Shake-Up in Russia’s Security Council

Published 12:00 am Monday, December 26, 2005

MOSCOW – President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday accepted the resignation of the secretary of his Security Council, an advisory post that in the past has served as a political springboard.

Igor Ivanov resigned, and his little-known deputy, Valentin Sobolev, was appointed acting secretary. Sobolev, 60, is a general in the Federal Security Service, the successor agency to the KGB.

The moves were announced in presidential decrees posted on the Kremlin Web site.

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Ivanov, 61, a former long-serving foreign minister, submitted his resignation in early July. He was frustrated by his lack of political influence, Russian newspapers reported. The Security Council, which advises the president, wielded considerable clout under some of his predecessors but in recent years its influence has declined.

Putin once held the post, as did Sergei Ivanov, now a first deputy prime minister and seen as a leading candidate to succeed the president in elections next year.

Sobolev joined the KGB in 1972. He had been deputy secretary of the Security Council since 1999, the year Putin became prime minister and passed the Security Council post to Sergei Ivanov. Putin became acting president later that year.

In appointing Sobolev acting secretary, it was not clear whether Putin was testing how he would be received or whether the president has someone else in mind.

Alexander Golts, security writer for the online Yezhenedelny Zhurnal, said Igor Ivanov’s resignation may indicate the start of a further shuffling of posts to be carried out by Putin as Russia approaches parliamentary elections in December and presidential elections in March.

At the same time, Golts said, “the most sensible explanation” for Ivanov’s stepping down is that “someone has his eye on his position.”

Golts said Ivanov had limited influence as Security Council chief compared with Sergei Ivanov, who is close to Putin.

Igor Ivanov, who served as foreign minister from 1998 to 2004, was a holdover from former President Boris Yeltsin’s administration.

Many of the people Putin has brought into the Kremlin served with him in the KGB.

Ivan Safranchuk, a Moscow analyst with the Washington-based World Security Institute, said Igor Ivanov was involved in discussions on foreign policy but lately had disagreements with members of Putin’s administration on some issues. Safranchuk said that Ivanov had been involved in nuclear proliferation talks with Iran, but he did not indicate whether that was a subject of discord.

“The Security Council plays a coordinating role on issues of foreign policy,” Safranchuk said. “Of course, there are different groups (in the government) with different interests. The military always have their own interests, the diplomatic establishment their own, those who sell weapons have their own.

“To some extent, Ivanov has probably failed to meet some group’s interests.”

Ivanov said Wednesday he planned to work on a new book and teach at the prestigious Moscow State Institute of International Relations. “What I have no plans to do is get involved in politics,” he told the ITAR-Tass news agency.

Under Yeltsin, the Security Council chiefs played major roles in ending the conflict in Chechnya. After a peace deal was signed in 1996, Boris Berezovsky, a tycoon now living in exile in London, was appointed deputy head of the Security Council and put in charge of Chechnya’s reconstruction.

A service of the Associated Press(AP)