Kamil Galeev Profile picture
Feb 21, 2022 41 tweets 12 min read Twitter logo Read on Twitter
Here you see a photo of extraordinary meeting of Russian Security Council on Ukraine. Who are these people? I'd argue their biographies give a good glimpse into the structure of Russian power. Let's start with the only woman here - Valentina Matvienko on he right (a short 🧵) Image
Matvienko was born in West Ukraine. She went to a med school, first at home, then in St Petersburg. There she started career in the Komsomol - The Committee of the Soviet Youth. That was typical. You would first start career in Komsomol,and at age 28 transfer to the 'adul't Party Image
Komsomol career was largely about networking with Party bosses. Stereotypically Komsomol girls aiming to career attended sauna meetings with bosses, the escort service. What was good about Valentina is that she could drink more than grown men, hence the nickname - Valya the Glass Image
And Valentina skyrocketed. Soon she became the First Secretary of St Petersburg Komsomol. From here she transferred to the 'adult' Communist Party and at the age of 35 led a Krasnogvargeisky district of the city as the Party leader. That's a very good career for a country girl Image
During Perestroika the Party rule crumbled. In 1989 the Soviet of the People's Deputies was convened, the first freely elected parliament since 1918. A lot of dissidents got in. In a country used to the Party rule it was a shock: tens of millions watched its debates in real time Image
What did Matvienko do? Of course she joined. No, she didn't stand in elections. She joined the Soviet unelected through the NGO quota as a representative of the Committee of Soviet Women. In this assembly she led the Committee to Protect Women, Family, Motherhood and Childhood Image
By 1991 it was clear that the old order will be transformed to something different. Therefore, Matvienko left her Party job and entered the diplomatic career. She was an ambassador in a major tax heaven Malta, then in Greece. She was reportedly involved in shady business schemes Image
And finally in 1998 she becomes a Deputy Prime Minister of Russia. She was appointed by then Prime Minister Primakov. That's a very important fact: although she belongs to a Putin's closer circle, she rose in the ranks of Kremlin power long before the rise of Putin in Moscow Image
Who was Primakov? Or that's a very interesting story. To put it simply, it was the most influential and well-networked politician in Russia. He was the only real rival of Putin in the contest for supreme power and 'drowning' Primakov required huge organised effort on all levels Image
According to an official biography, Primakov was a 'historian of the Middle East, a scholar and a diplomat. For anyone familiar with the Soviet system it's crystal clear he was an intelligence officer. Here you see him commissioned to overwatch and guide the Kurdish militants Image
Here you see Primakov chatting with Saddam Hussein Image
Primakov rose very high during the last years of the USSR. First deputy head of KGB - the only 'civilian' (=undercover) on this position. A candidate to the Politburo. In new Russian Federation he led the SVR - the Service of Foreign Intelligence Image
On 17 August 1998 Russia declared default. That's a low point of economic crisis. Prices skyrocketed, wages weren't paid. Striking coal miners occupied Moscow and more importantly blocked railways, stopping the flow of export commodities. Communists dominated in the Parliament Image
President Yeltsin was ill and dysfunctional. He couldn't work on daily administration. That meant whoever will be Prime Minister will concentrate enormous power, unchecked by the President. Moreover, Yeltsin's term would end in 2000. Which meant if PM is successful he can succeed
Who will be a PM? Previous one Kirienko was fired. He was largely a scapegoat anyway. Yeltsin tried to push his candidature Chernomyrdin. But the Communist-dominated Parliament rejected his appointment twice. Thus Yeltsin had to suggest someone else. And he suggested Primakov Image
What followed next was widely considered as a return to normality. Economy started recovering, inflation decreased to only 84% (previously it could be as high as 2700% per year). As a PM Primakov gained immense power and popularity, acting largely independently from Yeltsin Image
On 24 March 1999 he was flying to the USA to secure another loan. And yet during the flight Vice-President Al Gore called him and informed the US started bombing Serbia to stop the ethnic cleansing in Kosovo. Then Primakov turned his plane back to Russia, cancelling his visit Image
It made Primakov immensely popular in Russia. 1990s were perceived as the huge national humiliation. Also Russian people would mostly identify themselves with Slavic Orthodox Serbs rather than with Albanians. That sparked a rise of nationalist sentiments which Primakov weaponised
In 1998-1999 oppositional, mostly Communist forces, which dominated in the Parliament tried to organise the impeachment of Yeltsin. With his rate of approval somewhere around 5% it was highly possible. Meanwhile Primakov, a Yeltsin's PM, openly hanged out with Communist leaders Image
Well, Primakov would benefit from the Yeltsin's downfall. The most popular politician in the country, the informal leader of the intelligence and state security apparatus, a candidate personifying the 'return to normality' and nationalist revival, he would be a natural successor
12 March 1999. Yeltsin tells Primakov:

