You undoubtedly already know, being a very intelligent fellow, what I’m about to tell you. But you sure don’t act like it, so I feel the need to speak up for the record.
Garry, if you’re serious about working with “Other Russia” to end dictatorship in Russia, you’re a marked man. If you think the Kremlin is going to allow you to continue your public opposition after the presidential election cycle starts, you have a screw loose. The odds it will allow you to continue to operate even during the legislative cycle are extremely poor. You’ll either be jailed or killed if you keep marching while Putin’s successor is running (needless to say, if he stays in power, you’ll be in twice as much jeopardy); maybe you’ll be lucky and just warned off once, the way Gaidar was. So if you intend to carry on your patriotic work, you need to start thinking in terms of legacy, and immediately.
For what it’s worth, I’ve got three specific pieces of advice for you:
First, hire yourself a speechwriter. You have many virtues Garry, but you’re not a wordsmith. You don’t deliver speeches well, and you don’t come up with memorable content. Your words don’t strike nerves either in Russia or in the West. That’s got to change, quick. We guess that you’ve got too much involvement in writing what you say, and you need to cede control to sombody who can do it better. Up to now, Boris Berezovsky is outdoing you in this category, and that’s just sad. Russia is full of talented writers, and so is the West. Find one. You must adopt an ideology, a set of goals and a means to achieve one. Find them, fast. We suggest that there is only one methodology available to you, non-cooperation, सत्याग्रह, satyagraha. The Kremlin will never expect it of you, it will blow their minds.
Second, resign from every organization you’ve ever joined that’s not 100% Russian, and repudiate them. Otherwise, your memberships are going to be used against you by the Kremlin’s hatchet met when you’re gone to destroy your reputation when you can no longer fight back (in fact, it’s already started).
Third, don’t make Lenin’s and Yeltsin’s mistake: Find a successor right now, and tell the world about him (or her). And get that successor to find a successor. You don’t want to be succeeded by Edward Limonov any more than Lenin wanted Stalin or Yeltsin wanted Putin — not in their right minds, anyway.
The attacks on you have started already, of course. Recently, Dimitry Simes of the Nixon Center called you a man with a “strong propensity for theatrics and artificial confrontation.” In other words, he’s saying that all you are doing is grandstanding for attention. Maybe he’s right, and you have no intention of going all the way with your campaign, and will pull back before things get really dangerous. In that case, sorry for wasting your time. That’s a pretty sad commentary on modern Russia, since you are without question it’s leading dissident as a KGB spy consolidates his malignant rule. Does Simes really have that much contempt for his countrymen? If so, that’s really sad too. If it’s true, of course, it makes you one of Russia’s worst enemies. If it’s not, we trust you’re suitably offended by what Simes has written, and will call him to account for it.
Simes criticizes Western reporters for failing to make a bigger deal out of the fact that some members of your “Other Russia” coalition are extremists like Edward Limonov (apparently, Simes doesn’t think America should support free speech unless the speakers are pro-American, and Limonov hates America; that’s not a surprising view of the concept of free speech, given that he’s Russian). But we can’t remember the last time Mr. Simes got himself arrested by the KGB for protesting against anything in Russia. In fact, we can’t remember the last time he took any kind of risk for freedom and democracy in the world. Having been born and raised in Russia and being employed by Richard Nixon is hardly a good indicia that he will ever do so.
Simes obviously doesn’t know anything about revolution; if he did, he’d know that many of the people who led the American revolution were rogues, extremists and outcasts of “civilized” countries. Many were out-and-out criminals. He obviously doesn’t know Russian history either, or else he’d know that Franklin Roosevelt made friends with the world’s greatest maniac, Josef Stalin, in order to win World War II. Perhaps, being a sycophant of the disgraced Richard Nixon, Simes has forgotten that FDR ever existed — and forgotten too about Nixon’s conduct of the Vietnam war. Simes may very well be deeply jealous of your courage and prominence in Russian politics these days, as well as of the fact that you can get published in the Wall Street Journal and he can’t.
Therefore, it’s quite possible that he’s wrong about you — and we certainly hope you’ll prove he is. If you get locked up or killed doing your work, there’s one thing we can promise you right now: Dmitri Simes will wish he had never been born. Of course, if he’s right and you back down after sucking all the oxygen out of the room, we’ll be among the first to heap scorn on you.