Demands for new sanctions against Moscow are raised in Berlin: “We want regime change.”

Among Germany’s ruling elites, demands for imposing new sanctions on Moscow and stirring up Russia’s younger generation are increasing. “The objectives we have in relationship to Russia are very big” explained Gabriel Felbermayr, President of the Kiel Institute for the World Economy (IfW), “we want … regime change.” The recent protests by the Russian dissident Alexey Navalny’s followers, which had been coordinated from Berlin, were not enough to endanger “the regime’s stability,” according to the German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP). One could, however, count on the young generation (“generation Putin”) that includes many young people, who are very critical of the government, an assistant of the Green Party-affiliated Heinrich-Böll-Foundation suggests. Navalny is particularly appealing to younger people; he embodies “a new type of politician.” The man, German elites, acting in the manner of colonial rulers, would like to bring to power in Russia, is only supported by a small minority in the Russian population.

“We Want Regime Change”

Prior to the EU’s foreign ministers meeting on Monday, which will also focus on the EU’s basic approach toward Russia and a possible expansion of sanctions, German think tanks are increasing their pressure for tougher, more aggressive policies toward Moscow. They are also openly discussing coercive measures. In a recent statement, the German Council on Foreign Relations (DGAP) suggested that the EU should make use of its new “human rights” sanctions regime [1] and bring it to bear on “Russian officials,” yet to be selected.[2] On the other hand, Gabriel Felbermayr, President of the Kiel Institute for the World Economy (IfW) explicitly cautions against comprehensive economic sanctions. “If you really want to bring Russia to its knees economically,” Felbermayr declares, “Europe alone cannot achieve as much as would be necessary.” You would “need a large coalition of countries” – “at least also China … and ideally India and other trading partners of Russia.” Felbermayr is rather skeptical: “The objectives we have in relationship to Russia are very big. After all, we want nothing less than regime change in Russia, which is very difficult to achieve with economic pressure.”[3]

Yearning for Instability

German experts on Russia are skeptical also in relationship to the recent protests by the Russian dissident Alexey Navalny’s followers that had been coordinated from Berlin by Navalny’s chief of staff Leonid Volkov. According to reports, Volkov has been living “in exile” for more than year [4] and, by his own accounts, has recently been advising representatives of several EU states on “possible sanctions against Putin’s associates.”[5] According to the chancellery-financed German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP), the protests “pose no immediate threat to the stability of the regime.” Quelling them would be “a simple task for the Russian National Guard,” particularly because “the number of participants was too small” and “the protests have, so far, been peaceful and non-violent.”[6] “So far,” there were only “isolated acts of resistance by demonstrators” and a division among the elite, which would be an essential prerequisite for instability” has “yet to become apparent.” However, with the “massive repression” of the protests, “the Kremlin” has “shouldered a heavy political burden for years to come.” The behavior of the police could “mobilize sectors of the population that, so far, have remained apolitical.”

“Generation Putin”

In this context, the experts are primarily focusing on the younger generation, who was born only shortly before or after President Putin’s first term of office (the “generation Putin”). As a matter of fact, according to a survey taken by Moscow’s Levada Institute, the age group between 18 and 24 is the only one where those sympathetic toward the Navalny protests (38 percent) outweigh those seeing the protests negatively (22 percent).[7] According to SWP, “in the eyes of many young Russians in particular,” the police repression “inflicts irreparable damage on the legitimacy of the political leadership.”[8] Stefan Meister, formerly a specialist at the DGAP, and today working for the Green-affiliated Heinrich Böll Foundation is more principled: The “generation Putin” no longer consumes state television and is skeptical of state propaganda as well as the claims of politicians. They inform themselves via Telegram and their own social media networks.[9] Navalny has “established a direct link to these young people through his social media channels” and thus has also “developed a network in the regions [of Russia – (editor’s note)]. He therefore embodies “a new type of politician.”

Vaccines but No Quid pro Quo

The DGAP document, with an eye on the EU’s foreign ministers conference, proposes other measures in addition to attempts to mobilize Russia’s young generation against their government. For example, the Union must liberalize the visa regime with Russia aimed not only at younger people, but also “civil society,” – obviously meaning the pro-western milieux – to facilitate the entry and thus the development of relations with the EU.[10] In addition, further rulings by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) against Russia should be promoted, the document continues. Of course, it is to be expected that the ECHR’s credibility will suffer somewhat if, following Tuesday’s ruling, no objections would be raised relating to the triple-digit murder of Afghan civilians through NATO’s bombing, ( reported [11]), and when it now criticizes police operations against demonstrators in Russia, that are commonplace in the West.[12] The DGAP particularly promotes taking a generally “more muscular approach” toward Moscow. However, “cooperation on health issues” is desirable. Due to its failure to procure Covid-19 vaccines the Union is now contemplating acquiring Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine. Nevertheless, a quid pro quo is to be ruled out, the document says.

Confidence at Five Percent

Whereas Berlin and Brussels continue to agitate in Navalny’s favor, there is only a small minority in the Russian population showing sympathy for the man, who the EU would like to see run the country. This has been demonstrated in opinion polls carried out by the Levada Institute in Moscow. Asked in January, whether they approved of “Navalny’s activities,” 19 percent responded “yes,” to 56 percent responding “no.”[13] Even among the 18 – 24-year-olds, the 43 percent rejection was greater than the (36 percent) approval. Particularly resented was the fact that Navalny had called pupils to the demonstrations – saying that “there was something happening.”[14] In fact, the dissident deliberately brought minors into confrontation with the police. When asked openly, which politician they trusted, only five percent answered Navalny, while the sole top runner – with 29 percent – was Vladimir Putin. At the same time, 64 percent of the respondents, and even half (51 percent) of the respondents aged 18-24 approved of the president’s actions.[15] This exposes Berlin’s regime-change policy to be that of a colonial ruler.


[1] See also The Global Judges (II).

[2] Alena Epifanova, Milan Nič: It’s High Time for the EU to Rethink its Relations with Russia. 11.02.2021.

[3] “Europa allein kann nicht so viel ausrichten”. 11.02.2021.

[4] Russland erlässt internationalen Haftbefehl gegen Nawalny-Mitstreiter. 10.02.2021.

[5] Außenminister Lawrow droht mit Abbruch der EU-Beziehungen. 12.02.2021.

[6] Janis Kluge: Putin und die Proteste in Russland: Die Zeit des Taktierens ist vorbei. 04.02.2021.

[7] January Protests. 11.02.2021.

[8] Janis Kluge: Putin und die Proteste in Russland: Die Zeit des Taktierens ist vorbei. 04.02.2021.

[9] Stefan Meister: Putin’s Security Trap. 11.02.2021.

[10] Alena Epifanova, Milan Nič: It’s High Time for the EU to Rethink its Relations with Russia. 11.02.2021.

[11] See also Die Dauerkriege des Westens (II).

[12] See also Colonial Methods.

[13] The Return of Alexey Nawalny. 08.02.2021.

[14] Reinhard Lauterbach: Fehlstart der Kampagne. junge Welt 10.02.2021.

[15] Presidential Ratings and the State of the Nation. 04.02.2021.

The original article can be found here