The Kremlin has taken a wait and see position on Ukraine, but this does not mean that he refused resuscitation aggressive anti-Ukrainian rhetoric. In the near future, Russia’s attitude to Ukraine will depend on how the EU will be President of France Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel. On a short-term strategy of the Russian government, its prospects, the protests in Russia and what to expect of Kiev from Moscow, the “Apostrophe” I spoke with the head of the program “Russian domestic politics and political institutions,” Carnegie Moscow Center ANDREI KOLESNIKOV.
What to expect from protests on 12 June, Russia Day? Symbolic after all — the Sakharov Avenue (later it became known about the transfer of protests on Tverskaya street, “Apostrophe”).
— There are two aspects. On the one hand, the hope that it will be quiet and peaceful. On the other hand, even purely analytically considering the problem of the protests on 12 June, we can say that interested in such a fierce confrontation in the course of these protests — no. Power is not very necessary. The Moscow authorities is not very necessary. In fact, it appears that the interest of the supporters of the [Russian opposition politician] Alexei Navalny — they play the first violin in the course of these protests, and not only in Moscow — to ensure the peaceful course of events. Because, the calmer will be held these protests, the more attractive they will become for the masses of the population who are not ready to confront the police and even radicalized. Therefore, there is reason to argue that more or less quietly will these same protests. Or at least on the level at which they were held from 26 March to will have nothing. Although, of course, more than a thousand arrests in Moscow alone is too much.
— Protests against the program of renovation of Moscow (the demolition of five-story building — “Apostrophe”) added capacity from the point of view of the number of participants in rallies under the Bulk?
— You know, it’s hard to say and hard to measure in numbers. Because, on the one hand, the whole protest movement — abstract, large, wide, varied, of course, this added people. On the other hand, the majority of those citizens that participate in meetings about the renovation program, try to be depolitizirovannye. Yes, they do not need Bulk: where there is Bulk — there is politicization. Most of these people need to solve a pragmatic problem with their specific house. Yes, some of them are politicized, some of them sympathetic to Navalny. But we can’t measure: what percentage of protesters are ready to politicized again; an even smaller proportion are ready to go for the Bulk as a symbol of this General protest; and what proportion are only willing to solve their pragmatic problems and does not go any further in the political sense. But it is clear that this has added some turbulence. Moscow, at least.
— As the power will fight for the minds of young people who became a prominent participant in the March protests? Will the Kremlin involvement of those same bloggers? We see, at least, the first signs of such a strategy.
— Yes, of course, the Kremlin will pay careful attention to this category of citizens. Because she’s active, she’s ready, so to speak, to physical contact with the police. And in General, this power should be human meat, electoral meat, cannon fodder including. This government needs young people. Because this government wants to live forever. Maybe even after 2024… She needs to draw the young people in their faith.
I must say that the Russian youth in General, on average, that is, the hospital is more inert and is configured more conformist than even the cohorts of the middle ages. But those who take to the streets — of course they hypersaline, they have a voice and an understanding of why they take to the streets. Additional pressure in an attempt to educate them in high schools and Junior courses of universities is just the opposite reaction and politicization are happening more rapidly.
So here the authorities have a twofold task. To hold, on the one hand, young people in this conformist inert condition. Wish some of them to pay an active faith, to turn them into active supporters of the government. But this is rather a side task. But the main question is how to neutralize those who are active, those who are adjacent to the Bulk. The authorities, naturally, will try to talk to them in their language, use and Bulk techniques, and bloggers, social networks, and the same gathering of all of the Kremlin youth organizations. All this will be brought to bear. The degree of efficiency, I think, is very low. The events themselves will develop rather by inertia than any active actions of the authorities.
In a year of presidential elections in Russia. That the government will offer people in exchange for support? On the topic of Crimea for the second time already not to go. Will there be a new social contract?
— I think that while the wording of this new social contract is not ready. Judging by the signs which we are seeing now, the campaign will have an element of the radicalization of the conversation with the nation. In the sense that it will strengthen the fight against the internal “fifth column”.
