Russia's Prime Minister Mishustin: A Quiet Technocrat Who Toes the Line and Gets Results

May 11, 2023
Yana Demeshko, Natasha Yefimova-Trilling and Ingrid Burke Friedman

Ever since Mikhail Mishustin was hoisted from his job as tax chief to become Russia's prime minister in 2020, analysts have said he would not be a potential successor to Vladimir Putin after the president's term ends next year. This take was hard to argue against. As Carnegie's Tatiana Stanovaya wrote back then: “Mishustin does not have any political experience or popularity with the electorate, and is not part of Putin’s inner circle.”

What Mishustin does have is Article 92 of the Russian constitution, which would make him interim president — and commander-in-chief of a country at war — if something were to abruptly stop Putin from carrying out his duties. Last week, the Kremlin claimed that two drones destroyed over Putin's Moscow residence had been sent to assassinate him. Though there are still multiple alternative explanations that are at least as compelling, the incident does spark some curiosity about the man who would take over the presidency if Putin dropped out of the picture before his term is up.

Describing the softspoken Mishustin as a "faceless functionary without ambition" seems off the mark. It is true that he lacks both the insider credentials of a more obvious potential successor like Security Council head Nikolai Patrushev and the populist appeal of hawkish firebrands like former president Dmitry Medvedev (whom he replaced as prime minister) and Duma speaker Vyacheslav Volodin. But those who track Russia's fiscal health have praised Mishustin as a highly competent technocrat, who oversaw a doubling (if not tripling) of budget revenue when he ran the tax service. Granted, that image of competence may be bolstered by the prime minister's alleged preoccupation with his public persona. In either case, now — as his government helps Russia overcome unprecedented sanctions pressure — it also seems to have translated into a measure of popular appeal: Mishustin's approval rating, according to the Levada Center, has climbed from around 50% at the start of 2020 to more than 70% as of this April.

Like many other senior Russian officials, Mishustin appears to have been caught off guard by Putin's decision to mount a full-fledged invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, but he has publicly stayed loyal to his boss. At an emergency meeting called by Putin three days before he sent Russian troops over the border, Mishustin suggested Moscow continue dialogue with the West about the two breakaway statelets in eastern Ukraine before deciding whether to recognize them. (They were recognized later that day.) And though the prime minister usually speaks about the war obliquely, without the vitriolic saber-rattling of his predecessor, he has stayed on in his role, not challenging the Kremlin's messaging, working for Russia's "technological and economic sovereignty" in the face of pressure from "the collective West." The details have changed but the ethos is the same as in fall 2020, when an official at a research institute that Mishustin was visiting began his story of progress by recalling a visit some years earlier by "your colleague" Putin, during his time as prime minister; Mishustin corrected him: "Not a colleague, but our leader."

Below we have started collecting a sampling of Mishustin’s quotes, mostly since his appointment as prime minister, meant to shed light on his views on issues that impact vital or important U.S. interests. (Notes on formatting and sources come after the quotes themselves.)


I. U.S. and Russian priorities for the bilateral agenda

Nuclear security and safety:

  • Rosatom is doing a great deal of work to rehabilitate ‘uranium legacy’ sites in Kirghizia [i.e., Kyrgyzstan]. (Interfax, 05.09.23).

North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs:

  • No significant developments.

Iran and its nuclear program:

  • No significant developments.

Leaks of U.S. intelligence assessments:

  • No significant developments.

Humanitarian impact of the Ukraine conflict:

  • On the allocation of more than 2.5 billion rubles for a federal workforce retraining project under which Ukrainian refugees would be eligible for a free education: Funds will go toward grants to organizations that train workers needed on the labor market. (Telegram, 03.30.23)

Military aspects of the Ukraine conflict and their impacts:

