The 2004 Russian Government Reforms

Cristina Chuen
August 5, 2008

The 2004 Russian Government Reforms: Putin in Kremlin government meeting

Putin in Kremlin government meeting,

Since last February, when President Putin dismissed top Cabinet officials shortly before the Russian presidential elections, the Russian government has been undergoing major reforms. Top Cabinet personnel, the organizational structure, and responsibilities of key offices have changed. The reforms, which have affected the entire government, including the former Ministry of Atomic Energy, the nuclear supervisory agency, and the military, as well as the relationship between the federal government and the regions, have not yet been completed. The political infighting to influence the reforms and uncertainty regarding future political roles, however, have held up projects in various ministries, including international nonproliferation assistance programs. The statutes defining the roles, powers, and structures of the new administrative bodies are now being issued, providing a basic outline for the new shape of the Russian executive. This story reviews the background of the reforms and provides an overview of the restructuring to date, particularly in areas related to weapons of mass destruction and nonproliferation.

March 9: Rationalizing the Executive, Giving Power to the Chief of Staff

With an aim to reduce wasteful activities and duplication, Dmitriy Kozak, who had become first deputy chief of the government staff in November 2003 and was Putin’s campaign manager during the recent election, (1) was given just a few weeks to reconfigure Russia’s executive branch. He based the reorganization on the principle that ministries would have strategic responsibilities and draft legislation, services would be responsible for monitoring, and agencies would organize the provision of government services. (2) In essence, this created a system where ministries have the broadest powers, and services the least. This system was codified in presidential edict No. 314 of March 9, 2004, On the System and Structure of Federal Organs of Executive Power, which specified the powers and duties of ministries, agencies, and services. It also reduced the number of top Cabinet officials, giving the prime minister and the chief of the government staff just one deputy each. The March edict shrank the number of Russian ministries from 23 to 14, and the number of cabinet ministers from 30 to 17, with the prime minister having control of just nine ministries; this would be altered further two months later. Law enforcement and security agencies would henceforth report directly to the president.

Kozak is one of the three men at the top of the executive, under the Russian president. On March 1, President Putin nominated Mikhail Fradkov, then Russian envoy to the European Union, prime minister; the following day Fradkov named first deputy Duma speaker Aleksandr Zhukov, a member of the majority Russian political faction United Russia, deputy prime minister; Dmitriy Kozak became chief of the government staff, in charge of the executive government apparatus (see Figure 1, below, for a schematic of the Russian government). Kozak’s reforms greatly increased the role of the chief of the government staff, who was to ensure “the integration of the executive branch of government in the Russian Federation,” oversee the government’s interaction with presidential staff, the Prosecutor General’s Office, and the Constitutional, Supreme, and Arbitration Courts, as well as draft Cabinet meeting agendas and supervise the implementation of presidential orders and directives. (3) The prime minister was to concentrate on strategic issues. The March edict, however, turned out to be just the opening salvo in a struggle for power at the top of the Russian executive.

In addition, the March 9 edict transformed the Ministry of Atomic Energy into an agency and the Federal Inspectorate for Nuclear and Radiation Safety into a service; they were also subordinated to the Ministry of Industry and Energy (this status would later be reconsidered). Some other ministries were similarly transformed into agencies or services, and many agencies changed into services. However, after the edict was issued it became clear that some aspects of the reorganization were problematic. For instance, several monitoring bodies were subordinated to the very ministries they were meant to monitor. And several agencies, such as the Federal Atomic Energy Agency (also known by its Russian acronym, FAAE) and the Federal Space Agency, argued that their new status would make continued international cooperation difficult. Thus, when Putin finalized the government reorganization on May 20, he did not simply approve the March draft, but made several significant organizational changes.