The day before yesterday (the interview took place June 9 — “the Apostrophe”) was absolutely horrible, in my opinion, the hearings in the Federation Council to combat foreign influence is external enemies. Very difficult to determine this external enemy, because the configuration of the external world is changing in relation to Russia: Le Pen lost, trump fights with American democracy, failed. Need to change foreign policy in General. But, nevertheless, the campaign dictates the need to find internal and external enemies. And these searches have already begun. I think that will seriously Bulk, make him the perfect enemy.
To offer anything in the economic sphere is quite difficult. But I think that some theses may even [former Finance Minister Alexei] Kudrin will be used by Russian President Vladimir Putin in the election campaign. What is very difficult to say. I think now comes the analysis. That is, until, in fact, the Kremlin is not very ready to offer some positive program, and it will focus on the program is negative — in the struggle against the enemies.
— The recent successes of Ukraine ratification of the Association Agreement with the EU, visa — free regime forced Moscow to reconsider the propaganda agenda, or is this hardly noticeable?
— Yet unobtrusive, and there is a feeling that Ukraine has somehow faded into the background in Kremlin propaganda and counter-propaganda. The impression is that while the Kremlin has pressed the pause button and just watching, what steps does the President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko, what steps does the West. And, in General, the Kremlin is trying not even to speak seriously on these topics.
Of course, Ukraine as a factor in the election campaign may be resuscitated at any time. But while there is, apparently, a special need. So while such a lull. Maybe before the storm, maybe before some other events, but calm.
What if the Kremlin tries to remove Ukraine from this advocacy agenda? What will this mean for the Kremlin? Will he be able to do it? While on pause, what’s next?
— No, I think that the clean will not. Maybe a little degree of ferocity, the aggressiveness will decrease as it has decreased now. But the fact that Ukraine is such a constant enemy in the context, including the election campaign is obvious. It’s just a fallback to resuscitate some aggressive rhetoric. A lot depends on what will happen in Ukraine, from local reactions of the Kremlin to these events. So, I think, before this factor to remove from the Russian foreign policy from Russian propaganda and counter-propaganda.
— There are already indications that the struggle between Putin’s entourage, interest groups, politicians and functionaries to stay in their seats under the new tenure of Putin?
— You know, it seems to me that a serious fight here. The one who tries to do it himself, he falls out of Putin’s team, from its General mood. For example, wrong [Moscow mayor Sergei] Sobyanin — too actively began this campaign for the renovation. Immediately POPs up comrade [Vyacheslav] Volodin, the speaker of Parliament, and begins to speak: Yes, we must still consider the interests of people, let’s slow down the process. But after some time (obviously, after some conversations at the top) Volodin fully solidarities Sobyanin, will both begin to talk about the fact that all politicians use people, dissatisfied with the renovation programme, in their political interests. And in fact, “we have already met the people, we have a consolidated position”, “we rule the law”…
So all these people who can qualify in the future for some positions, higher than now (although they have so high positions) — I mean the same Sergey Sobyanin and Vyacheslav Volodin, the head of the presidential administration Anton Vaino, first Deputy head of the AP Sergey Kirienko, Alexey Kudrin, — they still operate within a political framework, yet, in fact, one political team. To whom and how to compete — that’s up until Putin. Therefore, all behaving carefully enough. And even if there is some covert struggle, it is not visible. I do not believe in arguments, even that they are fighting with each other. Kirienko, for example, Volodin. Well, they leg kick each other under the table. What? It is their own business, which generally does not affect the current political process.
— In your opinion, how serious is Russia’s terrorism? Remembering 1999 is there a danger that the Kremlin will try to rally the population around the alleged terrorist threat?
Is certainly one of the factors of consolidation. Not the most significant for Putin’s propaganda. On the contrary, propaganda has emphasized that here, in Europe … how many terrorist acts, and we have like almost none. The situation has changed in connection with the attack in St. Petersburg, but this mobilization, in General, is not very effective. Accused the opposition, of course, is that she organized the attacks in St. Petersburg — the most frostbitten Kremlin voices. But it is not very convincing. Still in the mass consciousness there is an understanding that there are radical Islamic terrorism, and these people organize such things. Because it is not the most important factor for the mobilization of propaganda.
