Архив рубрики: Articles in English

“The Arctic has never been so important”


Route magazine made an Interview from me, about the arctic, You can read it on their Website here.


We publish our exclusive interview on the Arctic affairs with Alexandre Latsa, French expert in geopolitics and author of “Putin’s New Russia”. The RIA Novosti News Agency contributor Alexandre Latsa analyzes the business prospects of the Northern Sea Route and assesses the possibility of Russia’s 2013 Arctic claim approval by the United Nations Commission on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

Route Magazine: In your comprehensive review of Arctic affairs in 2011 you mentioned that Western scholars Mackinder and Spykman had an idée fixe of maintaining military presence in the High North. Today some experts claim the conflict potential in the Arctic is rather low, but NATO, nevertheless, is actively striving to sneak into the region on the pretext of “civilian SAR and natural disaster response”. In your opinion, what are the geopolitical goals of these maneuvers?

latsaAlexandre Latsa: This geopolitical view on Eurasia appeared and was developed with one goal: to ensure control over Eurasian strategic transportation corridors and energy supply routes both in the South (the Caspian and the Black sea areas) and in the High North (the Arctic). This theory has gradually become a very important and pressing practical issue due to the fact that climate change will soon open the Northern Sea Route. The Arctic becomes the key region for the future of global energy policy. Just recently the EU delegation has led talks in Moscow with Russia and raised the question of the Arсtic. Mr. Alekperov, head of Lukoil oil company, said that Arctic’s oil reserve will help Russia to provide Europe in the nearest future. Читать далее

Greater Albania: a United States project against the Orthodox world?

Wednesday, December 5, 2012, the Albanian Prime Minister Sali Berisha advocated granting Albanian citizenship to all Albanians, wherever they reside. This statement was made during a visit of the city of Vlora where the independence of the Albanian state was declared, only 100 years ago. At the time Albania had just liberated itself from Ottoman rule.

This declaration follows a separate statement, collective this time, that Sali Berisha had made with his Kosovar counterpart Hashim Thaci a few weeks ago, promising the union of all Albanians. The place was, I must say, well chosen since the vast majority of the inhabitants of Kosovo today are of Albanian origin, which has not always been the case.

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Today’s Russia: the 21th century incarnation of the Gaullist dream?

The original article was published by Ria Novosti

A good friend of mine recently told me how disappointed he was when he learned that new French president Francois Hollande had dismissed his minister of ecology Nicole Bricq.  She had recently been promoted until when she wanted to interrupt Shell’s drilling for ecological reasons. My friend concluded that our President had submitted to the powerful energetic lobby and that this proved the French political class could not afford anymore to fight any powerful economic lobby.
This discussion took place a few weeks ago as recently, a very interesting debate took place in a famous French television show called ”Ce soir ou jamais” (Tonight or never). This show is animated by broadcaster Frederic Taddei and the debate reminded me of the discussion I had had with my friend in a small cafe near Trubnaya  square.

