The co-founder of the Free Russia Forum shared his impressions of his participation in the round table of the Russian opposition in Belgium
It is, to say the least, pointless to speculate on how Russian society will react to the stance of this or that politician speaking in Brussels. In fact, it is harmful because it prevents us from concentrating on the most important things. Many of the speakers repeated like a mantra: nothing will happen here until Ukraine wins. Oleksii Arestovich said very clearly: the necessary condition is the military defeat of Putinism. Not just a victory for Ukraine, but a military defeat, because only then will a window of opportunity open for the democratization of Russia.
But it is very important to understand that those who were present in the hall today do not represent the entire anti-Putin opposition. There are also those who are at war today – in the Belgorod region. Yes, I said in my speech that much of what their leaders say, it is not that we do not like – categorically unacceptable. But there are different people fighting there. For example, Ildar Dadin is quite a democratic person. And it’s very important to understand: at this stage it’s very important for us to win the war. I even said that Churchill allied himself with Stalin, and that we don’t need to make such a sacrifice. A very important point was made by Arestovich: it is the appearance of such formations that creates in the West the idea that the war is not with Russia, but with Putin’s Russia, which is very important.
A small Russian army has appeared. A different one. And even though it still looks weak compared to Putin’s armadas, but nevertheless, the seed has been planted. In my speech I said that on June 18, 1940, when the unknown (he was still a colonel then, not a general) Charles de Gaulle addressed the French nation, there was nothing behind it but Churchill’s belief that an alternative must be created. Today, there are people gathered in Brussels whose representativeness collectively far exceeds De Gaulle’s in June ’40. But there is no collective Churchill in the West.
It seems to me that now we should concentrate on the following: how to help Ukraine win. And, without getting too far ahead of ourselves, remember that one of the themes of the conference is The Day After. But the next day Russia will lie in ruins. This is quite obvious, because the Ministry of Defense, in fact, a bandwagon, is at war with another bandwagon. They’re figuring things out, and the signs of statehood in Russia are literally disappearing before our eyes. It’s absolutely clear: those who talk about some kind of democratic procedures for the next day are living in some kind of parallel reality. There will be a difficult process of restoring the institutions that were destroyed under Putin. And it may take two or three years, we are not sure how long. But it is important that Europe understands what can be done. And here I insist that European sanctions are the most important tool for cutting off the war criminals, those who should not be included in any format in the new negotiating process, because this is the only way to guarantee that the pro-democratic forces will be able to get the mandate they need to carry out these painful reforms. It doesn’t matter whether or not a democratic society supports them: alas, we will not operate in a climate of electoral democracy. This is to some extent a forced measure – an admission of military defeat, of reparations. And we will have to give some alternative to Russian citizens, which they will accept as the only way to save the country. By the way, I would go further here: not Euro-integration, but Euro-Atlantic integration is the only way to save Russia from Chinese takeover in the long term. At least those territories of Russia that China has had its eye on for a very long time and, unfortunately, unlike the situation with Russia and the Crimea, has enormous historical grounds to say that vast areas of Russia from Vladivostok to Baikal were Chinese.
It seems to me that an understanding is beginning to form in Europe – that it is necessary to create an alternative. These half-hearted steps: “Let’s try to appeal to Russian society!” etc. – all this does not work in conditions of war, because, as Maria Snegovaya said today, a lot of people take the position that Putin is wrong, that the war is criminal, but we cannot allow Russia to lose. That is, it is very important to realize today that until Ukraine wins or begins to win, we have no chance to reach out to our fellow citizens.
You can watch and listen to Garry Kasparov’s inclusion in full on The Day After Round Table in Brussels, as well as the discussion of the most relevant topics with Igor Yakovenko, on the Free Russia Forum channel: