementing improvements on the margin. A brilliant tactician with keen survival skills, he may be latching onto Medvedev's modernization campaign as a lifeline to maintain his importance as he sees priorities shifting around him. Contacts in the human rights community continue to view Surkov's co-chairmanship of the U.S.-Russia Civil Society Working Group with disdain, but it is in our interest to take advantage of his January 24-27 visit to the U.S. to try to "undemonize" his view of civil society--and vice versa. End Summary. ----------------------------

Surkov's Influence Continues ---------------------------- 2. (C) As an adviser to Putin, creator of Russia's "sovereign democracy" concept, supervisor of the Kremlin's managed political party system, and longtime senior official within the PA, Surkov has demonstrated his usefulness in developing and controlling Russia's political system. He has worked to solidify Russia's political system primarily through his manipulation of the national political party system, regional politics, and media. Contacts consistently place him in the first or second level of Russia's political elite, with Panorama President Vladimir Pribylovskiy calling Surkov the unofficial "Deputy Prime Minister for Parliament, Political Parties and Media." Surkov continues to manage the political system, although with less unilateral authority, while at the same time looking for ways to improve it without undermining the system's stability.

3. (C) Surkov's complex personality affects his two-pronged view of the U.S., which consists of envy mixed with contempt. He told Ambassador Beyrle last July that he considers himself an Anglophile who enjoys American poetry; he claimed that in 2006 he predicted to disbelieving Kremlin colleagues that then-Senator Obama would become President. Judging by interaction with U.S. officials, Surkov can be charming in meetings, works late into the evenings, and engages deftly, albeit sometimes off-the-cuff, on a variety of topics. Director of the New York office of the Russian Institute of Democracy and Cooperation Foundation Andranik Migranyan privately told us that Surkov had asked him to buy numerous U.S. rap albums for him whenever Migranyan traveled to Moscow. Surkov admires the U.S. as a "generous and humane country," and a model for Russia, but he has also blamed U.S. stereotypes and "internal enmity" toward Russia for the suspicion that had strained the relationship. He told the Ambassador that if the U.S. was serious about wanting a strong, prosperous Russia, the two countries should embark on significant, joint economic initiatives and the sharing of technology.

4. (C) At the same time, Surkov continues to publicly and privately criticize U.S. policies for damaging the relationship. He congratulated a group of pro-Kremlin (and de facto Surkov-led) Nashi youth members last fall for their opposition to U.S. missile defense, and said that their actions were the reason Washington had decided to change its policy. He complained that the bilateral relationship is harmed by "U.S. policies" such as encirclement, nuclear superiority, and U.S. special services support to separatists in the North Caucasus (Surkov's heritage is Chechen). Surkov has also told us that Russians seek to be viewed as equals with Western partners, and that a belief exists in Russia that regardless of rhetoric and bilateral agreements, Washington's main goal is to weaken Russia. 5. (C) Surkov appears to maintain a high regard for his intellectual capabilities, which have served him well as a political adviser and manager. United Russia adviser, sociologist, and Director of the Center for the Study of Political Elite Olga Kryshtanovskaya, who has known Surkov since the early 1990s, privately told us January 12 that even at that time Surkov viewed himself as an unrecognized genius. Perhaps as a reflection of his self-perception, Surkov keeps photos of several pioneering individuals displayed in his office, including rapper Tupac Shakur, John Lennon, Neils Bohr, and Werner Heisenberg. Last year he added a portrait of President Obama, explaining that he was a "good American"--i.e., one who shows respect for Russia. MOSCOW 00000184 002 OF 003 --------------------------------------------- ------

