Staunton, September 4 – Zakhar Prilepin, a Russian writer, controversialist, and opposition figure, says that Moscow must mobilize the three million Russians living in the United States in advance of the 2018 Congressional elections to help ensure the election of pro-Moscow candidates.
In a Svobodnaya pressa commentary, he says that Russian officials must recognize that this community is fundamentally different than it was in Soviet times. Then, it was largely anti-Moscow; but now, he argues, the situation has fundamentally changed – and Russia must take advantage of it (svpressa.ru/world/article/180600/).
First of all, Prilepin writes, “the majority of Russians who’ve moved to the US … vote for Republics not for Democrats, and the Republicans as you will understand are something like the KPRF fortified by the LDPR and with a sprinkling of ‘United Russia.’” That means that “not only in Russia are ‘slaves’ dreaming of ‘a strong hand’ and other ‘militarism’ but there too.”n he US
And second, “it is curious how Russians who want to get an American passport but still haven’t received it continue to vote in elections for the State Duma of the Russian Federation.” In 2011, the overwhelming majority of the Russians who took part voted for the systemic parties in Russia – United Russia, KPRF and LDPR. Only a third voted for Yabloko.
Before the 2016 presidential elections in the US, he continues, 53.3 percent of the Russian-speaking diaspora there expressed support for Donald Trump. The real figure was undoubtedly higher but some of these people felt constrained from expressing a view not comme il faut in many American or Russian circles, Prilepin says.
In general, then, “if Russia would like to work with various centers of power in the US and to the extent possible oppose the pressure of hostile forces there,” the Russian writer says, “we have a serious group of support.” It may not include all three million but perhaps at least two – and “this is a lot.”
Moreover, the real size of this pro-Moscow diaspora may be even larger, he suggests, because many of the spouses of Russian women in the US in the course of time become pro-Moscow in their thinking as well. If one adds them, Prilepin says, the real size of this pro-Moscow bloc could be not two million but four.
It is thus time to think about how to use them, especially in the upcoming Congressional elections. Where there are a large number of Russian-speakers, Moscow should encourage them to support pro-Moscow candidates in races for the House of Representatives. And that is “only one example” of what Russia should be doing.
On the one hand, there is nothing surprising about such musings: many people in varioius countries think about making use of their diaspora populations in other countries as a major form of “soft” power to influence outcomes. But on the other, in the current case, it is quite remarkable indeed for three reasons.
First, Russians have long been conditioned to view emigres as invariably hostile. Prilepin’s words suggest that ever more people in Moscow are recognizing the reality that many of the new Russians in the West are anything but and thus can be used to good effect.
Second, Russians also traditionally looked to the Democratic and not the Republican Party in the US as their better ally in promoting good relations between East and West. Now that has changed as well, at least in the perception of those who think like Prilepin.
And third, his proposal comes even as the US is investigating Russian involvement in the 2016 presidential elections. Prilepin’s words are a clear indication that Moscow has no intention of backing off or of limiting such participation. Instead, it appears to be planning to do even more in the future – and to do so in far more races than in the past.