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Sergei Ivanov: West’s Staunch Enemy | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Russian President Vladimir Putin and Sergei Ivanov attend a ceremony marking the 72nd anniversary of the Nazi German invasion at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier near the Kremlin walls in Moscow on June 22, 2013. | REUTERS

Moscow-Analysts agree that Sergei Ivanov used to hold one of the most influential positions in Russia. He was the friend and ally of President Vladimir Putin.

Yet, around two weeks ago, Putin dismissed his chief of staff, in the highest-level change inside the Kremlin in several years.

Ivanov — who served with Putin in the Soviet-era KGB spy agency — was replaced by his deputy Anton Vaino.

Although the two friends stressed that the dismissal decision came upon the request of Ivanov, many observers are questioning the real reason behind such a move.

Ivanov, 63 will no longer be able to control Kremlin’s affairs. However, he will remain a member of Russia’s powerful security council, which is considered the country’s principal decision-making body, mainly over strategic issues such as war and peace.

Keeping Ivanov in his post in the security council is a sign that the former Kremlin chief of staff remains in the political arena as strong as ever. He will continue to play a leading role in policy-making despite rumors about possible changes in Russian policy following his dismissal.

Ivanov was the only child of a woman who used to work as an engineer in a scientific research center in the city of Leningrad (currently Saint Petersburg). He grew up without a father and since his early years he loved education and was highly proficient in foreign languages, mainly English.

Several sources agree that this trademark landed him in the world of politics and power.

His love for languages took him to Leningrad University’s Faculty of Languages. There, he became an active member of a communist youth organization.

The KGB later enlisted him and it was there where he met his longtime friend Putin.

Up until now, Ivanov’s role in the agency and the missions he was tasked to carry out remain secret. Yet, very limited information about him reveals that Ivanov worked in the early 1980s for the Soviet intelligence in Finland and then moved to Kenya.

During the years of the collapse of the Soviet Union, Ivanov worked as deputy to the director of foreign intelligence’s Europe chief.

Regarding his ties with Putin, it is said that Putin became Ivanov’s assistant after his resignation from the KGB. But after a short while, Putin was appointed in 1998 the head of the intelligence agency which was renamed the Federal Security Service.

After getting his new post, Putin appointed Ivanov as his deputy, and when Putin became president in 1999, Ivanov became secretary of the Security Council and then in 2001 he was given the defense ministry portfolio.

When the new security council was formed under former President Dmitry Medvedev (2008-2012), Ivanov was not appointed to its membership. But Putin, who was prime minister during Medvedev’s tenure at the Kremlin, appointed him as his deputy on military industry affairs.

When Putin came back to the Kremlin in 2012, Ivanov regained his position at the council, and in 2011 -up until his dismissal on August 12, 2016 – he was the president’s chief of staff.

Many observers see Ivanov as a hawk who has strong stances against the West. As evidence of his hawkish moves, journalists recount that in 2001, when Ivanov was secretary of the security council, he criticized Russian military experts on speeches they had given during a forum on how to develop the armed forces.

He was allegedly angered and said it was not up to experts to give advice. “The country has a military chief and armed forces, which are solely entitled to set the number of troops” that Russia needs.

Some analysts and Western politicians claim that Ivanov represents the Soviet approach in his thoughts and proposals. But he believes that the West “violates the sovereignty of countries and wants to impose Western-style democracy on others.”