Staunton, October 2 – Moscow appears to be acting on the principle that if there is no ministry, there is no problem, officials in the Urals say, but in fact, by destroying the regional affairs ministry, the Kremlin has not only destroyed “the fragile balance” between the center and the provinces but convinced many that the provinces need to “unite against the capital.”
Many regional officials did not appreciate the role that the regional affairs ministry had been playing until it was destroyed, Ivan Nekrasov writes in a commentary on Ura.ru, but now they are very aware of what it did because of what they see they have lost: a lobbyist for regional interests in the capital.
Indeed, over the last year, many officials had been dismissive about that ministry, feeling that whatever plans it announced would be killed either by the finance ministry or the economics ministry, but now with its closure, these same officials are having to reckon with a new situation, one in which there will be no one in Moscow to represent their interests.
The program of greatest interest to the Urals region, most likely to die as a result of the demise of the regional affairs ministry, involves the development of agglomerations in Chelyabinsk, Perm and Yekaterinburg, in which leaders there had placed great hopes as a driver of economic development in the future.
It took the regional leaders seven years to convince the regional affairs ministry that this would be a good idea, but they do not have major backers elsewhere and so expect that the whole notion ideas will now die. “The liquidation of the regional affairs ministry,” one of their number said anonymously, “will result in the destruction within the government of the very idea of the development of the territories.”
Indeed, this official said, those who had been behind it when they were in the regional affairs ministry are now worried about how to save their jobs and their offices rather than about any particular policies. And even when they do know where they will be working, they will be dispersed and have less influence.
But analysts in the region say that the regions now must recognize that they can count “only on themselves.” Some of their issues will in fact drop off the center’s agenda, but others can be kept there if regional officials singly or even better jointly lobby on their behalf. As one analyst put it, “all the telephone numbers, addresses and places are quite well-known.”
“There is the State Construction Committee, there is the finance ministry and the economics ministry to which the authority of the regional affairs ministry has been transferred,” the analyst continued. If people in the regions sit and to not run to immediately establish contact with them, he said, the regions are conceding defeat before the battle begins.