— The most important European elections this year — the French — has been successful for the EU and a failure for Russia. Ahead of the elections to the Bundestag, but the chances of a good result from radical skeptics a bit. That is, the rate of the Kremlin on a radical populist forces is working so-so. There are other options, what will be the strategy in relation to the EU?
Strategy there is, at best, tactical steps. And even better to say, ad hoc steps, jet. The fact that almost failed bet on trump’s failed bid for Le Pen, it is absolutely clear that the “Alternative for Germany” (German euroskeptic party — “Apostrophe”) is from 8% to 10%, and it is not serious. Even the Netherlands had failed, Austria failed. In Britain, God knows what’s going on, she herself can not understand, so this factor can’t use. Poland potenziruetsa rapidly, but is the enemy of Russia — 4th place at the end of 2016, ranked Poland among the enemy. Hungary is a weak player. On the one hand, everything inside is like in Russia. And apparently trying to behave almost decently, listening to the European Union.
Therefore, it is necessary either to seek new enemies (and something they can not be seriously) or a little bit to soften the rhetoric. While the rhetoric is really a bit relaxed: the head of EU diplomacy Frederica Mogherini met with [Russian foreign Minister Sergei] Lavrov, Putin met with [German Chancellor Angela] Merkel, Putin went to [President of France Emmanuel] Macron, in fact, to bow. And behaved remarkably well, which is not true about the St. Petersburg international economic forum, an interview there Megyn Kelly. But in Paris, he deliberately did not react to injections of Macron, behaved quietly, did not respond to verbal provocation. So, he had to establish something of a normal relationship with the new face of Europe, with a man who will work to restart the European project. Here is yet tactics.
This does not mean that Europe will not suddenly some terrible enemy, and we will not start a campaign of anti-NATO, anti-European. Moreover, there are our “enemies” in the face of the Montenegrins. But Montenegro is very difficult to mobilize the population, because a significant part of the Russian middle class living in Montenegro, has real estate there and in General is very good to this country.
With the United States the situation is slightly different: America is the enemy, and trump is the other. America and her institutions are not allowed to work normally a good President. We will continue attempts to establish normal relations with trump. Weak strategy, because it is already evident that American democracy will not leave alone Mr. trump. And even the administration trump actually sits on two chairs. She is forced to act more or less in line with obschezapadnuyu consensus. On the other hand, she has to work purely on a bureaucratic trump. This schizophrenia, apparently, for a long time. And in this situation, how to behave in the Russian foreign policy is not very clear.
So here, too, the situation neoformierung relationship to the current West. The duality of this relationship: on the one hand, still the enemy; on the other hand, need something softer to operate. And on the third hand, we have the election campaign, and it seems like the West should be enemies found. And this schizophrenia, absolutely terrible, is the basis of Russian foreign policy is situational.
Which means for the Russian Union of Macron and Merkel? Whether the Kremlin to expect from the West is more tough position on Ukraine and more rigorous dialogue about the approaches used by Moscow against the European Union?
— Again, due to some duality and tripartition of the Russian position towards the West, due to the fact that is not yet formed until the forces in the West, these relations are paused. Rather, Putin is waiting for some steps from the West to situational to respond to them. With the full understanding that sanctions can be strengthened. With the full understanding that sanctions will not shoot anybody. Because the Minsk process was at a standstill, and the Crimea is constant.
What tactics will be tomorrow, given the unpredictability of Putin and his extraordinary emotional, prophesy is very difficult.
Washington confidently speaks of the intervention of Russia in last year’s election, while quietly noting that it did not affect the final result. That the intervention and bet on trump mean for relations between the US and Russia now? Is there any place to build relationships?
— In Russia now there is no recipe for building relations with the United States. Because of the trump no prescription what to do with a situation where all material press against him, all the significant media against him, a part of the administration, and within this administration is a complete mess, starting from nedosypaniya vacancies of Deputy in the state Department, ending with the turnover inside the White house.