May 20: Returning Power to the Government, Some Supervisory Bodies

The May 20 changes, which commentators believe were substantially influenced by Prime Minister Fradkov, have been criticized by some Russian analysts as rejecting the fundamental principles upon which the reforms were based: the division of strategic and legislating bodies (ministries) from those that execute policies or monitor this execution; as well as the idea of giving the prime minister the room to concentrate on strategic issues, while at the same time failing to address conflicts of interest in several ministries. For instance, the services in charge of supervising natural resource use and the preservation of Russia’s cultural heritage remain subordinated to the Ministry of Natural Resources and Ministry of Culture, often criticized as themselves the greatest law-breakers in these two areas. (4) The May 20 edict No. 649, Questions of the Structure of Federal Organs of Executive Power, however, did result in greater power not only for Fradkov (putting more government bodies under his direct control), but also for FAAE, and created a new Federal Service for Environmental, Technological, and Nuclear Oversight, pulling the Federal Nuclear Supervisory Service out of the Ministry of Industry and Energy but combining it with the services that supervise environmental and technical matters.

The statutes defining the roles, powers, and structures of the new administrative bodies are now being finalized, issuing in a new stage in Russia’s reform of the executive. All relevant statutes are expected to be completed in July. (5) The statute on the Ministry of Industry and Energy (MIE), as well as the Federal Industry Agency, which is subordinate to MIE, has been issued, as has the statute governing FAAE. The Industry Agency has been designated the government body in charge of fulfilling Russia’s obligations under the Chemical Weapons Convention and the Biological Weapons Convention. Until the Russian government enacts legislation specifying the organizations under its purview, the Industry Agency has also been given authority over all organizations formerly under the Munitions, Conventional Weapons, Control Systems, Shipbuilding, and Space Agencies. (6)

June 28: The Federal Atomic Energy Agency (FAAE) Loses Deputies, Gains Rights

Statute No. 316 of June 28, on the Federal Atomic Energy Agency, reduces the number of deputies from eight to four, and changes the structure of the organization from 14 departments and eight directorates to 16 directorates.

The new statute also differs from the 1997 statute in the following ways:

Legislation: The new statute granted the FAAE the right to submit bills to the government for consideration. This was critical since the agency had lost that right when it lost the status of a Ministry in March 2004. In addition, the agency has been given the right independently to issue regulations over a wide range of activities within its newly expanded purview.

Safety and Security: While the earlier statute made safety and security Minatom’s chief task, this has now been de-emphasized. Nevertheless, the legislation does provide the FAAE some new rights that may lead to improved facility security. The new statute continues to include articles related to physical protection, control, and accounting (MPC&A). In addition, it gives the agency the right not only to organize the protection of its facilities but also to issue rules regarding cooperation between agency security forces and territorial security organs and Internal Ministry troops. Earlier legislation in effect gave Minatom responsibility for facility security but no right to give any direction to other organizations providing facility security. It is to be hoped that this legislation will allow the agency to improve security. The articles related to MPC&A have also been modified. The new statute states that the agency independently issues regulations regarding the control and accounting of Russian radioactive materials and radioactive waste as well as the rules for conducting control and accounting of foreign-owned nuclear materials temporarily on Russian territory, and the rules for the issuing of permission to transport radioactive materials.

Oversight: In the area of nuclear regulation, the new statute appears to weaken the power of the Russian Nuclear Regulatory Service, and increase that of the FAAE. Article 6, paragraph b in the earlier statute required that Minatom provide necessary information on the activities of nuclear complex enterprises and organizations to the Russian government, the nuclear regulatory agency, other regulators, non-governmental organizations, mass media, and the public; Article 6, paragraph d of the earlier statute required that Minatom provide materials evaluating the influence of radiation on the environment near a nuclear installation, radiation source, or storage site for state environmental impact assessments. The new statute, however, gives the agency the right to issue regulations that delimit the functions of federal bodies involved in environmental impact assessments and the adoption of preliminary design and project documentation. This appears to imply that Minatom will have an important role in determining how much power the Federal Service for Environmental, Technological, and Nuclear Oversight will have to regulate nuclear installations. One more change in the new statute is the omission of the provision that Minatom consider industrial and environmental safety in choosing the sites for new nuclear complex facilities.

Conversion: The previous statute mentioned enterprise conversion, whereby military enterprises become commercial structures, a half dozen times, while the term is not in evidence in the new legislation. The new statute, however, does mention that some state enterprises in the nuclear energy complex will be converted into joint stock companies, and that the agency will issue regulations governing the issuance of licenses for the operation of these companies.

