Andrius Kubilius. Putin Is Not The President

2024-03-18 | Russia

While listening to the news of the Lithuanian radio, I hear them reporting: “With presidential elections taking place in Russia today … etc.”

There are no presidential elections in Russia today and no President has been elected in Russia. Because there was no possibility of electing anyone or choosing from anyone. And that  hasn’t been possible for a long time.

The 17 March “presidential election” in Russia was exactly the same as the “parliamentary elections” on 25 February in Belarus, that were neither elections nor to a parliament.

We all know very well that Belarus has neither a real Parliament nor a real President. It has the usurper Lukashenko, it has the dictator Lukashenko, but not the President Lukashenko. Any dictionary of international terms can tell us that the only person who can be called President is someone who has been elected in accordance with the international electoral standards enshrined in the Constitution and who acts in accordance with the Constitution. Elections, the Constitution and Lukashenko have nothing to do with each other.

The same with Putin: neither elections nor the Constitution. Therefore, by continuing to call him President, we are deceiving ourselves and the international community. Just as we are fooling ourselves by continuing to say that there was a presidential election in Russia today. There were no elections in Russia, and they did not elect or choose any President. We can call Putin whatever we like: dictator, war criminal, Kremlin mafia boss, but not elected President.

Russia does not have a President, nor does it have elections. And it won’t have as long as Putin is around. And it is not elections that will bring down the Kremlin regime.

The only difference between the dictators of the 20th century and those of the 21st century, both in Russia and throughout the world, is this: in the 20th century, dictators did not need any elections; in the 21st century, dictators like to pretend that they are supported by their citizens.

In the 20th century, under the Soviet empire, Stalin did not need any elections to stay in power as long as he wanted. In the 21st century, in the era of the restoration of the Russian Empire, Putin, for some reason, wants to have the simulation of “elections” in addition to being in power for as long as he wants. “Potemkin elections”, as Politico called today’s “special operation”.

At the end of the operation, Putin will write down whatever victorious figures he wants: how many participated and how many voted for him. Those figures mean nothing, and it would be a mistake to analyse them in the same way as we analyse the figures for the same factors at the end of elections in Lithuania or the United States.

The only more significant result of the day is that the Russian opposition, with its “Noon without Putin” action, has managed to demonstrate to Western politicians that there is a sufficiently strong anti-Putin potential for public sentiment in Russia.

Changes in Russia will only come after the victory in Ukraine. And that is only – maybe – it will come. But for Ukraine to prevail, the West needs to stop being afraid of the collapse of the Putin regime and to stop being afraid of supporting Ukraine until its crushing victory. Today, such fears exist and they are  preventing Ukraine from receiving maximum support. For the West to stop being afraid, it needs to believe that a post-Putin Russia can be different. Today, the Russian opposition has tried to show this.

After today, the West must draw some simple conclusions:

  • Russia has a clear alternative: a Russia without elections or a Russia without Putin; as long as there is Putin, there will be no elections.
  • After today, Putin is neither elected nor President. All the other titles – dictator, war criminal, Kremlin mafia boss – fit him. Talking about Putin’s legitimacy is the same as talking about the legitimacy of a mafia boss.
  • Peace on the European continent is only possible when not only Russia is crushed in Ukraine, but also when Putin is no longer in the Kremlin. Therefore, the Western coalition “for Ukraine” must become an “anti-Putin” coalition, in the same way that the West was united by an “anti-Hitler” coalition during the Second World War. This is the only way to victory for Ukraine and to our security. The West is not yet united in such an “anti-Putin” coalition. And that is the biggest problem for Ukraine, for us and for the wider West.

Let’s try to act on it: that’s the main conclusion of the day. Let’s try to persuade the West to take on Putin seriously. Just as the West took on Hitler during World War II.