One of the guests of the show was Marie France Garaud, one of the most famous Gaullist French intellectuals. She explained in her own way, the brief History of French politics after the war. Her explanation probably surprised young French generations. According to her, the modern political two party system that exists in France today between left and right wings is a very recent phenomenon. Before that, there was on one side the President’s party (the Union of all the French who trusted General De Gaulle), and on the other side some nostalgic people who wanted to get back to the 4th French Republic and its political system made of small political parties.
The “two party system” hat later appeared in France was based on one simple single simplification: the left wing was supposedly closer
to the working class while the right wing was more conservative and bourgeois. But from 1999 the Gaullist heritage was betrayed and the French sovereignty was cheaply sold off via, in particular, the European integration process. A new split appeared very quickly, that divided the right wing as well as the left one. In each of those blocks, a Europhile majority emerged, as well as a minority in favor of national sovereignty. Both co-existed chaotically and continue to co- exist chaotically.
The sovereignty partisans, whether they were leftists or rightists, viewed the two parties system as allowing in theory a political change of power. But this was only in theory, because the leaders of the two ruling Europhile parties agreed on almost everything. For them no matter which Europhile side ruled, as long as the transfer of the French state sovereignty in the direction of the European Community authorities increased, would it be political, economic, financial or about border control. Consequently, France today cannot be seen as a nation anymore, as it is now facing a total lack of sovereignty, while sovereignty is the most essential attribute of a state. Can one imagine a sovereign nation without a sovereign state?
Most of the sovereign state’s attributes are endangered today in Europe, like the right to control its borders, to strike coins, to deal out justice and to decide whether or not to go to war. Unfortunately for the European populations, their political elits have recently voluntarily engaged in a
political system where they will not even be able to control their national budgets. One could discuss for a long time, why and how this happened. Yet de Gaulle summed it up very well, while at the end of his career, this helpless two party systems already appeared, saying: «The tragedy of France is that the left wing is not about working class anymore, and that the right wing is not national anymore.»
While the European integration happened by diluting the sovereignty of the states, Russia, since the beginning of this century, seems so far to follow another road. Much have been said in the foreign media about Russia’s non-compliance to human rights or about the violence with which the state has resolved the war in Chechnya. But little has been said for example about the fact that this war was above all an internal and regional conflict aiming at restoring the Federal sovereignty and at crushing the separatist risk. That same separatist risk threatens a lot of European states today. Also, little if nothing has been said by the foreign press, about Russia’s economic policy and its obsessive refusal of external debt. And though this political choice is a hard one, there is no doubt that the future Russian generations will thank their present Russian politicians for it.
Whatever the western mainstream says, Russian businessmen who were imprisoned for embezzlement (some of the famous oligarchs) illustrate a very clear message: nowadays in Russia, the politic rules over the economy, and not the contrary, despite all the shortcomings that this can cause. The Pikalevo lesson in 2009 coud set a legal  precedent. The massive restructuring plans of the army or the nationalization of the two largest energy companies in the world demonstrate that the Russian state wishes to remain fully sovereign as well in front of the Russian
capitalists as in front of the multinationals. The «Russian multipartism” (i.e. the governance of only one main political party including many various political trends) might be called the Party of the Majority, and could easily be compared with the rule of the majority Gaullist party in France under General De Gaulle, at the moment of the founding of the 5h Republic.
This comparison is not new, as the visionary French Sociologist Emmanuel Todd already envisaged this Russian Gaullism in 2002.
In his book After the Empire, he predicted the slow fail-out of America and wrote: «At the time of the debate on globalization and on universal interdependence, Russia could emerge, in the most optimist scenario, as a huge democracy balancing its external accounts and having an energetic independence, that is to say, being in a world dominated by the United States, the incarnation of the Gaullist dream.»

Political comparisons

Above the electoral map of the Russian overseas votes for the presidential election in 2012 and below the map electoral votes Ukrainians abroad
parliamentary elections in 2012.

Look and do some comparisons:
First the similarities of voting in the West (Anglo-Saxon world and Western Europe), the majority vote Prokhorov is in Russian and in Ukrainian voteTimoshenko to Japan and Thailand … These are the areas that have the least voted Putin and Yanukovych (Party of Regions).

Votes or both trends were in the majority: Russia, Ukraine, Belarus .. Balkans, North Africa (Libya except for Ukrainians), Turkey, Iran,  Pakistan, Mexico, India, Vietnam ..
China, Kazakhstan and South Africa remain a mystery, the majority vote is Udar …

The operating system of the western civilization has became unsustainable


The collapse of the Soviet Union meant the cancellation of the Yalta system of international relations and the triumph of the single hegemony — the United States, and as a consequence, transformations of the bipolar world order to a unipolar model. Nevertheless, some analysts are still talking about a possible return to a bipolar model. How do you feel about this hypothesis? Is there a likelihood of emergence of a power capable of challenging the global hegemony?

The collapse of the Soviet Union has indeed led directly to an American domination of the world affairs.

When Bush father proclaimed the new world order in the sands of Iraq, many (in the Western world) even thought that it would be so forever, that the history of  вeas had stopped and that the world would from now on forever be under American domination.

We can see today that those who thought so were wrong, and it only took a decade for History to take back its rights, leading America into wars that will accelerate its decline, while paradoxically, they were supposed to establish its domination.

During the same decade, Russia was reborn from its ashes and has once again become a strong regional power, a power that has visions of domination of Eurasia, as Vladimir Putin hammered during his first speech as the elected president on May 7, 2012.

We hear a lot more about the Russia / America confrontation than at the beginning of this century but these countries will probably never be anymore the main key players in the world of tomorrow, unlike America and the USSR in the world of yesterday.

Logically, China is today targeted by the American strategists as being a main adversary as it is most likely to become the leading world power during this century, on an economical, financial and demographic level — perhaps even a military one. China should therefore become the biggest competitor of an America in decline, and if nothing is done, the world of tomorrow will be punctuated by the China/America opposition.

