Tag Archives: Alexandr Morozov

In this September 2020 analysis, Free Russia Foundation’s Fellow Alexander Morozov chronicles the unraveling of the political crisis in Belarus unleashed by Lukashenka’s illegal efforts to hold on to power despite a broad national demand for change.

Morozov describes the growth of the Belarus protest movement and traces the emergence and evolution of the Coordinating Council, its strategy, key positions and figures.

The report then delineates the positions of important stakeholders, the response of the European Union, and of various national European governments; and the U.S.

Morozov dedicates a special focus to the role of Russia in the crisis in Belarus; discussing how the protracted standoff between Lukashenka and Putin had shaped the 2020 Belarusian presidential elections and how the Kremlin’s regional objectives are framing Lukashenko’s emerging options and choices.

Morozov offers a near-term forecast and policy options for democratic countries and international organizations for resolving the political crisis in Belarus.

In January 2020, Vladimir Putin closed the books on the political development of the Russian Federation not only for 2019 but also for the next 15 years. He set forth a series of amendments to the Constitution and made a change in the Cabinet of Ministers.

What is the rationale behind V. Putin’s doing? There are numerous interpretations and speculations on the motives. However, one should take a cue from the fact that between 2003 to 2019 V. Putin has created such a system of governing Russia, which he, as well as by the wider circles of civil and government law enforcement and security bureaucracy, considered to be totally adequate for the post-Soviet development of the Russian Federation. Putin has brought forward 11 amendments, which provide additional clarification detailed to fix to the individual central nodes of that governing system, which is providing so-called “stability.”

It is an anti-republican, highly centralized, system of power with a wide array of mandated authority powers given to the president. In this system the representative authority agencies are acting in a pattern of “consulting bodies,” an addendum to the executive branch. The political representation of a party stipulates a high level of qualifications in order to cut off the opposition from being nominated to the Parliament, and those parties, that are represented in the Parliament create a “coalition” of some sort. The governors in this system are designated official appointees from the center. All in all, the system is in compliance with its inter national obligations. Nonetheless, it refuses to implement the decisions of international bodies in some instances when they deviate drastically from the political goals of the Kremlin.

The political crisis in Moscow is unraveling at a dizzying speed, and it is doing so along the worst possible scenario. Continue reading The Bolotnaya Square Case 2.0: Top Ten Takeaways

Valeria Jegisman of Free Russia Foundation, sat down with Alexandr Morozov during his recent visit to Washington, D.C., to talk about Russia’s political system and future, the impact of sanctions against its elite, and the changes taking place in Russian society.


Beyond 2024

“Putin is not going to change the constitution [to get rid of term limits],” says Morozov, while also ruling out the creation of a Chinese-style state council that would allow Vladimir Putin to rule for life as its head. It is more likely that Putin will find a successor, he says, a young and loyal bureaucrat – not someone from the old guard. “Whatever position Putin is in, he will remain the real shareholder of this political system,” says Morozov, adding that whoever becomes Putin’s successor will lack any political independence.

During the intermediate period of 2008-2012, when power was temporarily handed over to Dmitry Medvedev, there were hopes he would offer an independent alternative. But post-2014 Russia is very different, says Morozov. The annexation of Crimea and growing tension with the West has led to a strong mobilization of the Russian society, and Putin’s successor will face resistance to any kind of change from the entire establishment. “Therefore, Putin has a simple scheme ahead of him – in 2024 he can transfer power to someone else, and then later return,” Morozov says.

Yet Russia is no longer dependent on a particular leader such as Putin, says Morozov, as society has fully accepted the underlying system of governance. Russia’s political system has deteriorated into a form of Eurasian autocracy, says Morozov, something is seen in Central Asia and Azerbaijan. This system can go on in perpetuity since any change in the system would require completely remaking many fundamental issues.

Any attempt to reform the system from within is perceived as subversive by society itself, which has come to terms with various constraints, says Morozov. “This is not the Kremlin pressuring society, as it was before 2014 when the Kremlin was manipulating various social groups to hold them in subjection. This is no longer a problem for the Kremlin – the submission of society is completely voluntarily.”

The West is no longer a model

Russian society no longer sees the West as its political, social or cultural model, as it did 20 years ago. “It has not become an enemy of the Russian people in the full sense of the word,” says Morozov, “but it has crumbled in their minds.” Many ordinary Russians have been to Western countries and they have come to believe that the Western way of life is just one model – not a superior one – while Russia and other non-Western countries have their own models. And similar to Erdogan’s Turkey, those who disagree can leave, and the rest of society will carry on.

