First Impressions of Russia’s Upcoming Presidential Election

Despite the near certainty of Vladimir Putin’s reelection in the Russian presidential election next month, the campaign is nevertheless competitive with an array of choices, notes Gilbert Doctorow in this first of three articles on the election.

By Gilbert Doctorow

On Monday, February 18, one month before election day, Russia’s presidential campaign moved into high gear. On that day, the Central Election Commission allocated to the candidates several hours each of free publicity on the five federal television channels, on major radio networks and free space in print media with national circulation.

March 18 Russian presidential election logo

This comes on top of daily news coverage of each and every candidate’s activities in the field and invitations to appear on leading television talk shows and interviews which are dispensed by media producers at their option. And it is rounded out by advertising paid for by the electoral headquarters of the eight candidates.

The net result is that domestic politics are jostling with Olympics coverage and international news for the attention of the broad Russian public, and will continue to do so until the Day of Silence, 17 March, when the campaigns shut down in anticipation of the balloting the next day.

In the West, election news from Russia carried by mainstream media has centered on Alexei Navalny. Prior to his disqualification as a candidate by the Central Election Commission in December, he was characterized as posing the only real threat to Vladimir Putin’s hold on power through his popular exposes of official and corporate corruption disseminated virally on social media and YouTube. All others in the race were put down as Kremlin controlled and tolerated only to give sham elections an appearance of authenticity.

When his candidacy was rejected due to an earlier criminal conviction, Navalny issued a call to boycott the election. He launched unsanctioned street demonstrations in Moscow and elsewhere, leading to scuffles with the police. Some of his supporters and Navalny himself were arrested and later released. But the protests were all on a small scale and Western media quickly lost interest.

Meet the Candidates

Now attention has refocused to the 36-year-old celebrity candidate Ksenia Sobchak, Russia’s own Paris Hilton, a television personality who brought glamor, youth and a novel “vote against all” or “none of the above” slogan in support of her candidacy. It bears mentioning that Sobchak would be the first female candidate for the Russian presidency since 2004.  In December 2017, she was quickly slotted into the race by winning support from the pro-Liberal “Civic Initiative” party, giving her a nationwide organizational presence and reduced requirements for gathering signatures of supporters to be registered.

In her first speeches on the campaign trail, Sobchak called out the abuses and inefficiency of the Russian bureaucracy. But her main fire was directed against the very stability of the Putin regime with its immutable elite and opposition leaders who have moved from middle age to pension age before her eyes and seem intent on remaining in office to the very end.

To this she added a number of foreign policy positions drawn from the liberal opposition that were sure to win her the attention and support of the West even if they ran against the clear preferences of the vast majority of the population as spelled out in the polls: namely her condemnation of the reunification with Crimea as a violation of international law and her insistence that there was no threat to Russia from NATO expansion.

Indeed, while her fellow candidates were traveling around their vast country to meet with voters, earlier this month Ksenia Sobchak made a trip to the United States, where among other activities, she was feted at the Center for International Strategic Studies in Washington, D.C. Her talk was piquantly entitled “Russia’s Post-Authoritarian Future.”

In the current international context, Sobchak’s foreign policy positions and her cultivation of political support in the U.S. are seen as borderline treasonous behavior that falls into the tradition of the liberal opposition leaders in the Parnas political movement, Boris Nemtsov and Mikhail Kasyanov. In 2011, Nemtsov famously traveled to Arizona to see U.S. Senator John McCain and lend his support to American sanctions against Russia over alleged human rights abuses. Put inversely, Sobchak’s American hosts receiving her in the midst of the presidential elections were necessarily guilty of egregious meddling in Russian domestic affairs.

The first poll results in January gave Sobchak about 1% of the electorate and little has changed since. However, in the same time frame there was great dynamism in the popular support for the candidate of the Communist Party, Pavel Grudinin, trending well over 10% and putting him in second place after Vladimir Putin, who enjoys the support of 70% likely voters. Despite their habitual disregard of the Communists, Western journalists took an interest. The fact that Grudinin was not a Communist Party member made his personality all the more intriguing.

An election ballot listing the presidential candidates

Surprisingly friendly articles about Grudinin began appearing in The Financial Times among other mainstream outlets. They highlighted the fact that he had made his mark as director of a prosperous farm complex in the Moscow region where he paid his workers more than double the national average salary and offered pre-school care, subsidized housing, free medical care and other social benefits from the Soviet era which he pledged to generalize across the country if elected. Grudinin was speaking the language of European social democracy, if you will, making a very agreeable contrast with the orthodox Communist ideology of the Party standard bearer in the previous four presidential elections going back to 1996, Gennadi Zyuganov.

With a likable demeanor, quiet self-confidence and enjoying the support of the country’s largest full-scale national political machine after the United Russia ruling party backing Putin, Grudinin very quickly found himself in the crosshairs of the Kremlin elites.

The main news broadcasters Pervy Kanal and Rossiya-1 initiated regular coverage of a protest movement against Grudinin over allegations impugning his management of the Lenin State Farm that is his model for the future development of Russia:  it was said that he had wrongfully cheated more than half of the farm’s cooperative members-employees out of their shares during the 1990s and that the wealth of the farm came not from selling strawberries and other produce but from windfall profits in the disposal of some of its land holdings to developers. A second line of attack is that Grudinin had not declared a couple of bank accounts he held abroad.

From polls taken in mid-February, it would appear that this constant barrage of negative news halted the trending in Grudinin’s favor and possibly dented his numbers. Nonetheless, with 7% of voters polled declaring their intention to vote for the Communist Party candidate, he remains second to Putin and just ahead of the anti-Communist, nationalist party of Vladimir Zhirinovsky (LDPR).