  • Lauding a recent uptick in the production of military equipment: This was achieved thanks to the prompt detection and elimination of a whole series of technological obstacles in production processes both in the organizations of the defense-industrial complex and in those cooperating with them… These are all preliminary results. It is necessary to continue acting in the same vein, there is still a lot to be done. Our industry is gradually coping with current challenges and leveling the situation out. (Telegram, 12.27.22)
  • Now the needs of the Armed Forces in equipment have increased significantly. … It is important to continue the construction of fortifications on the line of deployment of our troops. Most of them are already fully equipped. Also, new strongholds are being built for the border service and the existing strongholds are being equipped. (Government.ru, 03.31.23)
  • The government has approved the charter of the Defenders of the Fatherland State Fund for Supporting Participants in the Special Military Operation, established on the initiative of the president… First of all, this involves comprehensive support for the families of those killed in action and veterans of the special military operation. It also includes assistance for our defenders in obtaining social support measures, essential medications and medical devices, technical rehabilitation systems, vouchers for health centers and home care, as well as education, advanced training and employment opportunities and, of course, psychological counselling. … Caring for our defenders is our common task. (Government.ru, 05.11.23)

Punitive measures related to Russia’s war against Ukraine and their impact globally:

  • Unprecedented sanctions were imposed on our country. But their initiators did not achieve their main objective. They failed to undermine our financial stability. (AFP/MT, 09.08.22)
  • The global order is undergoing a serious change. Some Western countries [have] decided that they can use illegitimate economic sanctions, restrictions and political pressure to impose their rule, while ignoring the interests of others. Such attempts are bound to fail. (TASS, 12.05.22)
  • Speaking about sanctions before the State Duma: Let's be realistic, the outside pressure on Russia is not weakening… But we still expect the adaptation period to end in 2024. Russia will embark on the path of long-term progressive development. … Russian people were the target… but we survived. (AFP/MT, 03.23.23)
  • Promoting integration within the EAEU [Eurasian Economic Union], as well as with partner countries, is another priority. We have continued reinforcing cooperation with friendly countries who share our views and values. Attempts to shut us out of the global economic space through sanctions [have] failed. (Government.ru, 03.23.23)
  • No doubt, the current situation could be called the most difficult in three decades for Russia… Such sanctions were not used even in the darkest times of the Cold War. (Reuters, 04.07.22) 
  • Some industries found themselves in a rather difficult situation due to Western partners refusing to carry out planned deliveries. (Government.ru, 05.02.23)

Ukraine-related negotiations:

  • No significant developments.

Great Power rivalry/new Cold War/NATO-Russia relations:

  • We are faced with the task of ensuring the development of the country's economy under the restrictions imposed by unfriendly countries. Russia is still part of the global world, so we will continue to expand and strengthen our trade and economic ties with those who are interested in such cooperation. (Government.ru, 03.14.23)
  • Last year saw the start of a deep transformation of the world order. More and more countries have come to realize that a fair world of the future is incompatible with the rules imposed by the collective West. The transition to multipolarity is gathering speed. Russia is at the cutting edge of this process. (Government.ru, 03.23.23)
  • The West continues to do everything possible to limit the Russian economy’s access to global finance — loans and investments — and to restrain the development of Russia not only in the short term, but also in the long term. (Government.ru, 03.28.23)

China-Russia: Allied or aligned?

  • Russia will provide the necessary support in terms of enriching the content of trade and economic cooperation and facilitating further consolidation within the SCO [Shanghai Cooperation Organization]. (TASS, 11.01.22)
  • In the new geopolitical reality, the comprehensive and strategic partnership between Russia and China will fully reveal its great creative potential. (TASS, 12.05.22)
  • Speaking to Chinese President Xi Jinping: It is meaningful that your first foreign visit after having been re-elected is to our country. This testifies to the special nature of Russian-Chinese relations entering a new era. (Government.ru, 03.21.23)
  • Our work is coordinated through … regular meetings of the leaders of the Russian and Chinese governments, which is a unique format that includes five intergovernmental commissions and more than 80 subcommittees and working groups. (TASS, 03.21.23)
  • We value Russia and China’s strong cultural and humanitarian ties. They are founded on our peoples' historical traditions of friendship and mutual respect. (TASS, 03.21.23)
  • We in Russia are truly interested in the further strengthening of our comprehensive partnership and strategic cooperation with China. Our relations are at their highest level in a centuries-long history, and they influence the formation of the global agenda with respect to the logic of a multipolar world order. (TASS, 03.21.23)
  • We believe that the development of trade, economic, scientific and technical cooperation with China is very important. Following the talks between President Vladimir Putin and President of the People's Republic of China Xi Jinping in Moscow, the two leaders adopted a joint statement on the development of practical cooperation between Russia and China in the medium term. As a follow-up, my colleague, Premier of the State Council of China Li Qiang, and I will soon approve Plan 2030, which will embrace all the main areas of cooperation with our Chinese partners. (Government.ru, 03.23.23)
  • The Russian side rates highly the Sino-Russian relations of a comprehensive strategic partnership and strategic interaction, and it plans to expand friendly ties with the People’s Republic of China, deepen practical cooperation and facilitate the two countries’ joint development. (TASS, 04.04.23)