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Putin until 2018

The 4th of March 2012, the Russian people voted and whether some liked it or not, they overwhelmingly voted for VladimirPutin to lead Russia until 2018. After the counting of votes of 99.3% of the ballot papers, Vladimir Putin was ahead with 63.6% of the votes, followed by Gennady Zyuganov (17.19%) andMikhail Prokhorov (7.98%). Vladimir Zhirinovsky got6.22% and Sergey Mironov 3.85%. The participation ratestood at 65%. The outcome of this election is simply the confirmation that all sincere and lucid analysts had expected, namely Vladimir Putin getting a score between 50 and 65% in the first round. Indeed, all the opinion polls expected him to be the winner of the 1st round. This
 is also a geopolitical event 
whose scope the vast majority ofcommentators are still unaware of. The election of Vladimir Putin for a third mandate is incomprehensible through the French media prism but yet is part of a perfectly coherent and historical Russian sequence

In March 2000 when Vladimir Putin was elected with just over 50% of the votes, the country was ravaged by a post-Soviet decade of eltsinism” and had just come out from a major economic crisis. Powered by the Yeltsin systemVladimir Putin‘s election by the Russian population wasmostly done bydefault. This uunknown politician appeared very quickly however, as a strong man. His authoritarian and dry style was perceived positively by the Russian population. Vladimir Putin stood from the early 2000s as a sort of saviorwho restored the order. His second election in 2004 with nearly 70% of the votes in the first round is a plebiscite. The second mandate of Vladimir Putin is a period ofunquestionable economic recovery for Russia. When Putin gave way to Dmitry Medvedev in 2008, the authority of the state was more or less fully restored, and a party of government was established. Right in the middle of this economic improvement, Dmitry Medvedev was elected President in March 2008 with 72% of the votes. Unfortunately, the global financial crisis hit Russia as well as a new war in the Caucasus. In 2009 the Medvedev presidency suffered from the social consequences of the crisis and of the difficulties in modernizing the country as quickly as desired. International pressure was also higher and during the last year of his term, the Russian diplomacy was mistreated in Libya
in Europe (antimissile defense shield). In the end, Medvedev’s foreign policy was criticized in Russia. Following the parliamentary elections last December,

massive opposition demonstrations were held in the major cities across the country. Those demonstrations were the si gn for some foreign commentators that Russia had begun its revolution against the “Putin system”. On the other hand, others saw these events as being an embryo of destabilization orchestrated from outside Russia, along with the lines of Color revolutions. Many clues suggest that the latter scenario was plausible.
Paradoxically, this risk ofa revolution of Colour has unified the public opinion and greatly contributed to the very high score of Vladimir Putin. The analyst Jean-Robert Raviot has clearly defined this phenomenon by defining three Russias. The first Russia is the most publicized because it is the westernized Russia, the one of the “Moscobourgeois” or metropolitan bourgeois baptized “middle class” by the commentators. The second Russia is the provincial one. It is peri-urban, patriot and represents the vast majority of Russia. Weakened by the crisis, it also represents the majority in favor of Vladimir Putin. Third, there is the Russia of the non-Russian peripheries, controlled by ethnocracies allied to the Kremlin and where the votes are fairly homogeneous and in favor of the central power.  Indeed, Moscow and St. Petersburg are the only cities in which the results, taken alone, could have led to a second round between Putin and Prokhorov. But if this rich, urbanized and Europeanized Russia of the cities less voted Putin than the rest of the country, it still remains a minority.Conversely, the small
and medium towns, in fact rural Russia, are much more conservative and popular.
 By massively voting for Vladimir Putin, they showed concernsregarding possible disruptions. Since the early 2000s, Russia is continuing its recovery, and the disorders of the first decade following the collapse of the USSR have profoundly affected people’s minds. The Russian people havetherefore chosen Vladimir Putin, rejecting outside interference, and wishing that the policy initiated 12 years ago now be continued.
The stable score of Gennady Zyuganov, candidate of he Communist Party, shows that the party has reached its maximum. 4 or 5% of its last December voters fell back on Michael Prokhorov(the Communist Party had reached 19% at the general elections, benefiting from its status of major competitor to Putin and of the anti-Putin vote). Michael Prokhorovhas probably channeled the majority of the votes of the opponents those past months. He in fact got 20% in Moscow and 15.5% in St. Petersburg. The low score of Vladimir Zhirinovsky is likely to be related with the high score of Vladimir Putin: many Liberal Democratic Party of Russia voters probably voted for Putin in the first round. This low score seems to announce the decline of the party, that one cannot imagine surviving without its charismatic leader. In the end, the crushing defeat of the candidate Mironov (3.46%) while his party had got a very high score in the general elections, basically shows that Russian voters reject any social Democrat candidate too. In order to deny this popular support to Putin they obviously can neither understand nor admit, many foreign commentators will write that the elections were rigged andthat many frauds in favor of Vladimir Putin had been identified. 
Yet, as in the general elections, the vast majority of these fraud charges will prove to be unfounded: the number of actual cases of fraud should not exceed about300, against 437 during the general elections last December, yet so criticized.
However, the observers of the CIS, of the SCO or even independent observers, said that the voting took place normally and that the election was fair. They even suggested that the elections to the European Parliament should use the same monitoring system that Vladimir Putin put into place (96,000polling stations were filmedby 91,000webcams). As such, if Michael Prokhorov  came first inFrance and in England, the
living in Germany and in Spain more voted for VladimirPutin, while in Germany United Russia had obtaineda poor score in the December general  elections, even ending up behind the liberal party Yabloko.
What will happen now? 
The opposition announced it will continue to demonstrate,as it already did lastMonday, following the results.But the demonstration gathered only 10,000 people, and theclimate seems to have changed  already. Michael Prokhorov, just like Boris Nemtsov, was heavily booed during the demonstration. On the contrary, Alexey Navalny and Sergey Udaltsov (respectively a liberal nationalist and a far left wing, both allied  against Putin) were given a standing ovation.As the demonstration was ending, they refused to leave the premises and called for occupying the place. They caused the arrest of300or 400 diehards who accompanied them, to the delight of foreign TV cameras. Later on a group of one
 ultranationaliststried to march on the Kremlin,before the police also arrested them. 
One can therefore wonder whether the legal opposition has not crystallized itself around Michael Prokhorov and if, in the end, the most radical (and non political) fringe of this disparate opposition, will not seek to create more trouble by refusing to acknowledge an election that nobody contests any longer worldwide.

