April 25, 2018

20.04.2018 Presidential Election in Russia: Conclusions and Forecasts

Representatives of the “Borysfen Intel” Center recently took part in an interesting event dedicated to, among other things, geopolitical issues. I mean the latest conference of the NGO “Center for Russian Studies”, held on April 20, 2018, at the Diplomatic Academy under the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine. The partner of the “Borysfen Intel” Independent Analytical Center for Geopolitical Studies prepared and held it at a traditionally high informational and expert level. The conference was devoted to the recent presidential elections in Russia.

The conference themed “Presidential Election in Russia: Conclusions and Forecasts” was attended by foreign and domestic experts on international relations, economy, sociology, philosophy.

Among the present were representatives of the domestic diplomatic corps headed by Ambassador Serhiy Korsunskyi (Director of the Diplomatic Academy of Ukraine), Ambassador Volodymyr Ohryzko (CEO of the Centre for Russian Studies), foreign diplomats accredited in Ukraine, numerous experts from analytical centres, journalists.

 

We can't help mentioning the speakers who participated in the coverage of the themes and discussions that were raised. In particular, within the framework of Panel I, themed “Presidential Elections-2018 in Russia: Specific Features”, spoke Doctor of Philosophical Sciences, Professor Lev Gudkov, Director of Yury Levada Analytical Centre, Russia, (by Skype). He thoroughly described the sociological aspects of the preparatory stage of the election and post-election moods in the Russian society.

Foreign policy aspects of the presidential election campaign in the Russian Federation were covered by co-director of Foreign Relations and International Security Programmes of Razumkov Centre, Ukraine, Candidate of Philosophical Sciences Mikhaylo Pashkov.

The moderator of discussions within the framework of the conference was Doctor of Political Sciences Maksym Rosumnyi, Head of the Center for Research of the Russian Federation's Problems at the National Institute of Strategic Studies, Ukraine.

Doctor of Economic Sciences Vladislav Inozemtsev (Senior Researcher Fellow, Polish Institute of Advanced Studies, Poland/Russia) spoke at Panel 2 of the conference “Russia in the Post-Election Period”. He focused on the topic “Russian Economic Strategy: Necessary and Probable Steps”.

Of great interest in the discussion on the question: “What Should We Expect from “New” Internal Political Course of the Kremlin?” were the speeches made by Doctor of Political Sciences, Professor Mikhaylo Savva (Head of board of the “Sova” Expert group, Ukraine/Russia) and Ambassador Valerii Chechelashvili (Senior Fellow of the Georgian Foundation for Strategic and International Studies, Ambassador to the Russian Federation in 2004–2005, Georgia).

The topic “Foreign Policy and Security Strategy of the West on Russia: View from the UK” was discussed quite attentively. James Nixey (Head of the Russia and Eurasia Programme, Chatham House, Great Britain) made a speech and then commented in the discussion.

“Possible Ways of Neutralizing Russia's Threat: View from Ukraine” were outlined in the final speech by Ambassador Volodymyr Ohryzko.

Ambassador Volodymyr Ohryzko, CEO of the Centre for Russian Studies Ambassador Sergiy Korsunskyi, Director of the Diplomatic Academy of Ukraine
Ambassador Volodymyr Ohryzko, CEO of the Centre for Russian Studies Ambassador Sergiy Korsunskyi, Director of the Diplomatic Academy of Ukraine

The general tone and direction of speeches showed the expert community's interest to the problems of modern Russia. The election with the expected non-alternative result ended in Putin's expected victory. Now, the international experts are closely monitoring how the events will develop in such an unpredictable Russia, how will go the process of seeking mechanisms to curb its pathological aggressiveness, especially when it neglects the principles of international law and coexistence.

As far as the economic prospects of Russia's further existence are concerned, it is noted that the Putin regime has a certain margin of safety that will let it to cope with proclaimed economic sectoral and personal sanctions. Russia's political and business elites, in case of toughening of these sanctions and pressure from the international community, will further consolidate themselves to support the existing status quo in Russia. They are ready to tolerate the regime, will not oppose it, even if it takes away two thirds of their business. And they will hope that with the remaining third they will manage to leave the country in order to preserve at least some prospect for their future existence, as well as to avoid economic and physical destruction.

By the way, in speeches it was pointed out that the Russian population's mentality, figuratively speaking, has a stable immunity to European values and prospects for a better life. After all, Russian propaganda imposed on it a peculiar perception of the world: Russia is surrounded by enemies on all sides. And this consolidates the middle and impoverished strata of the Russian population, which is the main target of the presidential election campaign. And we should not expect in the coming years a change in electoral preferences or some decrease in Putin's popularity in Russia.

The Russian elites have now focused on developing a mechanism to preserve Russia's leadership system after the newly-launched Putin's next six-year presidency. Taking into consideration such moods, one can even say that he will have the support as a leader of the nation until his physical death.

The foreign policy and security strategy of the West regarding Russia in the post-election period is characterized by significant differences in European countries' attitudes to Putin's Russia. First of all, in view of the existence of a powerful pro-Russian lobby in the leading countries of the West. To maintain trade relations with Russia, to achieve real financial profits and to create prospects for private business is considered a desirable policy for many business and political elites. They have no unity in the views on the prolongation of the regime of sanctions against Russia imposed over the annexation of the Crimea and the war against Ukraine in the Donbas. For example, political leaders of the Federal Republic of Germany and the United Kingdom are appealing to the United States to lift the sanctions imposed against the world's giants of business, which have trade relations with Russia in the Crimea. A separate issue is the European “Nord Stream 2” project, which split the leading European countries (Germany and the United Kingdom), caused ambiguous reactions in the Baltic and Eastern European countries. The economic and geopolitical losses of Ukraine as a result of the introduction of the “Nord Stream 2” project is no longer subject to the leading European countries' considering. They focused on counting their own benefits and potential losses.

In his closing statement, Ambassador V. Ohryzko said that he was concerned about the West's not understanding the true structural nature of Russia. In the West, for some reason, they cannot understand that the essence of Russia is its imperial nature, and it has been such from the very beginning of its existence. Russia does not see itself within the international community. It sees itself outside of both the West and the East, which is reflected, in particular, in the invited article by the Assistant to the President of the Russian Federation V. Surkov “Loneliness of the Half-Blood”, which testifies to the absolute Russia's inequality and coexistence with the West. Therefore, Europe's efforts to achieve some progress in relations with Russia are in fact doomed to failure.

In the West, unfortunately, they do not want to see this and are not trying to understand it. Therefore, there are intentions of European partners to take Russia into their care and, denying the sanctions, to involve it in some kind of joint work.

This position of individual countries of the West, obviously, is determined by their logic: since so far there is no “Cold War”, we will somehow reach an agreement with the Russians. But this is a mistake. The “Cold War” has been going on for a long time, covering more and more spheres. At the conference, the speaker from Russia expressed hope that perhaps some constructive things will sound in Putin's inauguration speech. But it has been common knowledge for a long time what Russian promises and contracts signed by Russians are worth.

As for Russia's foreign policy, there are two key elements in it.

First, the West has always been a substantive enemy for Russia. Confirmation of this can be found in the descriptions of all Russian history.

Second, in Russia, international law is valid only as long as it suits it. And that is it! Recently, Ukraine and Georgia have experienced all this first hand, Georgia — in 2008, we — in 2014.

Ambassador V. Ohryzko expressed hope that in the West they will soon understand that Russia cannot be considered a correct partner.

What does the West offer? Today's business benefits? This looks all very well, but what will happen tomorrow? So, the West seems to have no single strategic vision — what to do with Russia. The West has no systematized vision of foreign policy toward the Russian Federation.

It was only after 2014 that analytical centers began to work more actively, which more thoroughly analyze this situation. In particular, the Chatham House from Great Britain, which conducts interesting work and has prepared many content publications.

Although today, frankly speaking, this is not enough. It makes sense for us to identify new points of contact and predict what will happen in the future.

The diplomat believes that Putin's Russia has no prospects for its own democratic development, because, in case of the development of democracy, Russia would repeat the path of the collapse of the Soviet Union.

A separate question: what will happen after Putin? But this is not the point, what does matter, is the Russian society. The results of sociological surveys of public opinion in the Russian society mentioned in Mr. Gudkov's 's report show that the Russian society is on a very dangerous trajectory of its own development. If all the people of the country are quite positive about what is happening in Russia itself and what is being said about it outside, it means that the Russian society is very ill.

