Elections change nothing in Russia #Forum2000online

June 17, 2021

In this week's #Forum2000online Chat, Konstantin von Eggert, a specialist on Russian affairs, speaks with Miriam Lanskoy from National Endowment for Democracy. They discuss the impact of Navalny’s movement and the chances of Russian opposition, the challenges that lie ahead of the US new administration, and whether we understand Putin’s language of power.  

Let’s not call it elections 

Konstantin von Eggert is skeptical about using the term “elections” when speaking about the upcoming events in Russia in the fall. It is inaccurate because only the most trusted actors of Putin’s circle are taking part. The composition of parties is also predictable – Putin’s United Russia will dominate the elections and the Communist Party, Just Russia, and Liberal Democratic Party of Russia of Vladimir Zhirinovsky are admitted.  

“It is rather a plebiscite that should re-confirm that people are with Putin.” 

Elections should also ease Putin’s run for the 2024 Presidential elections. 

Should we have hope in Navalny’s movement?  

By the time of elections, most of the opposition would be dispersed, emigrated, or jailed. The Navalny Team was stripped of most of its influence, what is left is their online presence. But the real impact comes from a nationwide network, which he no longer has, according to the expert.  

“Sometimes I tend to think that Putin cannot forgive Navalny that he didn’t die.” 

Even if Navalny was free, he would not have a serious impact on elections. People are more likely to choose a strong hand during the economic downturn because first of all, they are looking to end the political chaos.  

All we had as a response to Putin were the expressions of concern 

Biden’s administration is trying to manage the “new cold war”, but he should not be doing it. There are crucial differences between relations that the US had with USSR and those with today’s Russia. Even if Russia is weaker than USSR, its power lies in its unpredictability.  

"Putin never lets other partner’s weakness pass by unused.” 

Unfortunately, the actions of Biden’s administration signaled to Putin that his hands are free. Even if unintentionally, these actions are more likely to bring more instability to the Ukrainian conflict.  

In this interview, you will learn that: 

  • The elections in Russia have very little in common with proper elections. 
  • We can easily predict who is going to take part in the elections.  
  • Putin needs these elections to secure a blind legislature for 2024 Presidential elections. 
  • Navalny’s movement has lost most of its power after it was attacked by Putin. 
  • It is unlikely that Navalny would have greater electoral base even if he was free. 
  • Biden’s administration treats Putin’s regime as in the “New Cold War”. 
  • We have not shown to Putin any powerful action, only proclamations.  
  • This is a weakness and Kremlin lets no weakness go unused.  

Konstantin von Eggert is an independent journalist, political analyst and communications consultant. He is a weekly Russian affairs columnist for Deutsche Welle and a contributor to TV Rain, Russia’s independent TV channel.

The interview was recorded on June 15, 2021, and moderated by Miriam Lanskoy, Senior Director for Russia and Eurasia at the National Endowment for Democracy.