Seminar notes on How the Kremlin thinks and what this means for Europe?

Anneli Jäätteenmäki organized a seminar on 3 February with fellow MEP Kristiina Ojuland of Estonia, to discuss how the Kremlin thinks and what this means for Europe.

The seminar included interesting testimony from five experts: former Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov, Mr Lev Gudkov, a well-known Russian sociologist and Director of the Levada Centre, Mrs Lilia Shevtsova, Chair of the Domestic Policy Program at Moscow Carnegie Center, Mr Sergey Mitrokhin, leader of Russia’s Yabloko Party, to and Mr Alexander Rahr, Russia and Eurasia Director at the German Council on Foreign Relation.

The seminar considered how Stalin’s leadership is viewed in Russia. The panel contemplated also the future of Russia, and whether its government is at risk of repeating history as it moves in an increasingly authoritarian direction.

Mr Gudkov gave a strong overview of how Russians perceive the past and how this has changed over time and under different governments. Ms. Shevtsova suggested that the current Russian government is carefully managing the rehabilitation of Stalin in Russian culture to achieve complacency among its citizens.

Mr Rahr presented an explanation of the Kremlin’s assertions of authority, explaining that the economic situation of the 1990s, and a strong ”big brother complex” in Russia, played as much of a role in Putin’s rise as the rehabilitation of Stalin.

Mr Kasyanov was critical about the current Russian government’s calls for a new modernization of Russia which could pave the way for more severe policies. He also claimed that Russia, under this government, is ”rolling towards catastrophe at full speed.”

Mr. Mitrokhin lamented the inability of opposition parties to participate in Russia’s political system, while Mr. Kasyanov called on the EU to push for free Russian elections.

Ms. Shevtsova further stipulated that the Russian government’s increasing political exclusionism could be dangerous for Russia’s non-EU neighbouring countries, and she called on the EU to be strong in its condemnation of all Russian aggression outside of its borders.

The event was sponsored by the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE).