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Russia Direct Report: Hawks versus Doves
Russia Direct Report: "Hawks versus Doves: Russia’s Political Drama Heading into 2018"
By Yuri Korgunyuk
Russia Direct Brief #32, October 2016
CONTENTS 1. Elections without surprises. 2. Defeat of the liberal opposition. 3. Interview with Andrei Kolesnikov: Who will dominate in the Kremlin before the 2018 elections? 4. Interview with Mikhail Zygar: Understanding Russian politics, without the conspiracy theories.
Russian Duma elections recently wrapped up in September, and those results have led to increased speculation about what’s next for Russia’s political future. Next up, are the 2018 presidential elections. As Russia prepares for these elections, it’s worth taking a closer look at the many of the themes and ideas that are likely to persist between now and 2018. For example, it’s clear that the current party of power – United Russia – is looking for a new identity that will resonate with voters. Moreover, the Kremlin is looking for the right mix of liberals and conservatives to push forward important domestic and foreign policy initiatives.
As part of the new Russia Direct report, we also interviewed Andrei Kolesnikov of the Carnegie Moscow Center, who is among the foremost authorities on Russian domestic politics. As he points out, many of the recent moves in the current political arena – such as the replacement of key Kremlin insiders and the co-opting of slogans and ideas from the opposition – can be viewed as attempts to maintain top-down control over Russian society while providing the semblance of transparency, efficiency and order.
Finally, Mikhail Zygar, author of “ All the Kremlin’s Men, ” explains how policymaking at the highest reaches of the Russian government actually works. While Western political observers typically assume that much of Russian foreign policy is the calculated strategy of one man – Vladimir Putin – the reality is often much different. There are many competing clans and many competing ideas, meaning that many moves are simply reactive rather than proactive.
Ultimately, that may be the greatest mistake that Western analysts make in analyzing Russian politics. They will mistake the constant tweaks, changes and adjustments made by the Kremlin between now and 2018 as the clear signs of a deliberate, methodical plan rather than tactical responses to emerging problems.
The author of the report is Yuri Korgunyuk, head of the Political Science Department at the Moscow-based Information Science for Democracy (INDEM) Foundation.