Nonetheless, the ruling party is clearly not taking any chances and will be unrelenting in its attacks. The Sunday, February 18 edition of the widely viewed News of the Week program on Rossiya-1 dwelled for about 10 minutes on the Communists. Presenter Dmitry Kiselyov used questionable poll figures on voting intentions of Party members to argue that the decision to back the non-Party Grudinin opened the Communists to an internal division, with less than half its members prepared to vote for him. Kiselyov predicted the party’s demise and called upon its leader Gennady Zyuganov to reverse his decision and withdraw his support, this is the name of solicitude for Russia’s still new and fragile democracy.

This particular report by Kiselyov seems to have little if any factual basis. The notion that Grudinin’s candidacy splits the Left runs counter to the process that led to his selection in the first place. That process bears mention here since it seems not to have been picked up by Western media.

In fact, many of the Left political movements, entailing more than a hundred organizations led by the Left Front and the Communist Party, collectively held primaries in which Grudinin won in a second-stage run-off. It was on this basis of his being a unity candidate of the Left that Gennady Zyuganov put Grudinin’s name forward within his own party and then assumed the position of his campaign manager.

In the face of the various attacks from the Russian state news programs and in personal interviews on air from ill-disposed hosts, Grudinin has shown himself to be cool-headed and genial. In his 37-minute long January interview with Vladimir Solovyov on Rossiya-1, Grudinin managed to withstand harsh questioning and to get out his political program and beliefs, even forcing the presenter to acknowledge some common perspectives on the country’s ills and to smile at some of his repartee.

Foreign Policy Continuity

Grudinin calls for continuity in the country’s foreign policy, to the point where he says he would keep in office Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. Instead, the changes he seeks are in domestic policy. To ensure the social benefits mentioned above, he would introduce a progressive income tax, freeing the poor from tax but imposing a substantial levy on the wealthy. Moreover, he would require repatriation of oligarchs’ wealth from abroad and ensure there would be no further private export of capital offshore. Finally, he would channel all profits from the country’s oil and gas industry into the state coffers, while acting strictly through the law and independent courts. Heady stuff!

Coming in third in the mid-February polls with 5% electoral support, Vladimir Zhirinovsky is the candidate who has been receiving the most television air time now for months as a nearly daily guest on both principal talk shows produced by Rossiya-1, Sixty Minutes and Evening with Vladimir Soloviev. On these shows he is allowed by the indulgent presenters to dominate discussion, delivering a stream of outrageous comments on Russia’s past, on relations with the United States and more that have great entertainment value even if they are far removed from day to day politics.

Thus, even in the “debate” between Zhirinovsky and Grudinin which the popular talk show Sixty Minutes hosted a couple of weeks ago, and which has gathered more than 4 million “hits” on youtube, the LDPR leader was allowed to hog the microphone and Grudinin was doubly under pressure from the few questions pitched to him by the moderator.

Apart from his insistence on taking a strong stand against American provocations in Syria, in Ukraine, in its sanctions list, Zhirinovsky’s platform focuses on domestic concerns like all other candidates. He decries unemployment levels, low living standards, unaffordable housing, for-pay medical care and education.

However, while calling for social welfare that is not dissimilar to the Communist Party’s program, Zhirinovsky denounces the Soviet past for running a dysfunctional economy and for misguided internationalism at the expense of the welfare of the Russian people. Says Zhirinovsky, the United States uses its foreign policy to bring in wealth, while the Soviet Union, and to a lesser degree Russia today only loses wealth on foreign adventures.

Zhirinovsky’s main target in his campaign is not the ruling United Russia party but the Communists. In his television appearances he is a pit bull against Grudinin.  For his support to Putin in the last Duma elections, Zhirinovsky’s party was rewarded with the chairmanship of the Duma’s Foreign Affairs Committee.  One may assume that if his run against Grudinin works, Zhirinovsky and/or his party will get additional political spoils, perhaps at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs itself.

For Youth and Daring

The opening of the Russian airwaves to promotional video clips, both free and paid for by the candidates, added an important new dimension by which their objectives and electoral prospects can be measured.  Since no one in Russia or in the West seems to have made use of these new metrics, I will take the plunge in what follows.

First, the latest television spots for Ksenia Sobchak are head and shoulders above all other Russian electoral advertising. Both in terms of concept and in terms of execution, they bear the fingerprints of top international corporate public relations talent. Sobchak has been re-packaged and her entire message is concentrated in two words that are positive, attractive and impactful:  “?? ????????? ? ????????” – “for youth and daring.”  This contrasts with her previously negative appeal of “none of the above” and matches the flair of Vladimir Putin’s own campaign slogan “a strong President for a strong country.”

Sobchak’s coiffure, her dress, her entire image has been reconfigured to combine seriousness of purpose with womanly as opposed to girlish appeal. If she can stay to script on the campaign trail, the new Sobchak may be expected to multiply several fold the votes she draws on election day. This assumes she is not undone by alternative videos posted on YouTube by her enemies, contrasting the new idol of the creative classes in Moscow with her recent past as a narcissistic reality TV star. In any case, Sobchak’s results will not threaten Vladimir Putin, but may set in place a credible foundation for further development of her political career in coming years.

Second in sophistication to Sobchak are the latest videos posted by the Yabloko candidate Grigory Yavlinsky. The perpetual candidate of this liberal party born in the 1990s that has enjoyed support among urban intellectuals in the two capitals, Moscow and St. Petersburg, Yavlinsky has waged a low-key campaign and raised assorted issues like animal welfare in his talks on the campaign trail.

One new video clip repeats insistently the theme that Russians as a people have been inventive and at the cutting edge of technology for at least a couple of centuries but have been let down by their state and political culture. Meanwhile his latest video can easily be confused for a message from the Central Election Commission urging the population not to stay at home, not to watch the political process with folded arms but to go and vote on election day. Only in the last couple of seconds is the candidate himself identified.  The clear purpose of this advert is to discredit Alexei Navalny and his call for a boycott.

