Vladimir Putin’s regime has arguably surpassed the Soviet Union in its artful employment of propaganda. One of the most widespread myths that the regime energetically pedals is that there is “no life” – or any viable political options – after Putin. This line is fed both to domestic and foreign audiences in different but overlapping forms.
Inside Russia, Putin publicly denigrates non-systemic opposition as lacking vision and constructive ideas. This was one of the public narratives advanced by Putin Administration to justify barring Alexey Navalny from participation as a presidential candidate in Russia’s March 2018 elections (in addition to the “technically legal” pretext which is the sham criminal case against Navalny). Russian officials and the Kremlin-controlled media portray all systemic (i.e. coopted by the government) opposition as power-hungry, rapacious and incompetent; a threat to the fragile stability and out of touch with the common people.
Outside Russia, the regime’s emissaries often concede that the current state of affairs is far from perfect, and there are even occasional admissions of corruption, inefficiency, and lack of democratic process. Such admissions are invariably followed up with qualification that the West features similar vices on comparable scale. However, the underlying message is always that Putin’s departure from power will trigger one of various horror scenarios where the power falls into the hands of even more corrupt and unpredictable leaders and Russia disintegrates.
Without question, any transition, when it takes place (the question is indeed not if but when), will feature objective difficulties. However, Russian pro-democracy leaders have been engaged in robust considerations of transition issues for years, including multiple academic theses and research initiatives in 2000s and within the framework of a short-lived Coordination Council of Opposition circa 2012-2013. These debates intensified after Putin’s invasion of Ukraine which demonstrated that his regime is unable to transform itself peacefully.
This preface highlights the core tenets that have emerged from previous debates. By doing so, it provides the context for the report itself, which is written by two remarkable Russian political visionaries, both very well-informed, pragmatic and actively engaged with a wide spectrum of Russian voters. Vladimir Milov is a key member of the team of Navalny (currently the most popular and powerful opposition figure in Russia) and former Deputy Minister of Energy. Andrey Medushevsky is a distinguished scholar whose life work has been dedicated to the Constitution of the Russian Federation.
Today, the need for a roadmap for the transformation of Russia post-Putin is a critical one. To be truly comprehensive, it must address a range of monumental issues within the Russian state and society, from reforming healthcare to establishing procedures for dealing with the most corrupt and abusive representatives of the Putin’s regime. However, for practical purposes, the scope of this report has been limited to two key issues that would define the nature of the future Russian State and are of the highest concern to the Russian people and their neighbors, — constitutional change and economic reforms.
This paper does not attempt to determine how to set Russia on a path to becoming a liberal state and away from Putin’s authoritarian political and economic model. This is a separate and truly a monumental question of its own. However, when Russia is ready for a transition toward liberalism, it is precisely the economic and constitutional reforms that will serve as its vectors and incubators.