By Assef Molhem*
Since the WW2, conflicts’ management conception became one of the main foundations of USA foreign policy, and to implement this conception USA use various instruments, one of them is the support of opposition in various countries of the world. The Russian-Ukrainian conflict is not exception; in the last months, many American attempts and activities, with the participation of “Russian opposition abroad” have been noticed in various European capitals. The main goals of such activities are to propagandize some personalities of the non-system Russian opposition and aggrandize them in various media to show them as “Russian public opinion leaders” and Kremlin opponents.
So, basing in some falsified facts, the western media machine tries to create an information model, in which Putin’s administration is represented as “dictatorship”, which can use brute force against own people. Thus, this regime can’t exist in a constant “repression and confrontation” with the society, because this need a huge stress and efforts. Therefore, as the “dictatorship” cannot permanently exist in a mobilization mode, some kind of fatigue mechanisms can be activated, which, consequently, stimulate protests of discontent people to get rid of this regime!
It should be mentioned here, United States Agency for International Development (USAID) is one of the most important institutions which support this type of activities, in addition to U.S. embassies, which provide financial assistance to various non-governmental organizations, which aims to promote the US policies and affect the public opinion in this country or that.
Of course, it is very difficult to discuss all the Russian opposition activities in one article, therefore, we will illuminate some aspects of the conference, so-called, “for free Russia”, which was held in Bulgarian capital, Sofia, under the supervision of the Secretary of the U.S. Embassy for Political and Economic Affairs Charles Perego, on 19 February, 2022.
Firstly, notice that, this event take place before the Russian special operation in Ukraine, and it is an affirmation that, there are “hidden” plans, which have been prepared by US administration against Russian Federation!
The main organizer of this conference was the former Duma member Gennady Gudkov. In this conference, there were participants and speakers from: Russia, Bulgaria, Kazakhstan, Belarus, Turkey, Poland, Czech Republic, Latvia. Despite the US high diplomatic representation, good preparation in a famous Bulgarian hotel and active propagandization, the real number of participants didn’t exceed 50, many of them faced corruption charges and court sentences in their own countries.
Meanwhile, Gennady Gudkov and his son, Dmitry, and others Russian participants are well-known figures in Russia. Obviously, popularity of some figures isn’t a sufficient reason to represent Russian peoples or to convince the voters to elect them! In the following paragraphs, we will shed the light on some facts about these figures.
Gennady Gudkov was a KGB officer and member of Soviet Communist Party, and he joined various Russian parties; namely: People’s party of the Russian Federation, United Russia party, Just Russia party and others. Gennady was also state Duma deputy for four convocations.
Gudkov had participated, together with Alexei Navalny, Boris Nemtsov and other figures, in public so-called protests “For Fair Elections” between 2011-2012. According to various estimates, in all Russian cities the number of participants in these actions ranged between 29 thousand to more than one hundred thousand.
In 2012, Gudkov was stripped of his seat in the state Duma by open vote. The general procuracy and special investigative committee presented charges corruption’s evidences, related to Gudkov’s construction company (Kolomensky Stroitel) and his private security firms (Pantan) and (Oskord).
In 2013, by a presidium bureau decision of the Central Council, Gennady and Dmitry Gudkov were expelled from Russia just party “for actions harmful to the party”! After 2013, in fact, Gudkov joined few parties, such Social-democratic party, Alliance of greens and social-democrats (AGSD), Civic initiative. But he was unable to enter state Duma again as representative of them. And, in 2019, he relocated to Bulgaria.
In the last months, Gennady Gudkov tried to promote some rumors about the Putin’s health in many western media. In one of his articles he referred to Russian historian, Valery Solovei, to stress that since 2020 Putin’s health had deteriorated sharply. Solovei himself claimed in some YouTube and Telegram channels that President Putin suffers from some psycho-neurological diseases without any evidences!
Ilya Ponomarev, ex-deputy of state Duma, was also in this conference. During his political career, he was a member in various Russian parties: communist party, left front, just Russia party. In the spring of 2014, he took part in forming of an alliance between Greens and Social Democrats (AGSD). He was the only member of the State Duma to vote against Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014. In 2015, Ponomarev was prosecuted and charged with money stealing from Skolkovo foundation. In March 2022, after the beginning of Russian special operation in Ukraine, he made a public appeal, promising $1 million to the one “who will deliver Putin alive or dead into the hands of international justice!”.