Yavlinsky knows his chances of winning the presidency based on his fraction of a percent of popular support are nil, and this video suggests he has decided to use his opportunity as a candidate with air time to discredit the non-systemic and authoritarian Navalny. This is a variant of Zhirinovsky’s attacks on Grudinin: candidates devouring one another while leaving the enormously popular Putin untouched.

Apart from Sobchak and Yavlinsky, the remaining challengers to Putin and United Russia have posted promotional videos which are primitive in both concept and execution, none more so that the videos of LDPR candidate Vladimir Zhirinovsky. In contrast to the relaxed and confidential tone of Sobchak and Yavlinsky, Zhirinovsky is intense and aggressive. He denounces poverty, unemployment and social injustice while making empty, unsupported promises of a bright future if he is elected. It is a safe bet that Zhirinovsky took no counsel from PR professionals and relied solely on his own instincts.

The Communist Party videos on behalf of Pavel Grudinin are also lacking in sophistication and emotional appeal. They do the candidate no favors. It is hard to say whether Grudinin’s greater air time on talk shows and the like due to his leads in polls against the rest of the non-Putin field and his own relaxed and attractive personality can compensate for the official media attacks and the disservice of mediocre advertising support from the Communist Party. Notwithstanding these deficiencies, it is entirely possible that Grudinin’s ballot count on March 18 will be substantially higher than the polls now suggest. Not enough to force a run-off against Putin, but sufficient to revise expectations in the Party’s favor during the next Duma elections.

Those in the West who have viewed the Russian presidential election of 2018 with disdain because of the near certainty that Vladimir Putin will win are missing the point.  In the candidacies of Sobchak and Grudinin, in particular, we see the jostling for power in the next legislative elections of 2021 between what are new generation Right and Left forces directed against the centrist ruling United Russia Party. All of this will greatly affect the post-Putin succession process which will set in by 2022 given the “lame duck” phenomenon as the President’s men make their own moves to secure their future without him.

Gilbert Doctorow, an independent political analyst based in Brussels, is serving as an international observer to the March 18 presidential election in Russia. His latest book, Does the United States Have a Future? was published on 12 October 2017. Both paperback and e-book versions are available for purchase on and all affiliated Amazon websites worldwide.


67 comments for “First Impressions of Russia’s Upcoming Presidential Election

  1. mike k
    February 24, 2018 at 5:11 pm

    And I thought US politics was boring. Turns out the Russian version of “democracy” is not that different. I’m just glad Putin manages to get elected. But that is mostly in the slim hope that he will find some way to stop the Mad Dogs of the US Oligarchy from destroying the world. Other than that, I don’t see Russia delivering a truly revolutionary model of true human government. I love Russia, but I know that they are screwed up in their own way as all the nations and governments on Earth today are also. We have a long way to go, and not enough time to get there……….

    • geeyp
      February 24, 2018 at 5:23 pm

      “Those in the west…are missing the point”. So accurate, just like Nicki Hoeky is missing the point of what is happening in Ghouta, Syria and Aleppo prior. The west needs to learn from G. Doctorow.

    • Joe Tedesky
      February 24, 2018 at 6:12 pm

      You are so right mike, without Putin I would be on the edge of my seat. I mean mike to what if the Russian people should put their warmongers in charge? Then it’s uh-oh time.

      • Joe Tedesky
        February 24, 2018 at 6:22 pm
      • Realist
        February 25, 2018 at 4:23 pm

        Joe, the remarks made by Mike and yourself basically echo what the Saker has been saying in his analysis of this election, and Russian politics in general. He says, and we all realise, that Putin is essential to the future of the country, he has been holding it together against forces both foreign and domestic for 18 years now. But, under the Russian constitution, and since no one is immortal, six years from now the Russian people will have to find someone else who is, hopefully, as competent or things could go south once again, especially with the full court press Washington puts on that country.

        By Saker’s analysis, Russia is essentially suffering from the same problem we do: they have a thin bench of replacements. Maybe it’s for the same reason we suffer that problem here: perhaps their equivalent of our Deep State allows only a small cadre of reliable tools to emerge as potential wielders of the power. Without Putin on the ballot, it seems to me a strong possibility that the election would be strangely similar to the face off between Clinton and Trump: both were loathed and it was guaranteed that the nation as a whole would be highly dissatisfied no matter who won and ugly power struggles would ensue.

        If all this is really true, it seems to me that one of Putin’s highest priorities when he is sworn in for his last hurrah in politics, should be to cultivate a competent and popular successor. Not just anoint someone the crown prince, which would only exacerbate the problem, but manipulate conditions and events such that a strong leader whom Putin entrusts meaningful power can emerge. I know, such “manipulation” would never be countenanced in the West because we saintly people would never do such a thing. We allow our leaders to spontaneously emerge only through the will of god.

        I may not know enough about the power structure in Moscow beyond the “good old boys” who have been entrenched since the breakup of the CCCP, like Zhirinovsky, Zyuganov and Medvedev, but I have always been impressed when Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova speaks. Maybe seeing her run the country is as farfetched as imaging any of our lightweight White House press secretaries doing so. I’d be interested to know if Russian experts like Dr. Doctorow, Prof. Cohen or the Saker find her “papabile,” or just whom they envision Putin deliberately transitioning to in his waning years of power.

        That person’s greatest challenge will, of course, be avoiding world war with the Exceptionalist Empire without ceding every shred of national sovereignty to it. A good bedside manner with the psychotics in NATO is also essential. For example, how to convince them that selling them essentials such as gas and oil is not done to enslave them under the Russian yoke, no matter how their Uncle Sam spins reality. Russia will have to dig deep to find a leader as nimble as Putin has been, a Paris Hilton celebrity facsimile will not serve the interests of Russia or the world. Sounds like Sobchak largely wants to suck up to Wall Street, Madison Avenue and Hollywood. Can she simultaneously stroke Netanyahoo and Erdogan, while protecting the interests of allies like Syria and Iran against the barbarous designs of the Saudis? Can she quell the roiling separatism in places like Chechnya and Dhagastan, is she even aware of the issues or the players there? Celebrities have great name recognition, but take this lesson from Washington: most don’t have the chops to do the job. That said, she might be Langley’s dream come true.