About a disunited opposition

Many French speaking readers have asked me, via Facebook, details of the relationship between the street demonstrations of the past three months, and those that followed the presidential election.

 Two questions often come back: “For whom did the street protesters vote» and “Who does truly represent the Russian opposition”?These questions arise especially as these demonstrations from the opposition demonstrations were not expected and that it was very difficult to find adominant political line within it. We saw a very large number ofpolitical leaders of various tendencies and a lot of different claims. 

To the question “Who does truly represent the Russian opposition”. I could answer that there is in the Duma (the Russian parliament) 226deputies of United Russia, 92 Communist deputies, 64 deputies of Fair Russia and 56 deputies of Liberal-Democratic Russia. But of course, the questions referred specifically to thisopposition that demonstrated in the streets. In the end, Johnasked me “about the arrests that took place during the opposition meeting on Monday night, the day after the election”. Were we attending a tightening up of the Russian power, and a totalrape of the freedom to manifest, that some peacefuldemonstrators were asking for, just like in all democracies worthy of the name? 

The headlines in the French press, which denounced a muscled repression from the power in place, could indeedsuggest so. Let us go back to these three months of demonstrations. Following thegeneral elections in December,some images of fraud looped in the media. Apart of the civil society but also some representatives of minority political parties decided to call for a demonstration of the elections’ results. They asked the Chairman of the Electoral Commission to resign, and called for the cancellation of the elections in order for some new and honest elections to be able to take place.   A huge number of websites and Facebook pages quickly set up through the Internet social networks, calling for a demonstration. 

This marketing buzz works pretty well and consequently a first demonstration was held on the Marais square on December 10, 2011, involving perhaps 35,000 to 40,000 people. The demonstration brought together side by side some of the Moscow gilded youth as well as dozens of sub-political factions that were not candidates for a national representation, i.e.radical nationalists, anti-fascists and political liberal parties but also communists. A second meeting was held on December 24, Sakharov Avenue, with 40,000 to 50,000 people gathering, and again with this new and unlikely coalition of disparate political movements andpeople from the civil society as well as opposition figures including some from the  show –business. 

An interesting fact that the press has not underlined much is that these two demonstrations were held without any serious incidents, if not at the end of the second meeting, when radicals from the right-wing attempted to climb onto the platform by force. Finally, on February 4,a third unitary meeting took place, on the Marais square again, gathering between 40,000 to 50,000 people. Who were these people who defied the cold to go demonstrate with so much cheerfulness? Sociological studies and surveys have shown since then that the majority of them were upset with the election results and wanted to have their voice heard. Their background was mainly the muscovite upper-middle class. The problem with this educated and at times, westernized class that grew rich during the last 10 years, is that it has not formed a political party to make its voice heard, and it has no leader whom to trust.

Those demonstrations though were attended by many political groups, as well as associations and historical leaders of the opposition like Boris Nemtsov, Gregory Iavlinskii or Garry Kasparov. For them it was the right occasion to take advantage of the events in order to to boost their popularity and emerge as leaders of this unhappy crowd.   None of them hasreally emerged, but new figures have appeared, for example Michael Prokhorov, the nationalist-liberal blogger Alexei Navalny or the extremist left-wing Sergey Udaltsov. Although they were part of opposing tendencies on the political spectrum, their «anti-Putinism» primary allowed them to a temporarily alliance.  