Therefore, the question now is not about who will be after Putin, but how to influence the Russian society, so that it changes. It seems that such changes in the Russian society will last longer than one generation.

It is advisable to take into account that the new Russia and the old Russia are circular movements, that is, the process without development, without progress.

It is crucial for the development of relations with Putin's Russia that today only the West has instruments of influence Russia. Only it can either gradually draw Russia into the civilization of development and coexistence, or will have to develop a different concept of its own security, but without Russia.

Issues of civilization development, preservation of the collective security system, in particular, the European Union, should be based on new approaches to the West's relations with today's Russia.

The new concept of the West's national security in relation to Russia should, in particular, include:

  • A clear strategy that defines concrete measures and results.
  • Clear phases of implementation of each stage and achievement of goals.
  • Mechanisms, forms and methods of achieving goals.

 

Now it is necessary to convey to Russia the list of its losses due to its violating principles and norms of international law.

To develop James Nixie's (Chatham House, the UK), two things are needed:

First, today, by analogy with the famous expression of M. Gorbachev, “new political thinking” is needed. It is needed by the West in relation to Russia, as previous thinking leads to a circular movement and does not guarantee a positive result. An adequate attitude to Russia is needed in accordance with the actions that it resorts to and the threats it poses.

Second, in the West, including our country, unfortunately, there are very few leaders able to make responsible political decisions that are adequate to the real situation. In particular, if in his time the US President B. Obama, in 2012 had adopted appropriate decisions, such as those adopted by President D. Trump on strikes on Syrian chemical sites, there would not be 150–160 thousand killed. B. Obama called on Russia to join peacekeeping efforts, by which he preserved the situation and stimulated Russia to continue aggressive policy. That is, one minute — we work, and another minute — we fight. This is an example of how key leaders do not make adequate decisions.

The Centre for Russian Studies has worked out a number of proposals for Ukraine's policy in different spheres on how it would be desirable to contain Russia.

One of the key is the thesis that we all, both, Ukraine and the West need concerted actions and the so-called “sanctions menu” for Russia. If we conduct a dialogue with Russia, it should be only in a manner that is understandable to it.

Russia must know in advance what price it will pay for each violation, and realize that it will not benefit from it.

If this approach does not work and does not affect Russia, then it will be necessary to resort to other means of influence that will make it lose to the West in all spheres: military, scientific, political, economic, and social. Obviously, in this case, Russia will repeat the sad fate of the Soviet Union. But this should be the choice of Russia itself.

The imposed sanctions are driving Putin to response actions. In case of a coordinated and consolidated position of the Western countries, the price of such an aggressive response by Putin could have serious consequences for him. If he continues to keep playing, and at this the West tries to speak with moderation with Russia, then there will be no benefit from such a dialogue.

One of our main tasks as emphasized by the Center for Russian Studies, is to induce the West to pursue a more active foreign policy towards Russia.

Conclusions

1. The conference, organized by the Centre for Russian Studies, demonstrated the urgency of the issue raised and proves that it is necessary to provide an adequate geopolitical assessment of the prospects of and threats from Russia. Independent analysts in the West are concerned about the alarming for Ukraine and the whole of Europe intentions of some, including the key EU countries' intentions to seek ways to establish a dialogue with Russia based on the business interests of national industrial and financial giants and international multinational companies.

2. It is stressed that at present there are no consolidated positions and strategies of the Western countries regarding joint actions in relations with present-day Russia, as well as an adequate response to its aggressive aspirations. The continuation of the current status quo in the West's relations with Russia is beneficial to Putin's Russia, but does not meet the interests of Europe and Ukraine.

3. If the West, in particular the EU and the USA, do not work out a coordinated position regarding Russia's policy of dismantling existing mechanisms of collective security and unity of the EU, it can lead to an even greater aggravation of tensions in Europe and in the world, which, in fact, Russia seeks.

4. It is determined that it is necessary to put accents in Ukraine's foreign policy towards Russia and in relations with Western partners, to encourage Western countries to take more active actions in relation to it.

5. The destabilization of the international situation and deconstructive shifts in the collective security of the Europe-Russia-Eurasia-USA main geopolitical knots, dismantling of the existing collective security system in the world is the goal of present-day Russia as a guarantee of its own existence and preservation of state subjectivity. Russia sees the future of the world only on its own terms, which is unacceptable to human civilization.