        • Joe Tedesky
          February 25, 2018 at 4:53 pm

          You know Realist when appraising the inventory of our own nations leadership I often come to the conclusion that we Americans must have run out of capable candidates of who are under the age of 70 years old. To me this seems awful strange, and not long lasting. Could it be we Americans are stuck in the 70’s, or what? I don’t really know, but I do know this, that the old goats running are either scaring people away from joining in on our political evolution, or these oldie but goodie politicians may serve as inspiration.

          My wife and most family members love Bernie Sanders, and when I take notice of his age I can’t help but think to how limited Bernie’s service could possibly be to if he were sitting in the White House. So I comfort my wife and Bernie loving family with reminding them of how many youth came out for the old bugger, and of how inspirational Sanders will be remembered for, as the future approaches us all. Well this doesn’t comfort not a one of the restless souls in my family, but I see Bernie as a fountain of inspiration anyhow …am I wrong?

          So Realist will this inspiration carry over to the Russians? I think as time goes by Putin will become even more profound of an inspiration to Russians with his patient, and sensible, style that Russians will be like my family waiting for the return of their Bernie whom I predict won’t be Bernie but maybe a Bernie inspired politician, as this condition may prove to work for the Russians when Putin is gone.

          In the end Realist the key to our planets survival will depend on our world leaders bring more like Vladimir Putin, and less against world leaders being a bunch of George W Bush’s. Joe

          • Dave P.
            February 25, 2018 at 11:43 pm


            There is some hope. There are some still old leaders around in U.K and in the West., which are of the old school, believe in diplomacy. I posted the link above, RT interview of Lord Owen, the former famous Labor Party Leader, British Foreign Secretary in Labor Government in U.K. during 1970’s.

            There was this retired Australian diplomat Tony Kevin on RT “Worlds Apart” with Oksana Boyko couple of weeks ago. He wrote the book “Return to Moscow” -1917. He painted a positive picture in his book and Oksana in her own way was questioning him on it citing the negatives in her native land. One thing struck me when he said: I visited in 1990 and it was a beaten, broken, destroyed country; everything, including its people. I came back in 2015, it was completely different, there is confidence back in Russia, in its people. It is a good interview.

            And today there were three news articles about Russia in Los Angeles Times – all negative. One on the Front page on a Russia in decline, its population and everything else; with young people completely against the government of Czar Putin who remains in Power by not let Alexander Navalany run. Navalany is painted some kind hero for young who will save Russia.

            The second article on International page about Cold Night Moscow Vigil of Putin Critic’s Murder., showing the Kremlin Wall where Nemstov was shot and killed. And the third article in Sports Section covering Winter Olympics is about Russian athletes doping. Information War against Russia is intensifying.

            There was this Russia-Germany Hockey Final – in Winter Olympics in S. Korea – Game last night on TV, and I think that the articles were put in the L.A. Times today to counter the effect in case of Russian Victory. And the Russians won and Russian Players and Russians in the Arena defiantly sung the Russian Anthem while the Olympic Anthem Music was playing. Even my wife was moved though she believes everything what is told about Russia by Rachel Maddow and the likes, on her favorite TV Networks.

          • Joe Tedesky
            February 26, 2018 at 2:03 am

            Well Dave where there is hope there is life, and yes the glass is always half full if you can make your disadvantage work to your advantage…like never fight the Roman Army straight on, well that’s advice, but I would add to go all commando in the bushes insurgency on their Roman columned asses, and hit & run them to death, but never go straight on. Just ask Boudica, if you doubt me.

            What Realist and I may have overlooked was the there are those in the field, meaning our government, who are motivated by conscience to do the right thing, but you never, or hardly ever hear about them…they are no news, and they are especially not on board with the DC Mind-think. Shunted ain’t the word for this treatment of these Washington do-gooders.

            My hope is, and it is fading fast, is the progressives (there’s another word for ya to add to your WTF list) can capture the DNC out from the Hillary/Podesta/Schulz Wall St grip, then possibly if these new owners of the Democratic Party were smart, they would then angle the party towards to what the ‘we the people’ want most done, and then relate these new party member voters onto the Democratic Platform…but, while you wait for that I will go blow air into the tires of my pickup truck, and I will bet I actually finish first. I maybe on oxygen life support, but Dave you’ll be still out there in the field waiting for the cows to come home?

            There ya go, now I just knocked the glass over, and I’m more disappointed than you. But Dave I agree there are good things going on, but why in America did we have to go to RT to hear from Lord Owen? America is more English than Russian, and oh BTW is Larry King a Commie? That little comment on the end there wasn’t to be taken seriously, but that’s what we have become because I’m afraid there are Americans now noticing that Larry King is on RT only confirms to them to how they were right all along that ‘that King fellow’ was a Red.

            The good news could be that thea Empire is getting ready to explode, just hope we don’t all explode with it.

            Dave your wife and my wife should watch tv together, and you and I could sit in the kitchen and save the word. But it’s always a pleasure to find people who can talk about this stuff without someone questioning your patriotism….I get that a lot, but it’s just good that’s all that we here at consortiumnews seem to have the ability to keep it intelligent and social…kind a. Joe

        • Joe Tedesky
          February 25, 2018 at 5:39 pm

          Hey Realist get a load of this; the DNC defense attorneys are arguing that Wasserman Schultz & Co. are protected under the First Amendment when it came to sabotaging the Sanders campaign…unreal, who’d a believed it.

          Talk about Russian elections, well we Americans got a lot of work to do with ours.

          • Dave P.
            February 26, 2018 at 3:31 am


            I happened to watch this interview on Worlds Apart. Oksana Boyko interviewing Foyodor Lukyanov, Editor of “Russia in Global Affairs Journal”. If they start putting some of these interviews on PBS. At least it gives the people an opportunity to know and understand the other Country’s viewpoint. It is only if they will ever do it, which is highly unlikely.

            The link is:


        • Gregory Herr
          February 25, 2018 at 8:33 pm

          The challenges you outline Realist are daunting. Plus avoiding what looks to be imminent military aggression by Israel in Lebanon will be key to the world getting to 2024 in one piece. Uncle Sam doesn’t appear to have the current leadership needed to handle that dark horse and Iran won’t fiddle and fret waiting for the other shoe to drop–the U.S. stubbornly refuses to back off in Syria and Ukraine as well, so we have at least 3 powderkegs on short fuse and that’s not including the potential for blunder with Korea/China.

          If Putin can get Russia to 2024 with fairly favorable economic conditions and prospects, the transition may bode well. The U.S. could also be looking at an important transition in 2024. It’s interesting to think of the possibilities.

          • Gregory Herr
            February 25, 2018 at 11:03 pm

            What can be done in the face of such lunacy?

            Human civilization on this wondrous planet of ours has (or had) the potential to develop in much more fortuitous directions for all peoples across the globe…were we only willing to seek cooperation and common endeavors and interests rather than succumb to the stupid counterproductivity of greed and warring destructiveness. What a terrible waste…what a terrible shame.

          • Joe Tedesky
            February 25, 2018 at 11:19 pm

            Gregory actually what I’m going to do is to continue talking to people such as yourself, and then hunker down for the rest. On second thought if everything goes Nuclear, I just may decide to stand in the middle of my yard, and wait for my evaporation…ugh, double ugh, but what choices by that time will I have left?

            I hear you Gregory, and we the people need desperately to get into the street, but I’m not so sure that will even work considering how we now have militarized police. Our American Empire is dissolving right in front of our very eyes, and with the way our system operates I’m afraid you and I Gregory don’t count. Sorry Ole pal I let you down, but with what I just wrote here I’m at odds to think of something more gratifying to tell you, but I can’t.

            Keep the faith though, because there are plenty of avenues still to go down, and although you can’t see them or never hear about them, I am sure there are at least a couple like us who may advise their leaderships that this time WWIII will leave no one the victor. Joe

          • Gregory Herr
            February 26, 2018 at 12:07 am

            I know Joe. I arrived home from relatives to see your link to Zuesse and read that fine piece which essentially reiterated with more detail what I had been reading elsewhere. I had a real hard time formulating a response. I ended up in the same place as you…despairing of something positive to say. You don’t let me down brother–you’re one of the good ones. It’s the people who don’t care to share or look past their own noses that make it harder than it needs to be for the rest of us. I’ll get up in the morning and lace up my boots like I always do and keep plugging away until…? Que sera, sera. (I loved Doris Day as a little kid)

          • Dave P.
            February 26, 2018 at 3:55 am

            Gregory Herr –

            “Human civilization on this wondrous planet of ours has (or had) the potential to develop in much more fortuitous directions for all peoples across the globe…were we only willing to seek cooperation and common endeavors and interests rather than succumb to the stupid counterproductivity of greed and warring destructiveness. What a terrible waste…what a terrible shame.”

            Your heartfelt comments are much appreciated. These thoughts are always with me. How can the World restrain leaders like Netanyahu and other World Leaders like him? Do they ever think about this beautiful planet.

        • me under the circumstances
          March 1, 2018 at 3:57 pm

          What a great comment, realist!

    • jo6pac
      February 24, 2018 at 6:37 pm

      Yes the Russian looks boring but a lest they only last a few months unlike ours in the New Amerika were they seem to never stop;-)

      I do hope the winner is V. Putin who along with the Chinese president are the only sane adults on the world stage.

      Thanks GD for the info.

      • john wilson
        February 25, 2018 at 6:21 am

        If you like short elections, jo6pac, come to England, our elections only last six weeks!! Anyhow, six weeks, six months or six years, we still get saddled with a bunch of rsoles!

        • Antonia
          February 26, 2018 at 11:28 am

          It does not matter what colour they are!

      • backwardsevolution
        February 25, 2018 at 8:06 pm

        Joe Tedesky – President Xi of China may be staying in power longer, if China’s Constitution can be changed.

        “The Communist Party has proposed revising the nation’s Constitution to end a two-term limit, which would allow Xi Jinping to remain president, … But the announcement appears to be the strongest signal yet that Mr. Xi, 64, intends to hold onto power longer than any Chinese leader in at least a generation.”

        The Chinese elite have been raping the country blind: money laundering, offshore tax havens, shell corporations. It’s questionable whether President Xi wants to stay in power for the good of the country, or whether it’s for the good of the “elite”. If an “outsider” got into power in China, if the corruption came to light, well, all hell would break loose.

        • Joe Tedesky
          February 25, 2018 at 10:09 pm

          I almost missed seeing your comment Backwardsevolution.

          I saw that Xi Jinping has had the Chinese Constitution changed whereas he may serve more than two terms. It’s like FDR in reverse. In fact Xi could possibly be China’s FDR, or new Mao. Although I get a bit leery of gentrified leadership, I also am a believer to if it ain’t broke then why try fix it.

          Boy, could you imagine we the people of the United States of America loving our leader that much that we wouldn’t ever wish to see them leave office. Why, Trump & Obama both were demonized even before they both took the oath. Maybe America needs a Xi or a Putin, I just don’t know. Well good luck to the Chinese, and let’s hope for their sake they don’t have a Representative Adam Schiff or a Special Prosecutor Bob Mueller. Joe

          • PurpleDreams
            February 26, 2018 at 10:09 am

            “Although I get a bit leery of gentrified leadership, I also am a believer to if it ain’t broke then why try fix it.”

