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Free Russia Foundation launched Free Russia Debates series

In April this year, Free Russia Foundation’s Brussels Office launched a new series of discussion events called Free Russia Debates. It involves leading experts on Russia discussing a given issue through a public debate, providing a deep analysis in the process. Since the launch of the project, two events have already taken place.

1️⃣ The debate called «War Economy, War Society–How Strong Is Putin Really?» featured Vladimir Milov, Vice President for International Advocacy at Free Russia Foundation, and Neil Barnett, Head of Istok Associates, a company specializing in corporate intelligence.

The speakers disagreed on Putin’s actual strength. Neil Barnett views Russia’s transformation into a war economy as successful and sees potential for further mobilization of resources. Vladimir Milov is skeptical of this assessment, believing that Russia’s economic model has shifted towards prioritizing military spending above all else, but it is not yet a full-fledged war economy. Mr. Milov is convinced that Mr. Putin does not have sufficient resources to finance it and that its integration with the «normal» economy is low.

Despite their differing views, both debaters agreed that the West should continue to support Ukraine and increase pressure on the Putin regime through sanctions. Both Mr. Milov and Mr. Barnett presented policy papers exploring the features of Putin’s economy during the war.

2️⃣ The debate called «How Likely Is a Democratic Russia in the Future?” featured Mr. Milov and Dr. Nigel Gould-Davies, Senior Fellow for Russia and Eurasia at the International Institute for Strategic Studies. The debaters presented different viewpoints but both acknowledged the significant obstacles that must be overcome for genuine democratic change to occur in Russia.

Both speakers agreed that Putin’s military defeat in Ukraine is indispensable in every scenario. Additionally, they both emphasized the importance of the West being smarter in its messaging to Russians, making it clear that it is the Putin regime, not Russia itself, that is the problem.

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