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Viewing cable 09MOSCOW532, QUESTIONING PUTIN'S WORK ETHIC

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
09MOSCOW532 2009-03-04 14:02 2010-12-01 21:09 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Moscow
VZCZCXRO9373
PP RUEHDBU
DE RUEHMO #0532 0631454
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 041454Z MAR 09
FM AMEMBASSY MOSCOW
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 2230
INFO RUCNCIS/CIS COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHXD/MOSCOW POLITICAL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
C O N F I D E N T I A L MOSCOW 000532

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 03/04/2019
TAGS: PGOV PHUM PINR RS SOCI
SUBJECT: QUESTIONING PUTIN'S WORK ETHIC

Classified By: Ambassador John Beyrle.  Reason:  1.4 (d).

1. (C) Summary. Rumors about Prime Minister Putin's
disengagement from his duties have proliferated in Moscow,
suggesting that he has lost his "edge" in making critical
decisions on measures linked to the economic crisis. Putin
has reportedly been "working from home" on many issues,
leaving much of the running of the government to his
deputies, particularly First Deputy Prime Minister Igor
Shuvalov. While some here see Putin's withdrawal as
increasing the odds that he might step down from office, most
continue to emphasize his centrality in the political
constellation, with his hands-off behavior reflecting the
lack of an acceptable compromise amongst the Kremlin elite on
difficult economic issues. End Summary.

2. (C) There are consistent reports that Putin resents or
resists the workload he carries as Prime Minister to
galvanize the Russian bureaucracy. Well-connected XXXXXXXXXXXX
XXXXXXXXXXXX told us that Putin is
said to be "distracted" and "disinterested," leaving
day-to-day management of the GOR to Shuvalov.  XXXXXXXXXXXX, who
was a member of XXXXXXXXXXXX,
said that only Putin has the authority to lead the GOR and,
in his absence, economic policy responses to the crisis have
been entirely ad hoc. XXXXXXXXXXXX saw the ongoing budget revision
process as further evidence of Putin's fatigue; in more
resolute times, Putin would have ended the fiscal haggling
quickly. Instead, it has dragged on for two months during the
worst financial crisis in a decade. Prominent XXXXXXXXXXXX
XXXXXXXXXXXX agreed about Putin's isolation, saying
that the PM is increasingly isolated and has regular contact
only with Shuvalov and Kudrin.

3. (C) Similarly, XXXXXXXXXXXX
XXXXXXXXXXXX told us that Putin has
not been on a regular schedule at the Russian White House,
preferring to leave the day-to-day operations of government
in the hands of the "actual Prime Minister" Shuvalov, an
assessment shared by XXXXXXXXXXXX.
XXXXXXXXXXXX alleged that there are a number of documents waiting
for Putin's signature, several of which are linked to the
government's anti-crisis package, that are creating backups
in the implementation of important projects. XXXXXXXXXXXX
XXXXXXXXXXXX told us it is well known
that Putin did not like coming to the Russian White House,
where he was confronted with stacks of papers on issues of
minuscule importance, on which he did not want to expend his
energy. The problem, XXXXXXXXXXXX noted, was that the Russian
system was geared to top-down decisions and paralysis was
often the result of Putin's inaction.

4. (C) The rise of rumors such as these suggest that Putin
may be losing some of his Teflon persona under the pressures
of Russia's economic woes, at least among the elite. However,
recent Levada surveys reinforce that most Russians continue
to see Putin as "running" the country (87 percent of
respondents saw him holding his power, up from 74 percent a
year ago). While some speculate that Putin's disengagement
may presage a readiness to step down from office, most
continue to stress his centrality in the ruling structure and
his personal sense as the "savior" of Russia. Indeed, his
disengagement reflects his long-standing predilection to
prevaricate on difficult issues and his recognition that a
sharp reduction in resources limits his ability to find
workable compromises among the Kremlin elite.
BEYRLE