IX Forum of Free Russia – focusing on Belarus and the USA

Russia: Belarus faces “unprecedented external pressure” – Putin

Experts believe that after January 20, the position of the United States and the European Union will coincide on many international issues.

On November 20, the IX Forum of Free Russia began its work – the largest discussion platform for Russian oppositionists living both in the country and abroad. Due to the second wave of coronavirus, the Forum is being held online. By the way, the IX FSR was originally planned for the spring of this year, but was postponed due to the unfavorable epidemiological situation..

FSR co-founder Garry Kasparov in his video message from Croatia noted: “I hope that the unusual format of our Forum will not affect the quality of the discussion.”.

In a short commentary for the Russian service of the Voice of America, the executive secretary and one of the co-founders of the FSR Ivan Tyutrin noted that the Forum’s unusual format still partially influenced the atmosphere of the event: “Of course, when it was held in Vilnius, its participants had the opportunity to get to know each other friend, participate in discussions. A lot is discussed on the sidelines of the Forum, and from this point of view, the correspondence format differs from what happened before.

And from the point of view of content, in my opinion, the differences are not so significant. The panels of the first day showed that the level of discussions is very high, and in a sense, the online format allows for better moderation of some points. Of course, this format is a little unusual for us, but we rate the Forum positively ”.

Ivan Tyutrin also said that the FSR organizing committee received more than a thousand applications, and as a result, 71 regions of Russia and 32 countries of the world are represented at the Forum..

Before the opening, the head of the Lithuanian NGO Russian European Movement Daniil Konstantinov recalled that November 20 is the anniversary of the murder of Galina Starovoitova, after which he announced a minute of silence. At this time, the screen showed photographs of Galina Starovoitova from different years. Konstantinov also noted that this murder was not fully investigated, like a number of other political murders in recent years. “As long as this regime operates in Russia, these crimes will never be investigated,” he stated..

“When you are dealing with a tough regime, nonviolent methods do not produce the desired results.”

The panel discussion “The Right to Rebellion: Prospects for Nonviolent Revolutions” was moderated by Ivan Tyutrin, who said that the other day in the Czech Republic and Slovakia celebrated the 31st anniversary of the “Velvet Revolution”. By the way, at the turn of the 80s and 90s, the conviction arose that a large number of protesters could change the regime in the country in a peaceful way. And the events of 1989 were cited as an example, when the communist regimes in the European part of the so-called “Soviet bloc” were consistently collapsing. However, events in Venezuela and Belarus cast doubt on this thesis..

Sociologist and publicist Igor Eidman reminded in this regard that the communist regimes were supported by “Soviet bayonets.” And when it became clear that the Soviet Union would not suppress popular uprisings, these regimes collapsed. In present-day Russia and Belarus, according to the sociologist, the situation is different – “it is impossible to overthrow such dictatorships as Putin’s regime or Lukashenka’s one by peaceful means in our time”. Eidman also cited the example of a “strategy of increasing resistance”: when every repressive action by the authorities leads to more decisive protests. Now in Belarus, he believes, there is no growing confrontation, and the regime is recapturing its positions “step by step”.

Political Analyst and Doctor of Historical Sciences Elena Galkina noted: “In Russia, processes similar to the color revolutions took place at the turn of 2011-2012. And these processes are not over yet “.

She also recalled that in the 17th century, the English philosopher and educator John Locke formulated the right of citizens to revolt as an extreme measure of protection from tyranny. The President of the United States, Abraham Lincoln, spoke about this, and in 1948 the right to revolt was enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights..

Speaking about some of the conditions necessary for the successful implementation of a popular uprising, Galkina attributed to such a figure of a leader capable of mobilizing a large number of the population for protest actions. In her opinion, the Ukrainian Euromaidan has become successful thanks to an extensive regional network. And now, according to Galkina, in Ukraine, the majority of the population considers it possible to change the regime as a result of elections, and not through mass street protests..

Political strategist and political philosopher Andrey Okara, returning to the events in Belarus, he said: “Here we can talk about a complete reformatting of the state and about a new social contract – not with representatives of the authorities, but within civil society”.

He assessed the current Belarusian parliament as even more “not a place for discussion” than the Russian State Duma.

In general, according to Okara, an experiment is being carried out in Belarus, whether the opposition can come to power as a result of a peaceful non-violent protest.

An online exhibition “Belarusian Art of Protest” was held within the framework of the IX FSR cultural program. In addition, a special discussion panel on the second day of the Forum will be devoted to events in this country. It will be called “Lessons of Belarusian Resistance for the Russian Opposition” and will be attended by politicians and experts from both countries..

And the moderator of the current panel, when asked by the correspondent of the Russian Service of the Voice of America to express his opinion on the effectiveness of nonviolent protest in countries with authoritarian and totalitarian regimes, replied: “It turns out to be a rather strange situation when many Russian oppositionists are very fond of giving advice to protesters in other countries. Although, when we ourselves had chances during the years of Putinism, we did not take advantage of them. We were unable to approach the situation that we now see in Belarus. In this regard, I myself, firstly, very carefully comment on the Belarusian events, and secondly, I refrain from giving advice to both Belarusian and Ukrainian acquaintances and comrades. Because, being a Russian and a citizen of an aggressor country, it is rather strange to give advice.

The current discussion has shown that if we remove the emotional component, and carry out calculations and analyze the experience of other countries, it seems to me that, unfortunately, in a situation when you are dealing with a rigidly authoritarian regime, purely non-violent methods do not lead to the desired results. If the siloviki are consolidated, if the elites do not disintegrate, and as a result of pressure there are no conspiracies against the dictator, there are actually not many mechanisms for bringing the revolution to its logical end. Especially when the existing regime is ready to go all the way, “Ivan Tyutrin emphasized..

“The interests of Russia and the Russian authorities are often opposed to each other.”

The Kremlin’s actions in the post-Soviet space, in particular – in Belarus and Ukraine – were also discussed during the panel session “The Kremlin’s Foreign Policy Strategy in Modern Conditions”.

Ilya Ponomarev, deputy of the State Duma of the Russian Federation of the 5th and 6th convocations, began by saying that, in his opinion, Putin’s main task is to keep himself in power and ensure his own security. It was to the fulfillment of these tasks that both the attack on Ukraine in 2014 and the current position on Belarus were subordinated. And also full of contradictions relations with the West, where Vladimir Putin needs to save the money and real estate of his environment. Ponomarev considers the Nord Stream 2 project to be political, and adds that its main task is to strengthen the geopolitical position of Germany, which is the main lobbyist for Putin’s economic interests in the West. “If we correctly understand the logic of Putin’s behavior, we will be able to correctly predict his further actions and react to them correctly,” Ilya Ponomarev emphasized..

Ukrainian political scientist and journalist Taras Berezovets considers the Russian president to be a brilliant tactician, but a mediocre strategist, which also affects his foreign policy – he can plan actions for 2-3 years. And now his first task is to use the pandemic to disrupt the actions of the West. And it succeeds in terms of restraining the actions of the United States and the European Union in the post-Soviet space. In addition, according to Taras Berezovets, Putin will seek the lifting of Western sanctions. “But I am sure that under Biden, Nord Stream 2 will be buried completely without any hope of renewal,” he said..

The President-elect of the United States was also mentioned by a visiting fellow at the Annenberg School of Communications at the University of Southern California Vasily Gatov. According to him, when the Biden government is formed, the restoration of relations between the United States and partners in Europe will begin. “I think after January 20, the White House‘s rhetoric will be tougher and more definite. At the same time, the role of foreign policy analysts in the American special services, which have been unemployed for four years, will sharply increase. But practical action should not be expected earlier than six months later. Perhaps, Biden’s position on Belarus will be more in solidarity with the position of Europe. At the same time, Biden is more inclined towards the prolongation of START-3, which is in Moscow’s interests, “he added..

The expert also drew attention to the difference between the interests of Russia proper and the interests of the authorities. According to Gatov, Russia needs money from the West in exchange for oil, gas, weapons, freedom of movement around the world, and, last of all, a guarantee of security in the southern and western directions of Russian policy..

As for Vladimir Putin, he sees everywhere the problem of respect – disrespect, constantly deals with issues of historical memory and does not hide his fear of the elements of “soft power” on the part of the West. The interests of the national economy and diplomacy are of the last importance to him..

Doctor of Political Science Cecile Vessier is considered one of the best French specialists in modern Russia. She, in particular, is the author of the well-known books “For your and our freedom! Dissident Movement in Russia ”and“ Kremlin Networks in France ”. Unlike many political experts who predict that a “transit of power” will begin in Russia next year, Cecile Vessier believes that Putin wants to remain president, and members of his inner circle want the same. Putin’s power guarantees them the opportunity to travel to the West themselves, and that their families can live there.

At the same time as the Russian economy is at an impasse, Putin wants to influence the events in the world. And one of the elements of such influence, according to Wessier, is to harm other countries. So, recently Russia has been stepping up its presence in the French-speaking countries of Africa, and France is feeling this. Putin has shown many times that he does not believe that former Soviet countries can make their own geopolitical choices and be independent from Russia. He uses cases when the West is inactive, as in the example of the recent armed conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan. In fact, according to Cecile Vessier, the European Union does not really want the former Soviet republics to ask to join the EU. But Vladimir Putin constantly talks about the threat that the West is trying to push Russia to the periphery of world politics..

Vilnius and Warsaw as the main irritants of Moscow.

In a conversation with the correspondent of the Russian service “Voice of America” Taras Berezovets noted that the military and economic potential of Russia exceeds the capabilities of all other post-Soviet countries combined. In this regard, it is difficult for them to stand alone against Moscow’s expansionist aspirations. “But there is a NATO bloc that is capable of resisting,” he continued. And he mentioned that in this regard, two countries stand out, which, according to him, are not afraid to criticize the Kremlin and confirm their words with deeds..

“Firstly, this is Lithuania, among whose political elite there is a consensus on issues related to Russia. Presidents are changing there, but the consistent and principled position remains unchanged. Even in the post-war years, the Lithuanian partisans – “Forest Brothers” – offered the most fierce armed resistance to its NKVD units. So their rejection of Russian imperialism is a historical legacy for all Lithuanians. Of course, they are well aware of where their country is and where Russia is. But they also understand that today they are “under the umbrella of NATO,” and in the event of some force majeure circumstances, they can count on the provision of real military support from Western countries – primarily the United States and Great Britain, ”said the Ukrainian political scientist.

The second such country, according to Taras Berezovets, is Poland. “She, of course, is much larger than Lithuania, but she, like Great Britain, adheres to the principle of compact professional armed forces. They are quite modest in comparison with Russia, and even in comparison with Ukraine..

Nevertheless, as we know, the Polish leadership took steps that seriously annoyed Putin. They tried to negotiate both the deployment of American bases redeployed from Germany and the deployment of an American missile defense system on their territory. Other countries in the region did not try to play with these topics, realizing that they might stumble upon serious economic problems that Vladimir Putin would create for them. In addition, attempts to destabilize the Kremlin’s internal political problems in these countries are possible, as was done in France with the movement of “yellow vests”, in which case the Russian propaganda machine “Russia Today” played a negative role in setting fire to the internal French situation..

As for Poland, the idea of ​​creating the Fort Trump base has not yet been implemented, but I am sure that US-Polish cooperation will continue to develop under President Biden, “Taras Berezovets concluded..

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