Nonproliferation and Disarmament: Under the new statute, the Agency continues to be a party to international agreements, cooperating with foreign governmental and international organizations. The agency will continue to coordinate the dismantlement of Russian nuclear submarines, and be a party to intergovernmental programs.

While the statute finally provides the basic outlines for agency work, this is only an intermediate step in the reform process. The agency will now have to formulate its own new conceptual principles and carry out internal reforms, converting 14 departments and eight directorates to 16 directorates. Some of the personnel are already known. (7)

Agency Personnel as of July 2, 2004


  • Aleksandr Rumyantsev

Deputy Directors with Former Positions & Areas of Expertise:

  • Boris Yurlov: Gazprom Deputy Director, first appointed to Minatom in April (8)
  • Evald Antipenko: Minatom First Deputy Minister, (Financial & economic issues)
  • Ivan Kamenskikh: Minatom Deputy Minister, (Nuclear weapons complex)
  • Anatoliy Kotelnikov: Minatom Deputy Minister, (Security issues)

Directorate Heads with Former Positions:

  • Sergey Antipov: Minatom Deputy Minister, in charge of nuclear submarine dismantlement
  • Vladimir Generalov: Head of the Nuclear Power Engineering Department
  • Valeriy Drozdov
  • Vladimir Korotkevich: Head of the Nuclear Fuel Cycle Department
  • Valeriy Kurbatov
  • Vladimir Kuchinov: Head of the International and Foreign Economic Cooperation Department
  • Aleksandr Martyanov: Head of the Industry Economics and Planning Department
  • Valeriy Rachkov: Deputy head of the Nuclear Science and Engineering Department

July 1: Federal Service for Environmental, Technological, and Nuclear Oversight Gets Acting Head, Future Still Unclear

No legislation has yet been issued concerning the roles, powers, or structure of the new Environmental, Technological, and Nuclear Oversight service, so it is quite difficult to know what degree of freedom the nuclear inspectorate will be able to maintain. In late March 2004, Russian nuclear regulators noted that they were unsure of their status, and how independent they would be under the March 9 structure, which subordinated them to the Ministry of Industry and Energy. The May 20 edict, as already noted, brought the nuclear inspectorate out from under the ministry, but merged it with two other inspectorates. Until implementing legislation is issued, the inspectorate will continue to operate under the old rules. However, uncertainty over the future rules has raised concerns. In an interview with Russia’s Nezavisimaya gazeta, US Nuclear Regulatory Committee Chairman Nils Diaz emphasized the importance of a clear distribution of responsibilities between FAAE and the regulatory service, saying that his trip to Moscow for a conference of nuclear regulators on June 24-25 was in part to better acquaint himself with the situation. (9) The only legislation pertaining to the service to date concerns leadership: on July 1 Prime Minister Fradkov issued a directive naming Andrey Malyshev, former head of the Federal Inspectorate for Nuclear and Radiation Safety, deputy head of the new service, while on July 2 a second Fradkov directive appointed him acting head of the service. (10) (11) Although the appointment was not permanent, it should ensure that the nuclear side of the inspectorate will be given sufficient attention during the transition period.

The General Staff Subordinated to the Minister of Defense

Moscow has also initiated reforms in the administration of the Russian military. Minister of Defense Sergey Ivanov had been lobbying for a single chain of command in the armed forces, where the General Staff is relieved of “non-core functions,” since January. (12) Thus, the Russian government proposed amending the law On Defense. These amendments were approved by the Duma on June 11, and by the Federation Council two weeks later (the president is expected to sign the bill into law shortly).

The previous version of the law had stated that the supervision of the armed forces was carried out by the minister of defense through the Ministry of Defense “and the General Staff, which is the main organ of operational command of the Russian Federation Armed Forces.” This has been changed to take out the General Staff and the final phrase. (13) Also, under the previous version the statutes related to the General Staff were approved by the president, whereas now this prerogative belongs to the defense minister, as was the case prior to 1998. The most important consequence of these amendments is the removal of operational command from the General Staff, which until recently had been exercising full control over troops, including those that fight in Chechnya. Instead, the General Staff is expected to concentrate on long-range planning and overall strategy. It is also possible that the chief of the General Staff might lose his seat on the Security Council, which gave him political power independent from (and nearly equal to) the minister. Many analysts have also predicted that the current chief, Anatoliy Kvashnin, who had been instrumental in sharply enhancing the power and the status of the General Staff and who had played a key role in removing the previous minister of defense, Igor Sergeyev, will have to leave his post. (14)

