Russia: Some Players

In a comment to a previous post, Nichevo asks some reasonable questions. So, I’m going to try to answer them, starting with a bit of a who’s who in Russian politics. I’m not going to list all the players who potentially could take over from Vladmir, but more on those that I think have an eye on greater power. Also, keep in mind that there is not much left of open opposition to Vladimir, as several of the remaining opposition politicians have had to flee Russia to save their lives. They can’t return home, probably ever, given that.

Let’s start with the darling of the Western left, Alexei Navalny, who in many respects is both the last significant opposition figure left alive and someone who philosophically has at least some degree of being pro-Western rather than a full member of the Slavophile group. He is Russian/Ukrainian and grew up spending summers in Ukraine with his grandmother. For all that he is anti-corruption and an advocate for more honest elections, he is also a Russian (ultra) nationalist and appears to be a staunch supporter of Russkiy Mir. He had urged courting Ukraine to rejoin Russia rather than invading. He also lets his group take point on controversial issues, such as gay marriage, without officially committing to it. For all that the various charges against him, and for which he is currently in prison, are trumped up, there are questions about how far he truly wants to push anti-corruption reforms. Our so-called elites look at the surface and see an anti-Putin which makes him a de facto ally. Others who are cynical like me see someone who may be the enemy of my enemy, but realizes that such does not automatically make them our friend. Navalny is not going to open Russia, institute democracy, and end war if he takes over. The best I see is some reform; and, I also think his nationalism and opposition to immigration will prove to be salt in the mouths of Western liberals expecting sugar.

There is one more opposition politician, though I’m not sure he has a chance in the great game at this time. That is Vladimir Kara-Murza, who is currently in prison for opposing the war (among other things), and was poisoned twice. He was the protege of Boris Nemtsov, the former Deputy Prime Minister of Russia who was assassinated in 2015. He is also connected to oligarch-in-exile Mikhail Borisovich Khodorkovsky (aka MBK). All of which give him some “reach” in Russia and if he survives prison he could continue to rise. Right now, I don’t see him having the name recognition or the operational structures that Navalny has in place even with MBK restarting Open Russia in exile. Pity, as in some ways I see him and MBK as the better choice.

On the pro-Vladimir (sorta) side, the name in the lights these days is that of Yevgeny Prigozhin, oligarch and best known for his ownership stake in the Wagner Group. A former convict, he is a leading example of how prison mores have become a chic thing for Russian leadership. He has called for Shoigu’s son to be raped (and there may be some claim that he has called for all in prison for opposing Vladimir to be raped as well), as those who are raped become social omegas and that applies outside of prison as well. Charming fellow. As I noted before, there is a subtle dance required in Russia, where one goes for the gold but dances the dance of being discrete and only taking power because it is thrust on you. The public is aware of, and discussing surprisingly openly, his glaring ambition and that he and Vladimir appear to have had a falling out. His star is burning brightly, and the question is will it continue to do so or burn out. Or be snuffed out, as those Vladimir views as traitorous tend to die not long after.

Next up, you have Dmitry Medvedev. Short version is that in public he is more extreme that Vladimir but is also well-trained enough not to buck his master. For that reason, he “replaced” Vladimir in an election segment until Vladimir could run again, and did exactly as he was told during that time. He has a position of power, knows where bodies are buried, and is dug in like an Alabama tick in many regards. That said, I don’t see him as a lead in succession, though he is likely to be a key player in parts of it.

Sergei Shoigu would be the next logical choice. However, between the military failures in the invasion and the ongoing war between him and Prigozhin, I’m not seeing him as a top contender despite being extremely politically adept. If something happens to take Prigozhin out of the picture, he may well be the compromise candidate the various Slavophile factions could accept.

Two other names to keep in mind: Sergei Lavrov and Sergei Sobyanin. Right now, they are considered long shots, but of the two I think Sobyanin is the one on which to keep an eye. His mayorship of Moscow, Vladimir’s strong support, and other factors say he could be the dark horse in this saga.

Could someone come up who is not currently known? Stranger things, such as Vladimir and Medvedev, came out of nowhere in Russian politics before. Much is going to depend on how Vladimir is succeeded. I honestly don’t see him stepping down in 2024, but running and winning again. If he dies in office of natural causes, I expect the election to be between Medvedev, Lavrov, and Sobyanin. If Vladimir dies of non-natural causes, I think it could come down to literal fighting between Prigozhin, Shoigu, and Medvedev.

Keep in mind that Ramzan Kadyrov, head of the Chechen Republic, could well play kingmaker. Right now, he still has (to the best of my knowledge) 1,000 troops quartered next to the Kremlin in support of Vladimir. Anyone on any side feeling frisky knows that they are there. Smart money has those with an eye to moving up establishing cordial if low-key relations with him.

As for the other name I mentioned, Aleksandr Nevzorov, he was/is an opposition leader and general pain in the ass to Vladimir. Journalist, politician, and for me a bit of a character; but, he’s a character who has survived assassination attempts and more. He is one of several politicians who had to flee Russia to save their lives because of their opposition to both Vladimir and the war. Given Russian society, they can never go home as they will be killed as they do so. Never mind the fact that he’s been found guilty of various crimes and sentenced to nine years in prison in absentia. I’ve found his videos to be interesting, both informationally and stylistically. His youtube channel is here, and this video (English captions) from Ukraine News is eerily prophetic. I hope he stays safe as I think Russia needs some of the wisdom he offers.

Hope to get to more of the questions tomorrow.

One thought on “Russia: Some Players”

Comments are closed.