April 7, 2017 Special Dispatch No. 6862

Renowned Scholar Solovei On Medvedev's Future: 'The Struggle For [Russia's] Prime Minister Seat Has Intensified'

April 7, 2017
Russia | Special Dispatch No. 6862

Professor Valery Solovei, the well-known MGIMO academic and public intellectual, assesses that the struggle for the post of Russia's prime minister has intensified. The current PM, Dmitry Medvedev, has many powerful and influential enemies, and therefore Solovei does not dismiss the hypothesis that somebody from the 'competent authorities' knew about opposition leader Alexey Navalny's investigation into Medvedev's extensive property holdings and decided not to interfere.Below are excerpts from Solovei's interview with the Russian daily Moskovskij Komsomolets:[1]

Valery Solovei (Source:


'Dmitry Anatolievich Has Old Enemies, Very Powerful And Influential, Who Are Fighting Him To The Best Of Their Abilities'

Q: "Many people see Navalny's investigation as what is commonly referred to as 'a leak from above.' Do you have a different opinion?

Solovei: "This is a natural assumption that is bound to arise in the context of 'Byzantine' Russian politics. But, judging from the character of the [Navaly investigative] film, it was a long time in the making. It is the fruit of serious work. It is possible, though, that somebody from the 'competent authorities' knew about this work but did not interfere. Of course, it may be advantageous to somebody. It is widely thought that Medvedev's position has recently aggravated– even before the film came out. The struggle for the prime minister's seat has intensified: there are a few men in the top echelons of power who aspire to this position. In addition, Dmitry Anatolievich has long time adversaries, very powerful and influential [people], who are fighting him to the best of their abilities. But I emphasize that all the above does not yet mean that those people are the so-called 'ordering customers' of the investigation.

"Navalny follows his political logic. It is transparent – he wants to undermine the most high-profile members of the elite. This engenders: a) attention to you; b) if not panic, then at least confusion among the elite. It is always an advantage for the opposition, there is nothing sophisticated about it."

Q: "Are contenders for the prime minister's position planning to replace Medvedev right after the presidential election?

Solovei: In most cases, they are talking about resolving this issue even before the election.

Q: "To what extent will Navalny's investigation influence the prime minister's political future?"

Solovei: "It will influence it, but in a paradoxical fashion. It will let him consolidate his position. Because there is one rule in power: never back off, never justify yourself."

Q: "So, it turns out that Navalny is reinforcing Medvedev's position?"

Solovei: "Yes, and this is another argument against the assumption that somebody else ordered this investigation. So I think, I'm convinced even, that Navalny acted independently, following his own logic. And those who knew about it kept out of the way."


Medvedev with Putin on Lipno Island in Novgorod region, September 10, 2016. (Source:


Q: "What consequences can this have for Navalny himself? Today people actively discuss the question whether he will be put in jail or not."

Solovei: "That would be stupid on the part of the authorities. By doing that, they would acknowledge the truthfulness of the accusations and hints in the film. That's why they will never do it. As for Navalny's participation in the presidential election, this issue is, on the whole, settled. I can tell you that an unequivocal consensus existed on the issue in the corridors of power even before the film: not to allow Navalny's participation.. And the scandal caused by the investigation only serves to 'harden' this anti-Navalny pact."

Q: "And what are Navalny's goals in this case? Both short- and long-term?"

Solovei: "Navalny proceeds from the assumption that the fight against corruption can bring him political success. The experience of an entire series of countries, including the USSR attests to this; we may recall Yeltsin's exposé of the ranking party officials. But I think that the current situation in Russia is different. The anti-corruption campaign is capable of drawing some attention to the person leading it; it contributes to his recognition [factor], so to speak. But it does not automatically transform him into a serious political figure.

"Today, corruption in Russia is a norm of life. There is a mass belief that power – by virtue of it being power – is entitled to be corrupt. And it even has to be corrupt. In my opinion, the opposition should formulate a different message for the public that is not based on the fight against corruption but on something else. [It should focus] on some basic and easily perceptible societal interest. Navalny, however, prefers to pursue the anti-corruption strategy. I repeat: it makes sense, but politically it does not appear to all that effective."


[1], March 3, 2017.

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