            That is my view as well. I think it’s important that there be mechanisms to hold leaders to account and regular elections but I see no reason why someone can’t serve for a long time if they prove their worth. I do not think change for the sake of change is something we should be aiming for

  2. Lois Gagnon
    February 24, 2018 at 5:13 pm

    Thanks for providing a detailed analysis of the candidates and process of Russia’s election. We certainly can’t count on the pretenders in the western corporate media to provide us with an unbiased look at anything Russian.

    It appears there is far more democracy in Russia than the in the US. Perhaps that is what gets under the skin of western oligarchs. Nothing they hate more than ordinary people having a say in how they are governed.

  3. February 24, 2018 at 6:06 pm

    Great stuff. I bet the New York and the Washington print it verbatim. Seriously, much appreciated. the writer offers a great service which I hope more people will take advantage of. Aside from those who don’t want to know the truth, I am sure there are also many who welcome it. Always look forward to reading what he has to say.

    • Sam F
      February 25, 2018 at 9:22 am

      Yes, thanks to Gilbert Doctorow and CN for this very valuable look at the political situation in Russia.

  4. Joe Tedesky
    February 24, 2018 at 6:09 pm
    • backwardsevolution
      February 25, 2018 at 8:19 pm

      Joe Tedesky – that was one funny commercial! Thanks for posting that, Joe.

      • Joe Tedesky
        February 25, 2018 at 9:11 pm

        It was well worth if it made you smile, you deserve it backwardsevolution. Joe

        • backwardsevolution
          February 25, 2018 at 10:59 pm

          Joe Tedesky – thanks, Joe. I do like to laugh. I mean, you can pretty much find humor in anything if you look hard enough, can’t you? Just finished watching “My Cousin Vinny”, so I’ve had my fill of laughing today. It feels good.

          • Joe Tedesky
            February 25, 2018 at 11:24 pm

            My brother in law who just retired from his law firm thinks ‘Cousin Vinny’ is a must see movie for law students. I just found it funny, but my attorney brother in law thinks Vinny is classic law execution. Glad your enjoying your day. Joe

          • backwardsevolution
            February 26, 2018 at 1:20 am

            Joe Tedesky – I agree with your brother-in-law. It’s a good guide to opening statements, voir dire, declaring your own witness as a hostile witness, expert testimony, entering exhibits, disclosure, etc. Maybe knowing the difference makes it funnier; I don’t know.

    • Seamus Padraig
      February 27, 2018 at 5:31 pm

      That was hilarious, Joe! Thanks for posting that commercial. I missed it somehow.

  5. February 24, 2018 at 6:32 pm

    Thanks for a comprehensive analysis of the Russian electoral process. I’ve been watching Putin’s press conferences(made available on OffGuardian’s website) and I’m particularly impressed by the amount of time he gives to domestic policy. Without knowing the specifics it is obvious that he grasps the importance of following-up on regional problems. His grasp of multiple issues should be the envy of any chief executive in the West, particularly here in the U.S. Having just listened to a Trump press conference yesterday(w/ Australian P.M. Turnbull) the response to the questioning illustrates a pathetic contrast.

    • Virginia
      February 25, 2018 at 11:24 am

      BobH, I agree with you. I have watched some of Putin’s speeches and news conferences. Every American should compare his State of Russia addresses with our State of the Union addresses. Putin takes an interest in each area of their gross national product there, and speaks directly to each department head, praising each one for what has been done right and spelling out where there can and must be improvements. In one such address, as I recall, Putin said something about the importance of manufacturing QUALITY products; also, how it would be incumbent upon manufacturers/producers to return 30% of their profits to Russia (taxes, I presume), and so on. There was no standing and applauding after every few sentences, but a very serious meeting where issues of national importance were addressed with much serious input from the president. We in the U.S. should be so lucky! By comparison, our State of the Union addresses seem more like hype.

    • Dave P.
      February 25, 2018 at 4:58 pm

      BobH, Virginia –

      There was this very good interview of Lord Owen on Youtube – RT. It is quite instructive.

      • Virginia
        February 25, 2018 at 8:24 pm

        Dave P, BobH, Watched the video you suggested (very good), and the one following it showed what a great sense of humor the Russians have. You may want to watch the first four VERY FUNNY minutes of it:

        • February 25, 2018 at 11:27 pm

          Dave P… the Lord Owen interview was very worthwhile watching… it shows that the British are not so in lockstep with Russophobia as their American cousins, despite the parroting in their msm. Virginia,…the follow-up i found quite humorous and it does illustrate the earthy Russian sense of humor.

      • backwardsevolution
        February 25, 2018 at 8:26 pm

        Dave P. – good interview, Dave. Thanks for posting it.

  6. David G
    February 24, 2018 at 7:13 pm

    Really informative and interesting piece (nothing “boring” about it to me at all). Many thanks to Gilbert Doctorow and CN.

    I have a lot of respect for Putin, but I’m pretty sure Grudinin would get my vote. Good luck to him! And he’s only 57 years old: there may well be other elections for him.

    Beyond the personalities:
    National election campaigns that last a couple of months rather than a couple of years?
    All the candidates get free national TV time?
    A day of silence before the vote?

    Primitives! I pity them.

  7. Delia Ruhe
    February 24, 2018 at 8:21 pm

    “… Central Election Commission allocated to the candidates several hours each of free publicity on the five federal television channels, on major radio networks and free space in print media with national circulation.”

    State financed publicity dispensed on an equal basis to all candidates? How odd! Take note, America. During your election campaigns, which can last as long as two years so that candidates have lots of time to smooze and dial for dollars, every minute of TV and radio time, every inch of newspaper ad space is generously supported by your private sector and the bazillionaires who fill up the war chests of the candidates, who agree to parrot whatever ideology/policy/point-of-view those generous patrons are paying for.