Influence Over United Russia Diluted Under Medvedev --------------------------------------------- ------ 6. (C) With Russia's political ideology crafted and the system relatively stable, Surkov's function as the undisputed creator and manager of the political system has weakened. His ability to control the day-to-day functions of the pro-Putin, ruling United Russia party over the last year has increasingly been challenged by others. Kryshtanovskaya said that Surkov was losing out to United Russia Supreme Council Chairman Boris Gryzlov, United Russia Presidium Secretary Vyacheslav Volodin, and groups of "siloviki" over decisionmaking within the party. For example, Surkov fought to preclude United Russia's use of "Conservative" when the party introduced the paradoxical "Conservative Modernism" in November as its new ideology. Additionally, Aleksey Mukhin of the Centre for Political Information told us on January 13 that PA Head Sergey Naryshkin was attempting to transfer Surkov's domestic regional politics portfolio to PA Aide Aleksandr Abramov because Surkov had initiated rumors late last year that Naryshkin would be fired. 7. (C) Compared to two years ago, Surkov's evolving role has diminished his authority within the elite. Experts have told us that Surkov is no longer as needed by Medvedev or Putin as he once was, since the political system now has a stronger foundation. Medvedev has used Surkov in other capacities, such as fostering modernization and as head of the U.S.- Russia Civil Society Working Group--an appointment that Surkov claimed to us was a surprise. Yuriy Dzhibladze of the Center for Human Rights and Democracy, who sat on the Surkov-chaired working group for improving NGO legislation, told NSC Senior Director Michael McFaul on January 14 that Surkov immediately disregarded 70 percent of the working group's suggestions. Dzhibladze said that Surkov was dismissive of civil society activists during the meetings, and that he presented only "extremely minor" recommendations to Medvedev in order to demonstrate that he was working effectively on Medvedev's tasks. Dzhibladze also said that Surkov began meetings of the NGO law working group with a warning on the evils of a Ukrainian style "Orange Revolution" in Russia.

8. (C) Surkov's influence stems from his longstanding ties to Putin, ruthlessness, and formidable intellect, but his lack of a strong organizational base within the elite makes his situation less stable. Experts told us that Surkov was a man between camps, whom people feared to remove, and did not fully trust. Surkov had done little to build a powerful, identifiable team around himself, lacked the support and resources of big business, and probably will continue to rely upon his experience and confidence in himself to have a seat at the table. -----------------------------------

Modernization as Fallback Position? -----------------------------------

9. (C) Facing an evolving role and criticism of his "sovereign democracy" ideology, Surkov appears to be latching onto modernization to maintain his standing. In early January, former Prime Minister Yevgeniy Primakov criticized Russia's political party system, and specifically United Russia's "ideologically omnivorous nature," as detrimental to Russia's democratic development. While Medvedev and Putin strongly defended the political status quo during a State Council meeting January 22 (septel), Surkov has perhaps hedged his bets and added a leading role in Medvedev's main domestic policy platform to assure himself a way to remain powerful within the elite. As one of Medvedev's deputies on his Modernization Committee, as well as in public comments and in talks with post, Surkov has played that role by emphasizing that developing a technologically and economically-advanced, prosperous Russia is vital to the country's future. (Note: It is widely believed that Surkov drafted large sections of Medvedev's foundational modernization document "Forward, Russia." End Note.) ------------------------------

Interacting With Civil Society ------------------------------

10. (C) Leading human rights activists told us January 14 (septel) that they continue to view Surkov's leadership of the U.S.-Russia Civil Society Working Group as a major hindrance to a serious bilateral discussion of civil society, without suggesting whom Medvedev might choose as an alternative to represent Kremlin views. Lyudmila Alekseeva MOSCOW 00000184 003 OF 003 of the Moscow Helsinki Group and NGO Civil Assistance leader Svetlana Gannushkina both rhetorically asked post and U.S. officials whether the U.S. could remove him and select a different Russian interlocutor. 11. (C) Other contacts, however, suggested that increased interaction, experience in America, and a show of goodwill by the U.S. might cause Surkov to second-guess his "instinctual need" to disrupt civil society activities. Public Chamber member and television personality Nikolay Svanidze told us that regardless of Surkov's background and reputation, engaging him on civil society was better than nothing, and at least provided a forum for discussing issues. Kryshtanovskaya also told us that Surkov poorly understood America and American values, and that more frequent visits to America and exposure to U.S. officials would expand his world view. -------

Comment -------

12. (C) Surkov remains an influential figure with access to the highest levels of Russia's government. His role on the Civil Society Working Group should facilitate significant government-to-government interaction, while possibly hindering development of real NGO-to-NGO contacts. Surkov, at least at this point, is engaging with his U.S. counterparts. We should aim to use his upcoming visit to the U.S to try to redress at least some of his misconceptions and steer him toward a more pragmatic view of the possibilities for U.S.-Russian engagement. But we should remain mindful of a frank assessment offered by human rights ombudsman Vladimir Lukin: "Surkov wears many masks." End Comment. Beyrle