Staunton, May 7 – Russia does not have an opposition in the usual sense because those who are against the Putin regime do not have any hope of defeating it directly and taking power, Leonid Gozman says. Instead, what is called the Russian opposition and especially its émigré branch has a different task and must be evaluated differently.
All too many commentators devote too much time to suggesting that the opposition and its émigré contingent are engaged in the same fight that oppositions in normal democratic countries are, the opposition political says. And as a result, they worry about the wrong things and fail to see what matters (novayagazeta.eu/articles/2023/05/07/raskol-kotorogo-ne-bylo).
The Russians abroad today like their predecessors a century ago do not see themselves as exiles but as people on a mission – and that mission is a common one: to do what they can to overthrow the regime in Moscow and to explain the situation there to Western governments and publics.
They are not divided on these issues, even if they disagree on smaller ones; and despite what some of them may hope for, they aren’t going to be the leaders of Russia when and if free elections are finally held there, Gozman argues. Instead, new leaders will emerge from those who have remained in Russia.
But the émigré Russians have important tasks nonetheless. They are called upon to testify to the world that not all Russians are Putinists and to explain to Western governments in particular that Ukraine must win quickly with massive Western help lest the regime in Moscow become even more dangerous to its own people and the world.
No one can do that job better than the emigres; and that job is properly understood as being about lobbying Western leaders. There will be competition for that limited resource, Gozman says; but there is one important thing to remember: the more unified the emigres can be, the more likely they will be listened to.
Given what is at stake, concerns about unity in that regard are important; but concerns about political unity in the usual sense are not.