The Glorious Future Russia: a Dream or Reality?

An informal group called ‘a Group of Friends of Pro-European Russia’ was established in the European Parliament in December 2019. Andrius Kubilius, the member of Lithuanian European Parliament, was its initiator. Of course, t…

An informal group called ‘a Group of Friends of Pro-European Russia’ was established in the European Parliament in December 2019. Andrius Kubilius, the member of Lithuanian European Parliament, was its initiator. Of course, the word ‘European’ used in the name of the group does not indicate a geographic position of Russia but symbolizes political and value targets. It is provided that the goal of this group will be to establish a platform where politicians, experts and representatives of the civil society of Russia will be able to discuss about the future of this big country. However, it is hard to answer the question whether future Russia that we are talking about  will actually be ‘European’ in a political and value sense or whether it is just a dream that is not reasoned, similar to a sad joke of Russian Liberals about ‘the glorious future Russia’.      
Where should we look for a hope?
To seek a dialogue with a normal part of the society of pro-European Russia is a logical step. However, we should mention that it is hard to tell what the actual number of such people is in our big neighbour. Here we can remind that details published some time ago showed that just 15 percent of Russian population did not approve of occupation of Crimea. It means that only this percentage of people in this country pretty much understands what international legal rules are or at least think that stealing is really bad (because we can consider occupation of Crimea as a geopolitical theft). Optimists would say that the actual number of people who disapproved of annexation of Crimea is bigger in Russia but they are just afraid to express their opinion openly due to probable political repressions or social pressure. However, even this optimistic approach does not give us hope to believe that majority of Russian population is actually pro-European and supports principles of democracy and everything what is bad is concentrated only in the Kremlin. 
Another important aspect is that a big part of those who are conscious, brave and liberal people today are simply kicked off Russia. We are talking about a new ideological wave of emigrants. Actually we can also relate occurrence of “Group of Friends of Pro-European Russia” in the European Parliament with this process. A lot of people who were promising and who let us believe that it will be possible to talk with ‘glorious future Russia’ were expelled outside the territory of Russia. Besides, emigrants create their own platforms. A good example of this is the Free Russia Forum, which is held twice a year in Lithuania since 2016. He brings together not only hundreds of political emigrants but also activists from Russia. The mentioned forum was organized on the initiative of Garry Kasparov.
The former political prisoner Mikhail Khodorkovsky tries to pursue similar activities. His organization Open Russia also carries out similar projects, including public events – fellow gatherings. Besides, emigrant communities have their own traditional cultural events such as the festival Kulturus in Czech Republic and Forum of Russian culture SlovoNovo in Montenegro initiated by Marat Gelman. Probably we could find even more examples of similar activities outside Russia. However, the main question is – what effect can all this have on the actual future of Russia?    
Scenarios for Russia
Everlasting dictatorships do not exist and authoritarian regimes are usually more brittle than it seems from the first glimpse. The current political regime in Russia is linked to personality of Vladimir Putin. Besides, V. Putin is not eternal as a person and politician. This means that Russia shall overcome one or other type of changes. However, does that mean that future Russia will be free, democratic and European? Unfortunately, the answer is no.   
Firstly, talking about V. Putin we talk only about ‘tip if the iceberg’. This politician is a symbol of the formed regime, however he is surrounded by a certain team; besides, in Russia there are different ‘centers of power’ that compete with each other for power. I even heard a statement once that V. Putin actually plays the role of the arbitrator between these competing ‘centers of power’ and this determines his personal impact. Whichever case it is, it is naive to hope that ‘Russia without Putin’ will become a democratic and free country. Probably we should talk about a certain ‘collective Putin’ and this means that V. Putin as a personality is actually not so important to the whole system.  
A scenario of soft changes is not excluded in Russia when a present president may actually be sacrificed by the system by shifting the blame on him for impaired relations with the West, economic crisis, degradation of the standard of living, etc. In simple terms, the current system by scarifying V. Putin, may try to get out of isolation and improve political and economic relations with the West and renew its image without the actual transformation.
Another version of transformation is also probable – by scarifying V. Putin as ‘too soft’ and replacing him with ‘a real hawk’ (the current Minister of defence Sergey Shoygu would be suitable for this role). This would be a scenario of the increased confrontation, bigger radicalization of Russia in order to ensure maximum mobilization of the society by playing games with such concepts such as Russia is a surrounded fortress; the enemy is at the gates, etc.   
Even if V. Putin died or could no longer play his role due to health problems – the person who will take his place would be decided inside the system. In simple terms, the same people who are in power now would choose a new leader. A potential scenario of the ‘successor’ would be implemented in a similar way in case V. Putin simply decided to leave politics and live just for pleasure. By the way, probably fear to lose authority and power prevents the current president of Russia to choose this version.
Another probable scenario of changes in regime is a revolution. However, again, there are no guarantees that it will be a liberal and democratic revolution that will destroy authoritarianism and would lead Russia to freedom. In case of political upheavals the authorities can appear in the hands of radical power (either far-right or far-left), which might mean that one authoritarian regime shall be replaced with the other one. It should be noted that even the most popular nowadays opposition politician Aleksey Navalny is not a liberal democrat by his nature and is closer to the Russian nationalists. Even if he managed to get into power even now it is clear that he would not rush to return Crimea to Ukraine, which says a great deal.      
What does it mean to Lithuania?
When talking about geopolitical interest of Lithuania we can say that democratic Russia would correspond it best with which we could develop a productive dialogue based on common idea about political processes and common values. However, looking at the situation and processes in our great neighbour it is hard to be an optimist. Most probably dreams about friendly and ‘glorious future Russia’ will just remain a dream.
Does it mean that there is no need to stay in touch with representatives of emigrants from Russia, because nothing depends on then neither in the presence nor in the future of this country? This kind of attitude maybe is pragmatic, however, not correct. Finally, they are the only representatives of Russia with whom we can develop a pretty much objective dialogue. Besides, sometimes even the less expected scenarios come true, thus statements that future Russia ACTUALLY WILL NEVER be democratic is actually too bold.
However, as people say, we should get ready for the worst scenario. According to it ‘future Russia’ shall remain an aggressive country that gets its vital spark in imperial dreams and political changes will be just of a cosmetic character. In this situation both security of Lithuania (how it should be done is a topic of another article) and identity of the European state must be improved in preparation to live in the situation of Cold War for a long time where we are happy to be on the Western side. Support of an adequate community of Russian emigrants in this case shall also be important – in formation of a virtual or spiritual alternative for Russia as an empire that is worried in development of its possessions. As it has been already told, ‘other kind of Russia” has little chance to win in the nearest future, however it is still important the idea or dream about this kind of Russia does not disappear.   
Viktor Denisenko

Voras Online
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