And that in that situation to do? To be friends? To be friends by using handshakes. And, apparently, so it will be done. To saturate a specific agenda of these relationships is the only way. But none of the parties has not made the agenda even for, as I understand it, the first meeting on the sidelines of the G20 summit, which will take place in Hamburg on 7-8 July. Have something to discuss, please: nuclear disarmament, Syria has some, and so on. But we need concrete results of the meeting that need filling for conversation. Apparently, and with it some difficulties. Besides, both sides do not understand what they actually want from each other. Brezhnev and Nixon understood that they want peace, they want a detente (easing of tensions, détente — “Apostrophe”), sincerely wanted to improve relations, this tried and worked. Neither from our side nor the American one doesn’t work, without understanding strategic goals.
There was a conversation about that, Yes, a great bargain will not work, but let’s at least establish pragmatic relationships for some technical issues. And this is not happening! So, if you don’t set big goals, these relations will hang out in this schizophrenic space.
James Komi said that trump tried to stop the investigation about intervention of Russia in election. What does it mean in General to talk about the alleged impeachment of trump? Is there such a possibility?
— Judging by the impressions that have me personally (and I could be wrong), recently held in Washington a significant time, impeachment will not, but alone trump will not leave. Therefore, the disorganization of political life in America is very long and very significant factor. Moreover, a number of analysts with whom I spoke, argue seriously about that — and they’ve got some arguments that trump may be re-elected next term. Then the permanent disruption will become a permanent factor in world politics. Everything is very unpredictable in this area, so it is very difficult to say how things go in the USA and around the world in this regard.
— Finish the most hot issue on elections in the UK. It was like shot himself in the head on the part of conservatives. What this means for the negotiations in London and Brussels about Brexit and the General stability of the EU and the UK?
— Of course, the Prime Minister of the UK Theresa may has proven that she, if not the trump in its inner political structure, it is close to this type. She became what is called troublemaker (troublemaker — “Apostrophe”) in world politics, especially in the European. And she immediately made a lot of mistakes. And these early elections was also her fault. She assumed support of its actions, support Brexit will be strengthened. And this support, on the contrary, weakened. What, generally speaking, was predictable.
David Cameron has made a dangerous and wrong move, deciding to go for a referendum (for Brexit — “Apostrophe”). But Mei decided to go to early elections, made a mistake. This is an error-the antipodes, but they are all similar. Now, of course, the relationship between the EU and Britain will strain even more. The European Union, I think, will be very uncompromising in terms of output. It’s going to affect the economy of the UK, Theresa may will become more and more unpopular. I don’t think this will stop Brexit itself, but there are huge political and economic costs for the UK. And, of course, in this sense, Britain is not to do not to Russia, not to trump, she will focus on the battle with the European Union.
And this is also part of the new reality, apparently. It is difficult to call the new world order. Rather, it is a new world disorder, from which, of course, sooner or later will be born a new world order. But when he was born, how many years, and in what form it will be submitted — very difficult to talk about it. Because there is also the factor of Russia, the factor of the Arab world, the factor of some of the madness in some Eastern European countries like Poland and Hungary. So the turbulence will intensify.
— The same mistake that Cameron and may also have committed the ex-Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi. What does that say about the new European leaders who, apparently, do not understand the people of their own country?
— Common place was to say that now the leaders of weaker and smaller than it had been at least fifteen years ago. This may be true, but only part of the truth. Has changed public opinion, has become less a conventional liberal, or something. People change their views, they want to get from their leaders something new. And they are, in fact, not so much support of their leaders as a matter of revenge or something. And require a new conversation, and got all these trblmaker, like Mei and the tramp — they suggested a new conversation.
This conversation, on the one hand, was successful at first, but then it turned out that a substantial part of the population is ready to return to the old classical liberal discourse, and no one wants to listen to all sorts of nonsense on top. Not all endorse the views of such medium provinces, all the rednecks (from the English. the rednecks, “we”, as in the US, pejoratively called white inhabitants of rural areas — “Apostrophe”), and so on and so forth.
So here not only the leaders to blame, but these same masses, which have formed some vague new expectations, and they are looking for new leaders, new words. And here is the result.
The original interview was published by Apostrophe. It is available in Russian via the link. The English version was obtained from analytical portal The International Massmedia Agency. It is available via the link.