Although Defense Minister Ivanov has said that the period of major restructuring and radical reform of the armed forces is over, (15) Russian commentators note that handing over operational control of the armed forces will take time. Nezavisimaya gazeta noted Chief of the General Staff Kvashnin’s “bureaucratic attack” against the reforms, pointing out that on June 18 Kvashnin addressed a government meeting on critical operation issues, not the defense minister. Russian analysts say that he sought to demonstrate his expertise and competence, making clear that the General Staff intends to continue playing its previous role, despite the legal changes. (16) Although the reform is expected to give control over defense matters to civilians (in his address to the Federation Council on May 26, President Putin said as much), the analyst for the Russian journal on military and security affairs Oborona i bezopasnost points out that the Defense Ministry has few civilian personnel, and that Russia does not have a system for training civilians to work in this area. In the past, the military inspection was under the Security Council, but this too is subordinated to the ministry at present. The only administrative body that can monitor the Defense Ministry today is the Audit Chamber, but it only does so periodically. (17) According to anonymous sources cited by Kommersant, the changes to the law On Defense are just the beginning of military reforms, which are likely to include changes to the authority of commanders of branches of the armed forces, who will no longer be responsible for force deployments, but simply for their training and development. This is because in contemporary conflicts, force deployments are often of an intra-branch nature. Some in the Defense Ministry also argue that Minister of Defense Sergey Ivanov should be designated deputy commander-in-chief, directly under the president, however it is not clear if this would be allowed by the Russian constitution. (18)

The administrative reform of the Defense Ministry lies ahead. Russian newspapers are rife with speculation over who might be named to deputy ministerial posts, the number of which has yet to be determined (but is likely to be more than the four that other ministries are allowed). The structure of the Defense Ministry and General Staff will also have to be changed to conform to the new law On Defense. The General Staff is likely to lose structures related to combat training, military education, and troop development. (19)

Security Council Role May Increase, Anti-Terrorism Commission May Receive New Powers

Another possible change in the security realm could be a revitalized Security Council. In March 2004, former Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov was appointed to the post of Security Council secretary. Some commentators suggested that this may indicate a shift in council functions from domestic to international security issues. On April 26, Putin approved the new statute on the Security Council administration. While the members were largely holdovers from the previous council, there is an expectation that the membership may be changed in the future. More importantly, Putin indicated that he would like to see the council’s powers increased. (20) Its tasks include long-range planning, national security, and economic competitiveness. According to Secretary Ivanov, he has been studying the experience of the US National Security Council. While the Russian council’s role is similar – to prepare recommendations on national security considering domestic, foreign, and military factors – Ivanov pointed out that the organization and functioning of the two bodies differ. Permanent Russian Security Council members will meet once a week to discuss operative issues, while an expanded session will be held on a quarterly basis, to discuss broader problems of a conceptual nature. In addition, there is a proposal to hold regular strategic planning sessions to prepare decisions on Russian development and security problems. There will also be several interagency commissions. (21) Finally, some experts have suggested that the Security Council should coordinate Moscow’s anti-terrorist activities. (22) At present, anti-terror activities are coordinated by the Federal Anti-Terrorist Commission, but the Russian Cabinet of Ministers sets up federal or regional staffs to counter individual terrorist threats. On July 5, 2004, Justice Minister Yuriy Chayka presented President Putin with the draft of a new law on combating terrorism, to replace Russia’s 1998 law on terrorism. In the new draft, the Russian president would retain his role at the head of the fight on terror, but the Federal Anti-Terrorist Commission would not only coordinate, but have the power to set up staffs, issue orders, etc. The Ministry of Internal Affairs, Federal Security Service (FSB), Ministry of Defense and Federal Protection Service are designated in the draft as the lead agencies in the fight against terror. However, the draft will continue to undergo changes; it is not known when the bill will be submitted to the State Duma. (23)

Federal-Regional Relations

In June, President Putin ordered the reform of Russia’s administration of the regions, which is supposed to be brought in line with federal reforms by the end of 2004. The June 1 State Council meeting discussed the division of powers between the federal government and the regions, as well as the possible devolution of some authority and money to the regions. The issues currently designated as “under joint jurisdiction” of the federal and regional governments are to be assigned to a single authority. In addition, benefits that cannot be funded are to be eliminated.