That’s probably where the rub is. 

The muscovite“upper-middle class” who protested for three months hasgenerally a high level of education and usually a good standard of living. It neither wantedto deal with far right or far left incidents, nor rehabilitate losers from another political era. This is probably the reason why most of the protestors have preferred not to participate tothe presidential elections but have probably predominantly chosen to support Michael Prokhorov, whom they considered as the most modern and reliable candidate. 

The results of the presidential election showed that Michael Prokhorov who is defending a rather liberal and pro-European political line, has easily seduced this “Europeanized” upper middle class as well as an electorate that wanted a constructive “anti-system” vote.    Undoubtedly, he is the big winner of the past three months’ wave of demonstrations, this demonstration being first of all legalistic and political. It will be necessary to see what Michael Prokhorov will now do, he who in the coming weeks should create a new right wing political party on the Russian chessboard. Now what about the arrests that occurred during the recent demonstrations and why did the latter gather less protesters? 

As opposed to what a part of the French press’s headlines read, this is not the pseudo-repression that weakened the mobilization but rather the fact that the vast majority of the protesters in December 2011 did not identify with the extremist emerging leaders. In the last but one demonstration on Pushkin Square Monday March 5, Michael Prokhorov has indeed been booed by the few thousand protesters who were present. 

Last Monday, he did not come to the opposition demonstration on Arbat Avenue. Therefore it is no surprise that these demonstrations have been able to gather only and respectively 10,000 and 8,000 protesters.It is no surprise either that in both cases, the demonstrations have turned to a confrontation with the police, as the organizers refused to leave the premises at the end of the demonstrationand as they deliberately chose to let nationalist groups or radicals from the extreme left, walk to the Kremlin.   

The conclusion to all of this could be held in two words, the ones that the new President of Russia addressed to these same opposition factions on March 7: “Be serious”.

The Russian demography from 1991 to 2012

In December 2010 I зublished a column entitled “The Russian population, object of all fantasies[1]” in which I recalled how the political, economic and institutional collapse that followed the disappearance of the USSR had triggered a health and demographic disaster in Russia. From 1991 to 1999, the health of the population has significantly declined and life expectancy has collapsed. Both were the consequences of the collapse of the Russian economy.

The excessive consumption of an often adulterated alcohol, the related poisonings, the increase of suicides and the development of drugs use and sexually transmitted diseases including AIDS, have led to an explosion in the mortality rate. These living conditions in the Russia of the 1990s also caused a gradual decline of the birthrate. Abortion was often the  only option for many women in the midst of the economic crisis. All this led to an unprecedented demographic crisis. Let’s now have a look at the number of births, deaths, and at the natural balance (excluding immigration).

Year after year, the birth rate decreases while the mortality rate increases.

Year                Births               Deaths              Balance
1991            1.794.626        1.690.657           +103.969
1992            1.587.644        1.807.441           -219.797
1993            1.378.983        2.129.339           -750.356
1994            1.408.159        2.301.366           -893.207
1995            1.363.806        2.203.811           -840.005
1996            1.304.638        2.082.249           -777.611
1997            1.259.943        2.015.779           -755.836
1998            1.283.292        1.988.744           -705.452
1999            1.214.689        2.144.316           -929.627

Between 2000 and 2005, the birthrate is going through a significant upturn, probably due to the improved global economic conditions, but the mortality has increased again, resulting in an incredible drop of 5,363,668 inhabitants in the population over six years, that is to say 893,944 per year. In January 2006 the Russian population had dropped by 142.2 million, against 148.3 million in 1990.

Year                Births                  Deaths                   Balance
2000             1.266.800            2.225.332            -958.532
2001             1.311.604           2.254.856              -943.252
2002             1.397.000           2.332.300            -935.300
2003             1.483.200           2.370.300            -887.100
2004             1.502.477           2.295.402            -792.925
2005             1.457.376           2.303.935            -846.559

In 2005 the Russian government has launched a new demographic deal entrusted with Medvedev, who was by the time vice prime Minister in charge of national projects and priorities. This social plan was intended to boost the birth rate and to lower mortality, but its complementary effects on the living standards continually rose from 2005 to 2009. The restoration of the Russian health system and the financial aids to families has had spectacular results. In 12 years, from 1999 to 2011, the mortality has sharply dropped and the annual number of births increased by over 40%.
Year                     Births                   Deaths             Balance
2005                    1.457.376           2.303.935             -846.559
2006                    1.479.637           2.166.703             -687.066
2007                    1.610.100           2.080.400             -470.300
2008                    1.717.500          2.081.000             -363.500
2009                   1.764.000          2.010.500             -246.500
2010                   1.789.600          2.031.000             -241.400
2011                   1.793.828           1.925.036             -131.208

Taking into account the slightly positive net migration in 2009 (for the first time since 1991), Russia‘s population hasincreased by  almost 50,000 inhabitants. In 2010 it fell slightly (about 50,000 people) but in 2011, the populationeventually increased by 160,000. 