Missile defense:

  • No significant developments.

Nuclear arms control:

  • No significant developments.


  • No significant developments.

Conflict in Syria:

  • No significant developments.

Cyber security/AI:

  • Speaking in 2018: But if destiny chooses a different path for me [other than government service], I would work in innovations, with new technologies, in the same field as I have always worked: transformation, related to the digital economy. (Reuters, 01.15.20)
  • On a new technological order, including artificial intelligence, robots, sensors, 3D printing and more: By implementing new technologies, it is possible to ensure the growth of efficiency in all sectors of the economy, from agriculture to the service sector, improve the quality of products, establish more environmentally friendly production, and reduce costs. New forms of creating added value are also emerging. (Telegram, 04.26.23)

Energy exports from CIS:

  • For Russia, the Caspian has great significance. Above all, given its strategic location in the center of Eurasia, at a crossroads of transportation and energy arteries, as well as having a large amount of natural reserves and unique bioresources in its waters. (TASS, 10.06.22)

Climate change:

  • No significant developments.

U.S.-Russian economic ties:

  • No significant developments.

U.S.-Russian relations in general:

  • No significant developments.


II. Russia’s domestic policies

Domestic politics, economy and energy:

  • [Putin is] not my colleague, but our leader. (RIA, 11.20.20) 
  • Of course, the risks have not gone away. So far, the collective West has not managed to push our country out of the global economy, and their attempts have led to ultra-high prices on the world market, and to fears about how to endure the coming winter. However, it is obvious that they will continue to elbow us out of customary sales areas. This should be taken into account when drawing up plans for the future, not forgetting about our own strategic tasks. (TASS, 09.14.22)
  • The [economic] decline, inevitable in this situation, was quite moderate. However, we managed to bring the economy back to a growth trajectory. (Government.ru, 03.23.23)
  • The replacement of the dollar and euro in our foreign trade has allowed us to expand operations with friendly states. (Government.ru, 03.23.23)
  • We need to take all possible measures to ensure stable population growth in Russia. … [A] set of measures was formed to provide additional support to families with children. … But work must be continued to radically overcome the existing demographic trends. (Government.ru, 04.04.23)
  • Everything that can be done in Russia today must be done in Russia. Every kopek of added value produced by the hands of Russians, in this sense, is a contribution to import substitution and the creation of the country's technological and economic sovereignty. (Interfax, 04.05.23)
  • On simplifying the procedure of obtaining Russian citizenship for scientists and ethnic Russians: Regarding citizenship, we will definitely consider proposals [from a lawmaker making the request]. (TASS, 04.06.23)
  • The government will provide additional support to our pharmaceutical manufacturers. They will be able to receive subsidies from the state for the development and subsequent registration of domestic drugs, analogues of which are now under the influence of foreign patents. (Interfax, 04.10.23)
  • We expect that as the adaptation period ends, we will be able to [establish] "budget rules" as early as 2025, which will help strengthen confidence in economic policy in the long term. (Government.ru, 04.14.23)
  • We will combine in a special register specific projects that contribute to the structural adaptation of the economy, primarily eliminating the low level of localization and critical dependence on suppliers and buyers from unfriendly states. The list of types of production and services is approved by the Government. It includes, among other things, medicines, equipment, unmanned aerial and automotive equipment and software development and testing. (Government.ru, 04.17.23)

Defense and aerospace:

  • The volumes of production of the necessary machinery and equipment and other necessary property are systematically increasing. And now we need to actively increase factory capacity. To this end, the Government has made decisions to subsidize investment projects for the modernization of enterprises. (Government.ru, 02.08.23)
  • See also section on "Military aspects of the Ukraine conflict and their impacts" above.