The new system is not simply the result of a post-Crimean mobilization. Putin has been successful during his previous terms and during the recent election in providing a comfortable social contract to the main societal groups. For example, in Putin’s annual state-of-the-nation address on March 1, it was clear to millions of people employed in the infrastructure and construction industries that a vote for Putin would bring good employment opportunities and incomes for them and their families in the coming years. The same goes for the military and defense industry, where millions of people work, and the agricultural sector, which expects growth as a result of sanctions and import substitutes. Meanwhile, the elderly are given pension increases, the younger generation is given the opportunity to get involved in urban development, and young bureaucrats are given career prospects in public service. The dissatisfactions and tensions among different societal groups – inherent to any society – have therefore been successfully managed by the Kremlin through these various promises.

Whether there are enough resources to fulfill the election promises is another question, but society has taken the offer.

The younger generation and the Russian opposition – any hope for change?

The younger generations, who grew up not knowing any other leader than Putin (and nominally Dmitry Medvedev), are very patriotic and it appears they would rather have a “young Putin” than a new political system. There is no evidence or data from social research that shows that the new generation wants to radically reform the political and social system, says Morozov. By voting for Ksenia Sobchak, they are just voting for someone younger, yet essentially still a representative of the same system. And many probably see a “younger Putin” in Alexei Navalny, too.

“Young people expect that they will be co-opted, that the politics will be inclusive of them, and that Putin’s establishment will give them a chance in life,” says Morozov. He notes that many people in their thirties and forties hold key positions in government, and those in their twenties expect to have career opportunities. Putin’s bureaucrats are undergoing a rapid rejuvenation, says Morozov, and this is very different from Brezhnev’s era when regional and federal officials were all in their sixties and seventies.

Meanwhile, the Russian opposition is often accused of not being able to reach an agreement among themselves, says Morozov. He finds that the main problem is that the ideas of liberal values that originated in the 1990s have exhausted themselves, and not only in Russia. Across Europe, for example, the leaders of Velvet Revolutions are in the minority, says Morozov.

An additional challenge for the Russian opposition is competing with the promises Putin makes to society and coming up with an alternative to Putinism. This is something Alexei Kudrin and his Center for Strategic Research have been working on: trying to convince some of Putin’s bureaucrats that even minor changes could achieve some kind of development towards democracy and freedom. Yet the anti-Putin movement in Russia is very small and “can only fight for self-preservation,” says Morozov. The Putin opposition in Russia and abroad must come up with new ideas for a transition – it is no longer enough to say we propose a European model of development, says Morozov. “For example, there has to be changed in the military, which employs 4 million people. If they say they want to change, then something can significant happen.”

Sanctions on the mafia state

Morozov says sanctions are important, as they have a clear goal: the West wants Putin to end his interventionism abroad and his propaganda. However, sanctions have little impact on internal politics. They do not seem to have worked on ordinary people, who are convinced that Russia is on the defensive against the West. The Kremlin’s propaganda has worked well; it has persuaded all levels of Russian society, including the well-educated, that if the West imposes sanctions, it is an act of economic war against Russia and Russian companies.

There is no reason to expect that this will split the elites, says Morozov. In the last ten years, there has been a transformation within the so-called “oligarchat”. Those who oppose Putin have left Russia, and those who have stayed are deeply co-opted in the system. “They have made their choice,” says Morozov, “they must carry their fate to the end with Putin.”

Putin’s Russia is essentially a mafia state, says Morozov. It is organized in a similar way, with Putin’s underlings enjoying relative freedom, so long as they don’t challenge the leader. This does not necessarily mean that Putin is always aware of or agrees with all the activities of the various factions, but he is their guardian. If Putin had clearly stated that he would investigate one incident or another and that the perpetrators would be punished, there might not be such a big problem, says Morozov. But Putin defends everyone connected to Putinism.

This became especially clear after the shooting down of the Malaysian Boeing in 2014, and since Crimea, there seems to have been other groups that have carried out “uncoordinated” actions. Morozov says, “Putin believes that the West is waging a war against him, and Russia is certainly in a weaker position militarily and economically.” This is the basis, in Putin’s mind, for legitimizing the activities of those who are part of his system, even when he does not approve of their actions. According to Morozov, Putin and the Security Council of Russia frankly believe the Boeing was shot down accidentally, that Skripal’s poisoning is a provocation against the Kremlin, and that the recent chemical attack in Syria did not happen and is being used as a pretext by the West to intervene in Syria.

What else could the West do?

Firstly, says Morozov, the West could ramp up sanctions, so Russia would focus on its internal affairs and development instead of malign activities abroad. Sanctions should also be imposed on companies – and there are around 20 of them – that are involved in recruiting mercenaries in Russia for activities in Ukraine and Syria. Furthermore, sanctions should be brought against journalists who actively generate Kremlin propaganda on Russian state TV and against organizations which co-opt Western politicians to advocate the Kremlin’s views. The latter leaves the impression in Russia that the West shares the Kremlin’s views, thus strengthening propagandistic messages.