The year 2011 is also the best for birth rate since 1991, with 1,793,828births, and for the first time since 1992 there have beenless than 2 million deaths in the country.2011 has a special feature because the numbers of the second semester (births against deaths) aresignificantly better than the first half. Over the last 6months of the year, the natural balance (excludingimmigration) is positive: there were 951,249 births and943,617 deaths, i.e. a positive balance of 7632. August2011 has even seen a record of births (173,166) and the average of the 5 other months of the semester is over150,000. If this trend continues next year,the number of births in Russia could flirt with 1.8 million, while deaths should continue to decrease, falling below 1.9 million. The natural negative balance in 2012 could well be less than100,000. The net migration, as far as it is concerned,should be positive again, given the manpower needs of the Russian economy. Therefore, Russia‘s population should increase again in 2012. For readers interested in the links between economics anddemographics, a more detailed study has been published in France by the IRIS (Observatory of the post-Soviet world) in their September 2011 review under the title: The solution to the Russian demographic decline is in the growth[2].

In the end, let us note that the existing Russian population projections envisage three demographic scenarios[3] (low, medium and high) leading in 2030 to a population balancing between 128 and 144 millions. In its most optimistic version, the demographic scenario predicts that Russia’s population would reach 143 million inhabitants only at the beginning of 2015. But this demographic threshold was already reached by January 1, 2012. The population decline that Russia should theoretically face over the next decade could therefore probably be much lower than expected. One can even imagine that the Russian population will noticeably increase by 2030.

[1] http://fr.rian.ru/tribune/20101229/188241397.html
[2] http://www.iris-france.org/docs/kfm_docs/docs/observatoire-russie/2011-09-demographie-russe.pdf
[3] http://www.gks.ru/free_doc/new_site/population/demo/progn1.htm

A new opposition «Made in Russia»

The presidential elections are approaching, and the Russian home policy is a fairly recurring recurrent theme in the recentanalysis and forums of RIA Novosti. It is also one  of the most discussed topics on the Russian Internet, especially since December 2011. Maria Selina[1] recently wondered if a new wave of emigration would take place and very cleverly deduced that the demonstrations ofDecember 2011 could  theoretically put together the whole of those who reject the Russian political system and may choose to pack up and leave the country.  My readers know it, Icovered the December demonstrations and I published pictures and texts that led to passionate debates on the topicThe fact to be a foreigner who comments the Russian political scene is not very comfortable but maybe it shows things under a new eyeglass.


I discussed with people on Facebook. Marina (a trilingual Franco-Russian in her thirties and an MBA student)summarized the reasons why she went down in the street to demonstrateagainst the regime. She wrote to me: “The political scene in Russia is blocked because Putin‘s party leaves no place for other parties to develop” Marina asks for the the emergence of new, young and strong partiesand (she no longer wishes) to liveunder a single dominant party as United Russia”. S
he also denounces the “so-calledmultipartysystemprevailingin Russia because accordingtoherthe opposition parties are old parties led by Soviet minds for whom people votewithout  conviction, only to not vote for United Russia”. This claim provoked in me a series of thoughts. I can’t help as a foreigner, to make a comparison with France.


What do we see in France? There has certainly been an alternation in recent decades between the two  main currents represented by the two dominant parties. But do these two old parties of center-right (UMP) and center-left (PS) present real fundamental ideological differences, while facing the restrictive and binding requirements of the supranational Brussels? Is it possible to dream for the “emergence of new young and strong parties” in France, as Marina does for Russia? Is that what we can call a “unblocked political scene” What if in France we were allowed to vote not for one, but for two parties that anyway cannot handle the French economy, that have almost the same program and whose hands are now fully bound by 30 years of mismanagement they are totally responsible for? Do those parties have any breathing space at the hands of the abyssal deficits they have created? In France, the parties that are considered more or less like the anti system parties are the National Front and the Left Party, which are always kept out of the governance because of some subtle political mechanisms. Consequently the representations at the French National Assembly meeting are neither proportional nor fair. 

In France people vote (for a party) in the first round and eliminate (a party) in the second round, which means that in the end one does not  necessarily vote for a party but rather against a party. This is what Marina wrote about Russia: »The vote in favor of certain parties in Russia is mainly a vote against United Russia». This dream of a worthy political opposition is interesting, its aim being to bring an alternative policy to the one in effect.