This is the third time that the State Council has undertaken the reform of Moscow’s relations with the regions. The first attempts – a 2002 plan developed by Tatarstan President Mintimer Shaymiyev to separate the powers of federal and regional authorities and a plan developed the same year by Moscow mayor Yuriy Luzhkov to reform the entire Russian administrative system – were never put into practice.

Kozak is heading the commission designing the current reform effort. The commission is supposed to start by preparing a list of superfluous offices–similar to a list of unnecessary federal offices compiled at the beginning of Russia’s government reforms. The Kozak commission has also begun work in several regions: in April, it began working in Krasnoyarsk Kray, and is already drafting proposals to reduce the duplicate functions of federal and regional authorities, and the duplication that occurs between the regional and municipal levels. (24) Kozak has been working on this issue for more than a year, while in the Kremlin administration. Some reformers have suggested that federal ministries should have representatives at the district level, but not lower. However, district offices would remain separate from the offices of the presidential plenipotentiary envoys–who have not been involved in drafting the new reforms. As of 10 July 2004, some 42,000 federal employees in regional offices had already been downsized. (25)

Besides eliminating some federal offices, some rights may be devolved to the regions. These are most likely to involve natural resources and licensing, and will not involve defense. Other powers may be delegated to the regions, along with subventions from Moscow. These are likely to include welfare, unemployment, and veterans’ benefits; these benefits are also likely to be reduced, as the Russian government has not been able to pay for the benefits it currently promises. The question of how the regions will manage funds earmarked for these benefits has yet to be decided as well, as do amendments to budget and tax laws. (26) Until the regional reforms have been completed, the political struggle to influence the new laws is likely to slow nonproliferation projects in the regions, exacerbating the confusion caused by the reform of the FAAE and nuclear inspectorate.

It is not yet clear whether the reforms the Russian government is currently undergoing will have a long-term effect on national administration, or the governance of the nuclear or military sectors. To date, the greatest effect has been political maneuvering over the course of reforms and difficulties getting work done as staffers are uncertain of their powers or responsibilities. There has also yet to be a real downsizing of the executive branch. The original theory of the reformers, to clearly differentiate ministries from agencies and services, has already been altered in practice. This has had some positive and some negative consequences.

In the nuclear sphere, the March 9 subordination of the Ministry of Atomic Energy to the Ministry of Industry and Energy promised some supervision over the former, but would have made international cooperation more difficult. The new statute governing the agency has some welcome innovations, such as allowing the agency to issue rules regarding cooperation between its own security forces and territorial security organs and Internal Ministry troops. Previously, the agency had responsibility for facility protection but few tools to affect the work of other troops. On the other hand, the agency has been given quite a few other powers without any clear oversight mechanisms in place.

Oversight remains a critical problem in the Russian government. The March subordination of the nuclear regulatory body to the Ministry of Industry and Energy was particularly problematic, but we will not know whether the new Federal Service for Environmental, Technological and Nuclear Oversight will be able to truly oversee the nuclear sphere until the Russian government and the FAAE issue relevant statutes. The fact that the FAAE appears to have the right to take away nuclear inspectorate powers as the agency sees fit is most worrisome. Similarly, there is as yet little civilian oversight of the Russian military, though the reforms of the Defense Ministry and General Staff may be a first step in that direction.

The reform of central-local relations, though they do not directly affect the nuclear or military sphere, could well influence nonproliferation assistance programs because officials are uncertain what their responsibilities are. Already, some regional governors are trying to benefit from the reform process to get greater control over natural resources and investments in their regions. These reforms are also likely to monopolize attention until they have been completed.