It is also important to support groups of Russian intellectuals who might provide the answer to Russia’s future. There is also a need for closer monitoring of human rights abuses in Russia, perhaps through the creation of new institution, since Russia’s nuclear capability and UN membership means it should be under greater scrutiny and pressure.

With Ksenia Sobchak entering the race, and Alexey Navalny continuing his campaign trail though Russian regions, the presidential elections have finally become topic number one within Russian media and social networks. Nevertheless, one of the most important questions of this campaign is still unanswered: when Vladimir Putin will officially bid for his fourth term and how his new political platform will look like? We discussed this question with Russian political analyst Aleksandr Morozov.

Where is the Putin’s political platform going and what can we expect from his upcoming campaign?

In short, Putin does not need any program at all, this is the first and most important point. He is simply passing to the fourth term automatically, even if he does not offer anything to the public. Even if he does not offer anything to the ruling groups, he will pass to the fourth term without any problems and will stay in the position until the very end, in other words for 6 more years.

However, there is a bigger discussion which is independent of the electoral situation. Can the Kremlin formulate a long-term strategy for itself, regardless of the elections? Where is it all leading to in terms of the relations with the West and public expectations?

It is a bigger problem as everyone feels that the agenda that Putin has been implementing for the last 15 years is already fulfilled. He has built the country he wanted.

In my opinion, Putin will be concentrating exclusively on the following 3 tasks in relation to his fourth term:

1. To create conditions for the young generation.

To live somehow in the country, develop themselves and be in demand as people who have income and can be more or less secure in the future due to money, mortgage and status. It is an important issue as the current situation is unsteady.

2. To ensure the same feeling for the pensioners.

It is a very important moment as well. During the entire Putin’s rule, large numbers of people went to the public sector, law enforcement bodies and army counting on a long guaranteed life after some short periods of 10, 15 or 20 years in service. Putin cannot give up on these people. Because if he does so, he will be left, figuratively speaking, in the position of Gorbachev who forgot about people, and everything depreciated in the result of inflation or a monetary reform. This is, of course, a terrible thing that frightens the Kremlin and will frighten forever, so Putin has nothing to do but support these people.

3. Continue endless reforms implemented by the government.

It refers to the bank sphere, postal and railway reforms, etc.

Literally, the same situation was during the late Soviet period when the party, on the one hand, was trying to find some reforms which could remind the economic modernization, on the other hand, it was the young generation and the pensioners who they mostly were worried about.

This is the very essence of Putin’s program. What will be offered inside of it is probably still to be decided.

It is interesting that they decided to shift the target of their external policy, which has been built on the image of Putin as a military leader during his third term. Many are wondering how his fourth term will look like. Do you know what the next Putin would be like?

No, and this is the right question. All previous Putins had a very clear image. The latest, the Putin of the third term, had an image of the so-called sovereignty restorer. It is a fundamental idea which absorbed the entire nation: “ We are, Russia, will change our position in the external world, they will start respecting us, we have a new understanding of the global politics and our place in it”. Putin, of course, was the driver of this idea.

The fourth Putin has no image and it will not be created during the campaign. Neither Kirienko nor other political analysts or technologists will be able to create it. Because everything else is already completed. The vertical was restored during the first term, planning and building of a new economic modernization were done during the second term, and sovereignty was a topic of the fourth term.

I agree with the analysts who claim that Putin is entering his last term simply in the state of emptiness and senility, the late Brezhnev situation.

Within the experts’ community, there is a belief that this is the last Putin. Do you have such a feeling and where does it come from?

It is a difficult moment. Yes, on the one hand, we have such a feeling. Everyone feels that the horizon ends with the fourth Putin’s term. But the problem is that Putinism will not die after him. Putin is finite but Putinism may be not. This is the point.

After all, the Soviet Union collapsed in a result of a large number of circumstances and various personal stances. Such a combination is not always repeated in history. Nobody can say what will be the way out of Putin and how long Putinism will last after he leaves the stage.

I would say that in Russian society there is an element of nervousness and a sense that everything is somewhat vague. No one feels the precariousness of life, but everyone feels the uncertainty and great riskiness of the Kremlin’s political game.

Some people like it, many support it. Others feel that this game affects their lives and can undermine them. They worry about children and their own future. But even though they are worried, they are still ready to move further from Putin to the next phase.

And, ultimately, the future transition from Putin to the next form will be perceived as the leave of Pinochet, or as a transition from Franco. It’s not a matter of one day. This is a question of a slow transition, when, for example, the Francoans are still playing a big role and the other vision of society is slowly rising, and the balance between the old Francoists and the forces will not be immediately reorganized.

Alexander Morozov, a Russian political analyst, discusses the current developments in the Russian opposition’s camp.

Continue reading The Game Hit the Dam