Security, law-enforcement and justice:

  • No significant developments.


III. Russia’s relations with other countries

Russia’s general foreign policy and relations with “far abroad” countries:

  • Despite such rapid growth of the trade turnover, we [Russia and Iran] have good opportunities to further boost trade and, certainly, scale up mutual investments in such areas as energy, industrial cooperation, transport, agribusiness, innovation, and many other lines. (TASS, 10.06.22)
  • We welcome the Iranian side’s decision to provide comfortable conditions for Russian business. Due to the withdrawal of companies of unfriendly states from Russia, a large number of areas have been freed up in our market that our Iranian partners will be able to occupy. So it is a two-way street and they are welcome in Russia. (TASS, 10.06.22)


  • We have been preparing for many months for a possible reaction to the recognition of the LNR and DNR [separatist "people's republics" of Luhansk and Donetsk in eastern Ukraine]. I mean, first and foremost, import replacement and analysis of all risks that we might encounter in the event of such a decision. (RG, 02.21.22)
  • Last October, the Donetsk and Lugansk people's republics, Zaporozhye and Kherson regions became an integral part of Russia. The president asked us to ensure their integration in the single socioeconomic space of our country. We launched a pension and social security system there with regular payments and benefits. I want to thank all members of parliament for this work. The relevant legislative acts were promptly adopted by the State Duma and approved by the Federation Council. This decision is very important for over 1.5 million people who started receiving pension benefits, and 1 million citizens who received social benefits and monetary compensation. We provided support to the people whose homes were destroyed or damaged, and to those who were injured as a result of hostilities. Last year, we started to restore infrastructure in the new regions to help them return to normal life and activities. (Government.ru, 03.23.23) 

Russia's other post-Soviet neighbors:

  • By stepping up cooperation on international markets, we stand for fullest unlocking of the growth potential of the common EAEU market, ensuring the free movement of goods, services, capital and the labor force. ... We are already improving our approaches on the basis of international experience. (TASS, 10.21.22)
  • Under the current conditions, the opening of joint high-tech production sites is becoming particularly important. (TASS, 02.03.23)
  • It is necessary to ensure the technological sovereignty of the five nations. It is necessary to make such help available to our enterprises and more actively attract development institutions to it as soon as possible. (TASS, 02.03.23)
  • The Union State [of Russia and Belarus] has a great future in the emerging multipolar international architecture. The deepening of integration will serve the benefit of the peoples of our countries. (Government.ru, 03.27.23)
  • Together we are stronger and capable of handling the most difficult challenges and achieving the goals that we have set in various fields, from ensuring security to improving the welfare of our people. And, of course, resisting external pressure. The deepening of Russian-Belarusian integration is our response to it. This is the mission that our presidents — Vladimir Putin and Alexander Lukashenko — have set for us. (TASS, 03.27.23)


This is the fourth in our series of compilations of quotes by Putin’s potential successors; earlier installments covered Nikolai Patrushev, Dmitry Medvedev and Vyacheslav Volodin. All sections may be updated in the future. The quotes above are divided into categories similar to those in Russia Matters’ news and analysis digests, reflecting the most pertinent topic areas for U.S.-Russian relations broadly and for drivers of the two countries’ policies toward one another. Bulleted text that is not italicized, bracketed or in parentheses is a direct quote. Quotes linked to English-language sources were taken from the source indicated; quotes linked to Russian-language sources were translated by RM. Entries in each subsection are in chronological order, from oldest to newest.

This item is also part of Russia Matters’ “Clues from Russian Views” series, in which we share what newsmakers in/from Russia are saying on Russia-related issues that impact key U.S. national interests so that RM readers can glean clues about their thinking. The opinions expressed in the compiled quotes are solely those of the speaker.



RM Staff

This article was written and prepared by Yana Demeshko, Natasha Yefimova-Trilling and Ingrid Burke Friedman of Russia Matters. 

Photo shared by the Russian presidential press service (Kremlin.ru) under a CC BY 4.0 license.