- Make my job easier, just resign stating whatever reason
- I don't want to make it easier. You have constitutional authority to fire me. But you're making a big mistake

Then Yeltsin calls his deputy Voloshin who brings the prepared order Image
Now Primakov aims to win elections. And he had every chance to do so. He established the party 'Fatherland: All of Russia'. Key governors joined: the mayor of Moscow (left), governor of St Petersburg (right), presidents of Tatarstan, Bashortostan, Ingushetia and so on Image
Unfortunately for Primakov Yeltsin's family already chose a new successor. Putin quickly rose becoming an official of Yeltsin's administration, the Chief of Federal Security Service and finally the Prime Minister. But he was unelectable. Nobody knew him and everyone knew Primakov Image
Primakov was very popular among the intelligence and state security. Putin worked hard to establish his control over them. Firstly, he appointed another St Petersburg KGB officer Ivanov as the head of FSB Service of Internal Security - the office controlling other FSB branches Image
Then Putin launched major reform in FSB. He reorganised state security, closing two departments, but creating new six, etc. Why? For the same reason such reforms are usually launched - for changing the power balance within state security and establishing his group over it
First, reforms included переаттестация, checking officers' qualification. You take their guns, take their IDs and they basically just sit in their offices unable to do anything until переаттестация is over. It's a legal and easy way to paralyse structures you need to paralyse
Secondly, when reorganising departments and abolishing some, you can fire, retire, transfer to other offices (in province), etc, people you wanna rid of. Thus Putin eliminated old KGB interest groups that were closer to Primakov. Overall he fired about 2 000 officers and generals
Putin also filled the state security leadership with his old friends - KGB officers from St Petersburg. Sechin, Patrushev, Cherkesov, Ivanov and many others, they were all these knew appointees from St Petersburg FSB taking over the chief Moscow office
Thus Putin took control over the most important offices - over state security and intelligence. But he was still unknown and unelectable, while Primakov was very popular. So, Putin needed to solve two problems - boost his own popularity and destroy Primakov's one
This was very much helped by a media tycoon Berezovsky and his henchman - a TV host Sergey Dorenko. Smart, charismatic, with powerful voice, Dorenko was known as a 'telekiller'. "TV-assassin" able to destroy reputation of literally anyone his patron wanted to destroy Image
Dorenko obliterated Primakov. How? He didn't attack his policies, or corrupt schemes. He acted smarter. He knew that Primakov is having a knee surgery. So he showed footages knee surgeries, with all the blood and gore in prime time on national TV, and discussed it in all details Image
Dorenko didn't technically *attack* Primakov. He pretended to be concerned about his health. Thus he conveyed the idea that Primakov was frail, unhealthy (like Yeltsin). This take was considered unethical, but the country was too tired of gerontocracy. Primakov became unelectable Image
Putin now controlled the intelligence. He made a heavy blow on Primakov. But he still needed political apparatus. So two of Berezovskies henchmen - Dorenko and Leontyev after a quick discussion wrote the project and agenda of a new Putin's party, that will become United Russia Image
After that Putin's subordinates persuaded most of Primakov's MPs to leave their former boss and join this new Putin's party 'Unity' instead. Eventually, the 'Unity', the 'Fatherland: All of Russia' and 'Our Home Russia' would united and form the 'United Russia' party
How did they do it? Well, just after his appointment as the Chief of FSB, Putin started collecting info on all politicians and bureaucrats. Usually there was much of material for launching a prosecution. Thus he managed to blackmail them into obedience and hijack Primakov's party
Matvienko was one of many Primakov's appointees who switched to the new leader. In fact, she continuously kept her job under three different PMs: Primakov, Stepashin and Putin. Which reflects a great deal of manoeuvring ability and opportunism
Once gubernatorial elections in Russia were abolished in 2003, Matvienko became a governor of St Petersburg. No wonder that her son Sergei became a local real estate tycoon and a billionaire. In 2011 she leads the Council of Federation, the Russian Senate Image
In this capacity she agreed to whatever Putin commanded and pushed his decisions through all the institutions. Technically president needs permission of parliament to use the army abroad. Of course she agreed to Putin using the army in Syria, in Karabakh and in 2014 - in Ukraine
I think Matvienko's career is quite symptomatic and gives some understanding of Russian political history and elite dynamics. A highly opportunistic Komsomol girl, she used whatever chance to advance, adhering to whatever political agenda dominated at that period
She has been unconditionally obedient to her bosses, whoever was her boss at this or that moment. In this respect, she is somewhat of a 'light switch' personality, pushing whatever agenda she is commanded to push and then doing an U-turn at the first order of the boss
I'd argue that such 'light switch' personality is vital for career. Opinionated people, people with strong personal convictions be it liberal, nationalist, socialist or even statist will not rise. Only fully obedient ones, ready to do an U-turn at the first order, will. End of🧵 Image