    Don’t make the mistake of thinking that I’m talking exclusively about Republicans, for the Dems are no more sensitive to the demands of democracy than is the GOP. They’ve abandoned those voters who can’t attend candidates’ five, ten, fifty thousand dollar-a-plate dinners; they hang with Wall Street and Silicon Valley now. As suggested by their relative silence on the issue, Dems are okay with the GOP disenfranchisement campaign sweeping the red states: poor and black voters aren’t much use to Dems anyway, so those useless folks might just as well be denied registration for lack of state-approved documents or purged from the voters lists as having names too close to those of felons.

    So the next time some Neanderthal challenges you to defend your critique of American democracy, include the above in your response.

    • Joe Tedesky
      February 25, 2018 at 10:20 pm

      Leave it to the Russians to make an election all about voting for the candidate of the voters choice. Why every American knows that the truest way to the heart of our democracy is to gift the MSM at election time with an abundance of campaign dollars, and nothing more. The Russians have not learned that elections are meant to be windfalls for our beloved MSM. (Forgive my sarcasm) Joe

  8. jose
    February 24, 2018 at 8:43 pm

    According to Dov Levin, a postdoctoral fellow at the Institute for Politics and Strategy at Carnegie-Mellon University, “The U.S. attempted to influence the elections of foreign countries as many as 81 times between 1946 and 2000…Even after the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, the U.S. continued its interventions abroad, including elections in Israel, former Czechoslovakia, and even Russia in 1996”. If Putin reads history, he has to make preparations for a possible US meddling in Russia’s election. It’s common sense. Personally, I would.

    • Virginia
      February 25, 2018 at 11:30 am

      Jose, I saw that same study (or a similar one), and it also compared the U.S.’s 81 times of interfering to 31 or so times Russia interfered. Okay if we do it; not okay if they do it! apparently. It seems to me the U.S. doesn’t even try to hide its meddling but does it as a matter of course. It says, “We’re not being bossy; you (country) just need a lot of help!”

      • Jose
        February 26, 2018 at 1:51 pm

        Virginia: these war hawks get away with their worldwide meddling with the assistance of subservient US media. The media are so controlled that they could make the naive and misinformed believe anything. When US was intervining in 1990’s in the Russian election, the media were silent and obidient according to US interest. Virginia, I have been following the Russia gate since day one: Thus far, I am yet to see incontrovertible evidence of Russia meddling in US elections.

  9. robjira
    February 24, 2018 at 8:51 pm

    This is an excellent report on Russian electoral politics. It seems Russian elections are actually more democratic than the US equivalent; whoulda thunk?
    Grudinin’s main contrast to the Putin administration’s domestic policy is the speed with which reforms are implemented (and the distribution of associated kickbacks); Putin seems to have been taking a measured, incremental approach, whereas it sounds like Grudinin would apply more direct pressure.
    It’s extremely significant that there is virtually no difference on foreign policy positions; more proof that everyone still rational recognizes that US foreign policy is flying off the rails.

    • Joe Tedesky
      February 25, 2018 at 10:21 pm

      Or it’s because Russians eat organic food. Joe

  10. February 25, 2018 at 7:26 am

    The Russian Oligarchs would love to have a Western-backed Huckleberry like Sobchuk, Navalny or Grudinin instead dof Putin. Satire-Syria would go to Israel, Russia would be balkanized, Tillerson would be Sec. of the Interior, IMF- World Bank and Golman Sucs would do a hostile takeover of GenBank, Sberbank and the rest of the ” Peoples banks while Mad Dog Mattis would be allowed to invade No. Korea from the Russian borders. Niet Spasibo– I’ll be very happy with the only man in Russia that belongs in the Commander and Chief position – Vladimir Putin ! I’m betting that Crimea will have a 95% vote for Putin. Spasibo Consortium

    • February 25, 2018 at 11:24 am

      It is noteworthy that when I floated my cursor over Crimean’s name and clicked, the response(presumably from Google) was “this website can not be reached”. I wonder if such censorship presages the future of any website that is critical of MSM?

      • Virginia
        February 25, 2018 at 11:46 am

        BobH — I think censorship is a part of the big picture that the American populace isn’t getting. They are mesmerized with fear over Russia and Trump. Many Americans are up in arms against those of us who have a different view on Russiagate. They berate us for reading “fake news;” tell us we should be more careful what we read; and would, I believe, readily shut down independent news sources. They seem to have lost sight of the importance of freedom for all to be able to choose what we read and draw our own conclusions. Americans gave up many rights with no fuss after 9/11 with the Patriot Act. We’re faced with “Fear in the hands of Tyrants.” There should have been more of an outcry then and also lately when Congress required RT to register as a foreign agent. (Other country-owned media do not have to register.) And you’re right, BobH; we all should be wary of Google.

        • dave
          February 25, 2018 at 4:00 pm

          Calm down everybody. There’s no “censorship” in this case.

          The url the link points to is “http://na/”. The “website cannot be reached” message comes from your browser because “na” isn’t a valid internet domain name.

          • February 25, 2018 at 4:09 pm

            I’m guessing “Crimean” entered “na” (i.e. “not applicable”) in the comment form “website” field which CN’s comment system links to your username. (Mine should be linked to “foo”.)

            Take off the tin foil hats!

          • February 25, 2018 at 7:29 pm

            Okay Dave we’re obviously not software experts…but thanks for the info.

      • February 27, 2018 at 9:21 am

        Of course, I am censored as much as the Establishment in Haifa wants. Sometimes I get thru and sometimes – Not. You don’t really think they want an American living where I do – to tell the Pravda – Do You ? Spacibo Consortium

    • Constantine
      February 26, 2018 at 7:51 pm

      Grudinin is not ”western-backed”. Get serious. In fact, none of the rational contenders for the presidency has the ludicrous views on foreign policy that the pseudo-liberal clown parade expresses all the time.