(1) Boris Vishnevsky, “Dmitri Kozak,” Moscow News MN-Files,
(2) Yevgeniy Arsyukhin, “Ministry popali v Polozheniye,” Rossiyskaya gazeta,, June 22, 2004; “Kreslo vsevlastiya,” Vedomosti, May 24, 2004; in Integrem Techno,
(3) Boris Vishnevsky, “Dmitri Kozak,” Moscow News MN-Files,
(4) “Kreslo vsevlastiya,” Vedomosti, May 24, 2004; in Integrem Techno,
(5) “Pravitelstvo v tselom odobrilo proyekty polozheniy o Minpromenergo,” Novosti TEK, June 10, 2004; in Integrem Techno,
(6) Russian Government Decree No. 285, Ob utverzhdenii Polozheniya o Federalnom agentstve po promyshlennosti, 16 June 2004; in Rossiyskaya gazeta, June 22, 2004, p. 13.
(7) “O rasshirennom zasedanii kollegii Federalnogo agentstva po atomnoy energii,” Minatom, July 2, 2004,
(8) Alena Kornysheva, “Aleksandr Rumyantsev gotov k aktsionirovaniyu” (Aleksandr Rumyantsev is ready for corporatization), Kommersant, April 23, 2004; in Integrum Techno,
(9) Andrey Vaganov, “V Moskve sobirayetsya ‘yadernaya vosmerka'” (Nuclear Eight to Meet in Moscow), Nezavisimaya gazeta, June 24, 2004; in Integrum Techno,
(10) Russian Federation Government Directive No. 904-r of July 1, 2004, On the Deputy Director of the Federal Service for Environmental, Technological, and Nuclear Oversight, Rossiyskaya gazeta,, July 6, 2004.
(11) Russian Federation Government Directive No. 905-r of July 2, 2004, On the Acting Director of the Federal Service for Environmental, Technological, and Nuclear Oversight, Rossiyskaya gazeta,
(12) Simon Saradzhyan, “Bill Hands Ivanov Full Control of Army,” Moscow Times,, June 15, 2004.
(13) Yuriy Gavrilov and Vladislav Kulikov, “Genshtab osvobodili ot lishnogo” (General Staff liberated from extra burden), Rossiyskaya gazeta, June 15, 2004.
(14) Ibid.
(15) Ibid.
(16) Ibid.
(17) “Vopros o grazhdanskom kontrole nad armiyey vnov vydvigayetsya na pervyy plan” (The issue of civilian control over the army is once again pushed to the forefront), WPS Oborona i Bezopasnost, June 18, 2004; in Integrum Techno,
(18) Ilya Bulavinov, “Sergey Ivanov mozhet stat silovym vitse-prezidentom” (Sergey Ivanov may become vice president for security), Kommersant, June 25, 2004; in Integrum Techno,
(19) Yuliya Kalinina, “Two firsts and five seconds” (Dva pervykh i pyat vtorykh), Moskovskiy komsomolets, June 22, 2004; in Integrum Techno,
(20) Yekaterina Vlasova, “Novaya bezopasnost so starymi litsami (New security with old faces), Rossiyskaya gazeta, April 26, 2004; in Integrum Techno,
(21) Valeriya Sycheva, “Osobennosti natsionalnoy bezopasnosti” (National security characteristics) (interview of Security Council head Ivanov), Itogi, June 22, 2004; in Integrum Techno,
(22) Aleksey Spirin, “MVD menyayet strategiyu” (The Ministry of Internal Affairs is changing strategy), Nezavisimaya gazeta, July 2, 2004; in Integrum Techno,
(23) Pavel Aptekar and Oleg Rubnikovich, “Po novym ponyatiyam budet vestis borba s terrorizmom” (The war on terror will be waged according to a new concept), Gazeta, July 7, 2004, pp. 1, 3; in Integrum Techno,
(24) Olga Proskurnina and Anfisa Voronina, “Zaraznaya reforma: chinovnikov v regionakh ‘perestroyat’ k kontsu goda” (Infectious reform: regional officials to be reformed by the end of the year), Vedomosti, June 2, 2004; in Integrum Techno,
(25) Dmitriy Vladimirov, “Regiony prosyat deneg” (The regions are asking for money), Rossiyskaya gazeta, July 10, 2004; in Integrum Techno,
(26) Yekaterina Grigoryeva, “A esli ikh budet sem?” (And if there are seven of them?) Izvestiya, June 2, 2004; in Integrum Techno,

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