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More from @kamilkazani

Jun 8
You unironically have some logical reasoning capabilities. Yes, that is exactly what happened. If in the 1960s the USSR still tried to compete, by the 1970s it essentially gave up. Consequently, Western imports comprised the ever increasing share of its high end consumption Image
By the 1970s Soviets could machine precise parts -> produce sophisticated weaponry either:

a) conventionally = essentially manually
b) on imported NC/CNC tools

That's it basically
And "manually" is not nearly as sexy as it sounds. First, supply of machinists that can do precision machining manually is highly inelastic. There's simply no way to train more in the short term perspective. At any given moment their quantity is given and you can't increase it
Read 5 tweets
Jun 8
Retrospectively, the greatest crime of the Western European governments was not cutting the supplies of the metal-cutting, specifically machining equipment, machine parts and expendables into the Russian Federation. Would this happen, the war would not have lasted that long
It's kinda ironic that the war impoverishing Europe is critically dependent upon the Western European (German, Austrian, Swiss, Italian, etc.) supplies to continue Image
But first and foremost German. Contrary to the popular opinion, the Russian military manufacturing base was not formed by the mainland Chinese import as China was unable to satisfy the demand of the Russian military on the high end equipment

The U.S. allies could Image
Read 5 tweets
Jun 6
To be fair, USSR was also famous for its scorched earth tactics. In August 1941, Soviets blown up the Dnieper Dam, aiming to halt the German advance. Tends of thousands civilians & Soviet soldiers were killed as a result Image
Btw this is the Colonel Hugh Lincoln Cooper, of the US Army Corps of Engineers who supervised construction of the dam. Soviet industrialisation was not just planned by the American industrialists: it was managed and supervised directly Image
More on the American role in the Soviet industrialisation:

Read 4 tweets
May 27
New Industrial Power + New Industrial Power

is structurally different from:

New Industrial Power + Old Industrial Power

Russia and China are too similar in too many important respects. They share too many chokepoints (though to a different degree). They're kinda the same
If Russia was looking for alternatives to Western Europe, it would look at Japan - the old industrial power. If Japan was politically problematic (as it is), it would look at Taiwan and South Korea, new industrial powers on the very advanced stages of their learning process
Read 4 tweets
May 27
As I said previously, there is a difference between the:

a) argumentative space
b) real space

You can "reorganise and be self-sufficient" in the former, but not in the latter. In reality, the option of "self-sufficiency" just doesn't exist
The USSR was never "self-sufficient". The initial Stalinist industrialisation was planned and managed by Americans, and based on the import of American + to the lesser extent German equipment.

1920-1930s - US + Germany
WIth the start of the Cold War, America semi-excluded itself from the Soviet market. So it was monopolised by the Western Europe. E.g. in the 1970s Western Europe counted for like 90% of Soviet imports, Western Germany alone counting for 45%

1950-1970s - Germany + Rest of Europe
Read 6 tweets
May 22
Opposition Trap

On Twitter, you see not dumb people falling into the Grilling Trap

There are two problems with grilling

1. It gives you cheap dopamine -> very addictive

2. It destroys your brain

In this regard Grilling Trap is just a particular case of the Opposition Trap🧵
Grilling is a social game taking place in the argumentative space. Now the thing about the argumentative space is that it is not identical to the real space. A true zealot of course, believes that his own argumentative space is (more or less) identical to the real space

It's not
There is always a gap between what makes a good argument and what makes a good decision. It may be wider or narrower, depending on circumstances, but it always exists

Making a decision =/= justifying a decision

First is optimised for the real space, second for the argumentative
Read 16 tweets

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