  11. clint moose
    February 25, 2018 at 9:12 am

    The comments section make me sad. The same people who are smart enough to see America, its corporations, and American MSM for they really are, can’t apply even a tenth of the effort to a much simpler case when they look at another country.

    • Lisa
      February 25, 2018 at 8:03 pm

      Clint, I understand your criticism. However, it is very challenging to acquire enough knowledge about foreign countries, especially Russia, due to the language barrier, in order to really see what the country is like. No simple case. Most people must rely on articles by Russia experts like G. Doctorow or prof. Stephen Cohen to form a valid opinion. And what a complicated, vast, diverse world Russia is, historically, ethnically, geographically! More than USA, I would say. Therefore, to govern it and keep it together is a strenuous job, not for amateurs.

      It is self-evident that there is much room for criticism about Russia. After spending a greater part of several years in that world, I’ve seen both the positive and the negative sides. But that is a long story. Just one remark: the country is now very, very different from the old Soviet Union, but the haters seem to be stuck in the concept of “Commies” from the 50’s.

      I have just watched the documentary “The Vietnam War”, shown on Swedish TV recently. One striking observation: All the war-time presidents were movingly unanimous in their conviction that the fierce anti-war campaigns in US were actually directed from Hanoi, Moscow and Beijing. Remind you of anything in the current political scene?

  12. Theo
    February 25, 2018 at 9:37 am

    Thanks Mr. Doctorow and CN for the insight of the Russian election and profiles of the candidates.As above mentioned we should be glad that no nutty warmonger is at the helm.Putin stabilized the country in many ways and brought Russia back on the world stage.The Russians love him for that.

    • jose
      February 25, 2018 at 11:22 am

      Every point in your post is right on the mark. If Mr. Putin were a warmonger, we could have been on the brink of a nuclear war. He has shown both restrain and common sense. I hope that other leaders follow his lead. Well done Theo.

  13. Michael Kenny
    February 25, 2018 at 11:24 am

    The poll giving Grudinin “well over 10%” has not yet appeared in Wikipedia. Perhaps Mr Doctorow would be good enough to make it avaliable to them so that we can all read it in full. The author’s main point, though, is a good one; floating in the background to Putin’s more or less certain re-election are the first blossoms of the post-Putin era. The revisionist attempt to exhume the Soviet Union has failed and Russia is returning to its natural place as a major European power. Putin has revealed himself to be politically inept, lurching from one flat-footed blunder to the next and damaging Russia every time. First, he reversed his earlier alliance with the EU against the US and allied with the US against the EU, someone (a US neocon, no doubt!) having filled his little policeman’s head with dreams of “Eurasian” imperial glory. When his dream of legally carving up Ukraine blew up in his (and Nuland’s!) face, he tried to grab his “reward” by force, thereby bogging himself down and bringing sanctions down on his head. To get out that mess, he trieed to elbow his way into the “war on terror” as a US ally, hoping, to judge from what his American supporters were writing at the time, to claim his reward in Ukraine. When that didn’t work, he waded into the Syrian civil war and is now irreversibly bogged down there too, making himself more or less a sitting duck to a US re-launch of the war. Unable to win, he sought to get out of that mess by manipulating the US election so as to put into the White House a president who would capitulate to him. Having once again made matters worse, he is now openly interfering in the Italian election in favour of the Lega Nord. Maybe he’s saying to his American backers: “look, I’m doing what I promised to do. I’m helping you to destroy the EU. Please give me my promised reward in Ukraine” [or whatever else was promised!]. It’s hard to imagine any of that mess surviving Putin and it may well be gone long before 2024.

  14. February 25, 2018 at 11:26 pm

    I have read that Sergei Shoigu, Russia’s Minister of Defense, is close to Putin and probably will run as his successor. From what I also read, Shoigu is responsible for Russia’s defense policy and strategic support in Syria from the beginning.

    As backward evolution says, Xi will continue as China’s president, undoubtedly because of China’s economic, technological and industrial progress with his leadership, parallel to Russia’s progress with Putin as leader. It’s the US domination that set the tone for the competition, anyway, and it so happens that US (mis)leaders have stupidly helped the US empire to its not so distant demise as world leader.

  15. geeyp
    February 26, 2018 at 12:53 am

    Good to read today on that Vladimir Posner, in the middle of a TV interview, decided to just move on to do other things with his time and not finish it. He just couldn’t spend his time in a one sided ideologue discussion on the merits or not, of President Putin getting reelected. This particular program episode dealt with the American propaganda.

    • PurpleDreams
      February 26, 2018 at 10:03 am

      There is no point in arguing with people who are set I their opinions and won’t change them out of principle.

  16. PurpleDreams
    February 26, 2018 at 9:40 am

    Very interesting and informative article.

  17. Vojkan
    February 27, 2018 at 2:37 am

    Ksenia Sobchak, famous for being famous. Imagine a Kardashian candidate for the US presidency. In a sense, the US has managed to scr*w up Russia, and many other countries for that matter, by making them do things unimaginable in the US just to be perceived as meeting US “standards” of democracy.

  18. robin
    February 28, 2018 at 1:08 pm

    It is not “couple of bank accounts ” abroad, but 4 off shore accounts . That ” cool-headed and genial ” crook registered ” his (?) prosperous Lenin farm complex off shore also.
    Grudinin’s son has Latvian citizenship , an anti-Russia and NATO country. He has built several houses there on money stolen during 90s . Don’t you see here a conflict of interests ?
    Why haven’t you mentioned that Mr. Doctorow ? Watch his son’s real estate in Latvia 50:00

  19. me under the circumstances
    March 1, 2018 at 3:50 pm

    How the USA can dare to “disdain” any election in any country when its own farcical clownshow of greed would not be allowed in any other “Western” country as it does not allow any possibility of a genuine candidate, chosen and supported by the majority of the population, to have any chance without abundant financial and lobbying aid from would-be stakeholders.

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