A new and credible opposition in Russia should first be identifiable, especially regarding the content of its project for the country. It should demonstrate an ability to exercise power, to impose itself at the elections and not just to oppose itself to the power via statements and street demonstrations. According to Viktor Loupan[2], the difficulty is to create a constructive opposition to Vladimir Putin, the latter being “both left and right wing oriented, patriot and liberal, both nationalist and globalist. In order to oppose would it be only to a centrist position, one needs a solid political culture and an unwavering ideological platform.


In order to become a real political force, it takes time and patience. (…) Look, Mitterrand began to oppose de Gaulle in 1958 and only came to power in 1981”.

I am not the only one  to think that male and female politicians should above all defend the national interests and the citizens of their country. I do not see any party able to fulfil those aims in my own country, France, but so far I do not know either what I would think (and what my fellow citizens would think) if palpable foreign interference were observed in the political and election process of the country as if the case in Russia. As
the journalist from the “Courrier de russie” Clemence Laroque re
called[3], the new face of theAmerican diplomacy in Russia is called Mike MacFaul. The new Ambassador has always displayed his positions in favor of a restoration of Russian-American relations after the Bush era, but he is also “considered a specialist of the Color revolutions”[4]


Should we see here a connection with the last December demonstrations and the one of next February? Or with the accusations of financing active opponents (Navalny[5] or Nemtsov[6]) by the U.S. NGOs? Or, would there rather be a link with this weird January 17invitation of the U.S. embassy in Moscow to the Russian opposition representatives[7], only three days after the appointment of this ambassador to Russia?


Can one imagine, for example, that the French National Front could be received by the  Russian ambassador and complain about the fact the party has no deputies? Or, could Jean-Luc Melenchon (Left Party) be received by the Chinese ambassador after having organized demonstrations in Paris? What would the French citizens and voters think? I recently published a column about this “National Democrat” project that seeks to bring together the liberal and the moderate  nationalist movements, and that could haveemerged
from the
 demonstrations of last December. According to the Russian analyst Dmitry Olchansky[8] the demonstrations have proved the existence in the Russian society of a minority (called “European population”) opposed to a majority(called “archaic population”). 
From his point of view, this new opposition should result in the emergence of a dominant nationalist ideology, with all the risks that it  entails. United Russia wouldtherefore be a safety valve whose main  task would be to keep power and gradually unlock certain psychological blockages of the Russian society,together with developing a subtle liberalization of the system.
 Thus, Dmitry Olchansky concludes: the longer Putin will stay in power, the more likely the Russian society will have a chance to evolve in peace and harmony.Nationalists will take power one day, this is inevitable. But thelater that day will come, the more civilized they will have become”.
For those who dream of seeing United Russiadisappear, the only credible solution would probably be the  appearance of a non destabilizing opposition forthe country, an opposition that would be competent and mostly Made in Russia”, but by no mean an opposition resurging from the past and being financed from abroad. 
But can such an opposition emerge only a few weeks away from the presidential elections?Russian politics are decidedly more exciting than ever.



About the demonstrations in Russia

Year 2011 is ending. So does the month of December, the month of political demonstrations. Reminder: after the elections of December 4, 2012, which led to a decline of United Russia and to asharp rise of the nationalist and leftist parties, electoral frauds were reported. These frauds would allegedly have allowed the party in power (having the necessary administrative resources to do so) to inflate its score and to distort the final results. Yet, nearly two weeks after the election, whileinvestigations are underway following the complaints lodged,the number of identified frauds in the country includingMoscow does not seem to have significantly affected the poll, whose results are consistent with the numerous polls andestimates realised before and after the voting [1].

Let’s go back to the demonstrations: On December 10, 2011, a large opposition unitary meetingtook place in Moscow, bringing together 30,000 to 40,000 people. I have already described[2] the relative political incoherence of this demonstration which brought together side by side members of the Muscovite gilded youth, radical nationalists, anti-fascists, liberals and communists. 
The simple fact to   wish the retirement of Vladimir Putin is not a political program per se, and as far as the organisation of new elections is concerned, one wonders how this relates to the dozens of sub-political factions not even being candidates to national representation

December 17, the liberal opposition party Iabloko gathered some 1,500 supporters, while the same day a thousand of supporters of the Eurasian movement and of the Union of Russian citizens (ПрофсоюзГражданРоссии)gathered to denounce the Orangemanipulations[3] and to remind the need of a strong state. The next day,December 18, nearly 3,500 members of the Communist party got together.

December 10, during the big opposition demonstration, a leader of the liberal opposition, Mikhail Kasyanov, had asserted that »If we are now 100,000, this could be 1 million tomorrow». Mikhail Kasyanov called for a political spring in Russia, a speech eerily similar to the one of the excessiveRepublican John McCain some weeks ago. But so far, no human tide has swept throughthe countryin cities, whichsaddened many Western commentators who hadalreadyforeshadowed the Armageddon in Russia. What blanketed the country on December 24, day of the unitary demonstration, was just a heavy snow.