Vladimir Ryzhkov, Russian historian and liberal politician, was online speaker in this conference. He was member in various Russian parties: Democratic Choice of Russia, Our Home – Russia, People’s Freedom Party, Civic Initiative, Yabloko. Ryzhkov was also member in state Duma between 1993-2007, and now he is member of Moscow city Duma. Ryzhkov was the leader of almost all the rallies and protests “For Fair Elections!” between 2011-2012 in Moscow. The last Ryzhkov’s party (Yabloko), in all his history, could enter state Duma three times between (1993-2002). Since 2003, the situation of Yabloko party has worsened; in State Duma elections, it received 4.3% of the vote (less than the 5% threshold) and did not win seats in the State Duma on party lists.
The president of the all-Russian public movement (Union of Right Forces), Leonid Gozman, was also a speaker in this conference. Political fraction (Union of Right Forces) could enter state Duma once in 1999 elections. Gozman was against Putin’s policy related to Crimea and Ukraine, and in his speech call western states to strength the sanctions against Russia!
The Russian journalist and TV and radio presenter, Nikolay Svanidze, was online speaker also. In fact, many experts, following his programs, criticized him concerning his reading methodology of historical and political events; Svanidze, in their opinions, uses selective methods, i.e. he tries to focus on some arguments, which support a particular point of view without addressing other ones! This method traditionally is used in promotional election campaigns; therefore, it is already not objective!
In this conference, Gudkov invited other Russian figures:
1-Dmitry Potanenko – writer and video blogger. In the 2016, he participated in state Duma elections, he ran for the “Party of Growth” in Kaliningrad Region, but was not elected.
2-Mihkail Krotikhin – economic analyst, oil and gas market specialist, translator, journalist, historian and orientalist (Iranist, Arabist).
I think that, there is no need to talk about everyone, and the above presented sample is sufficient for readers to form a vision about the essence of Russian opposition, gathering in this conference. Furthermore, the discussion of corruption charges, faced some of them is not the objective of this article.
One can notice that, all these opponents were talking as (dreamers)! Everywhere they say: we want a change in Russia, presenting themselves as the leaders of change to “future Russia”, i.e. “best Russia”. Obviously, they deceive people saying: “democratic Russia” or “future Russia” are Russia without “putinism”, as the USA did in the last decade in various countries; where American administration tried to form (world public opinion) that these countries shall be (developed, democratic and civilized countries) without their legitimately elected Presidents; and we, all, know the results!
In our opinion, they, Putin’s opponents, don’t have vision or constructive political program for “future Russia”, the unique statement for them that Russia will be better without Putin! All these opponents avoided to talking about the real threats from NATO, although, everybody knows that, after the collapse of Soviet Union, western states tried to steal Russian resources and scientific potential of Russia. Also, they avoid to answer the core questions:
What is the best for Russia?
Is the best for Russia can come from NATO countries? If the answer is “yes”, why the NATO try to widen its geopolitical influences close to the Russian borders?
And, in this regard, why don’t USA coordinate with Russia security questions in Europe?
Why does NATO need missile defense complexes in Central and Eastern Europe, if its members consider themselves friends of Russia?
We think that the answers of these questions are very clear and simple!
Regarding the Russian-Ukrainian war, also Putin’s opponents avoided discussing many issues and justifications that led to this war, the most important of them:
-The rise of neo-Nazism in Ukraine, which became official policy.
-Reinforcement of exclusionary practices against Russians and Russian-speaking citizens in Ukraine.
-Crimes committed by neo-Nazis groups in Donbass.
-Restrictive measures on Russian-speaking media.
-Discrimination between ethnic and religious groups in Ukraine.
Moreover, as we have shown in the previous paragraphs, all these opponents had the opportunity to get involved in Russian political life and participate in building process of strong stable political system for “future Russia”, so why did they decide rely on Western countries to realize their political ambitions?
Will really western countries help to build “future Russia”, as these opponents claimed? The answer is definitely (no), the history of the United States and Western countries is known to everyone!
So, we think that these opponents attempt to achieve personal ambitions and private benefits, and western countries use them to realize their policies, which completely contradict the real interests of the Russian people!
So, this team, obviously, is a group of provocateurs, opportunists, self-seeking persons! And they are popular only in American and European NGOs and foreign media. The western institutions have decided to invent “fictitious heroes” to invest them politically, so the Russian opposition members residing abroad are just adventurers, who are gambling their country’s future, and the Russian people are well aware of this fact. Consequently, western support for these opponents, their involvement in western projects and agendas will be political suicide for them, and will strengthen President Putin’s position.
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*Moscow-based political writer.