In the end, December 24th has only been a success for Moscow city. In the provinces and in other Russian cities, the mobilization has weakened compared with the rallies of December 10th. In Vladivostok, the demonstration brought together 150 people, against 450 on December 10. In Novosibirsk, 800 people marched, compared to 3000 on December 10. In Chelyabinsk in in the Ural, the demonstrators were less than 500 in comparison with 1000 on December 10, and in Yekaterinburg 800 people demonstrated while 1.000 did on December 10. In Ufa, 200 people gathered, as many as on the 10th of December.

In the end, 500 people marched in Krasnoyarsk and 700 on December 10. Note that in St. Petersburg, one of the hearts of demonstrations as well as a liberal bastion ofRussia, about 3,000 to 4,000 people got together, compared to nearly 10.000 on December 10 (Source: Ria Novosti[4] and Ridus.ru[5]).

In the capital on December 24, three different meetingswere held. 2000 nationalists from the Liberal Democratic Nationalist Party of Vladimir Zhirinovsky and 3,000 supporters of the political analyst Sergei Kourganian have demonstrated separately in order to respond to the orange plague”. In the end, and above all, 40,000 to 50,000 people gathered to what was probably the biggest opposition rally of the

year on Sakharov Avenue.  Thisdemonstration took place without any serious incidentsexcept when, at the end, some right-wingradicals tried to get on the podium by force[6], eventtrough ultra-nationalist leader Vladimir Tor has spoken a few minutes earlier.

Besides, one can wonder why the numerous Western journalists present at the venue, did not notice that thousands of young radical nationalists whistled or shouted Russophobic” toward some speakers of different faiths and chanted slogans such as The ethnicRussians forward, or “Give a voice to ethnic Russians. The least[7] we can say is this is a surprising double standard.


In the country and especially in Moscow, the rallies of December 24 have turned into a total political cacophony. The meetings have
again gathered all the most unlikely political groups, radical nationalists
together with fascist, liberals, Stalinists, activists or gays and lesbians and a few stars of the Russian show business. Surprisingly, the billionaire Prokhorov and the former Finance Minister Aleksei Kudrin (yet close to Vladimir Putin) were also present at the Moscow  demonstration. Aleksei Kudrin spoke, adding to the cacophony and triggering a record of booing in the public. For the first time a very well known opposition Deputy has underlined this ssystemic disunity of the socalled opposition by leaving the demonstration before he even spoke.Same story regarding the political analyst Vitaly Ivanov, for whom the opposition to Vladimir Putin is a nebulous backstairs gossip. 


The next big day of demonstration is supposed to take place in February, i.e. one month before the presidential election on March 4,  2012. However, it is difficult to imagine how Putin would not be reelected, first of all given the economic situation of the country. The GDP growth should reach almost 4.5% in 2011 and probably as much in 2012. The unemployment rate fell to 6.3%, the country’s debt is lower than 10% of the GDP and the exchange reserves are of about 500 billion dollars. Inflation is dropping and estimated this year of 6.5% i.e. its lowest level in 20 years.Russia is now the 10th world biggest economy in nominal GDP and the 6th global economy purchasing power ratio wise.According to analyzes of the British research center (CBER), Russia should be the 4th world economy around 2020.

It is therefore very difficult to imagine how the person held directly responsible for this major economic recovery by the majority of the Russian citizens, could not be reelected. Of course the wave of discontent could be reflected in the presidential election scores of March 2012. Putin may neither be elected in the first round with 71% of the votes, as he was in 2004, nor with 72% of the votes, like Dmitry Medvedev in 2008 while Russiawas in a total economic euphoria. The score will probably be closer to the one of March 2000 (Vladimir Putin had won with 52% of the votes) or there may even be a second round. If this is the case, Putin would probably face the candidate of the Communist Party,  Gennady Zyuganov. A tough choice for the Westerners, but that would perfectly reflect the electoral trend initiated by the last general elections in Russia where the left wing parties increased their electoral weight.



[1] http://darussophile.com/2011/12/08/duma-elections-opinion-polls/
[2] http://www.alexandrelatsa.ru/2011/12/reflexion-sur-la-revolution-des-neiges.html
[3] http://www.alexandrelatsa.ru/2011/12/blog-post_17.html
[4] http://fr.rian.ru/society/20111210/192372258.html
[5] http://www.ridus.ru/news/16354/
[6] http://www.ria.ru/society/20111224/525227545.html
[7] http://russia.ru/video/rep_12835/