One way or another, we're in for one hell of a show next year.
One way or another, the March 2018 presidential election will probably be like nothing we've seen before in Vladimir Putin's Russia.
And the reason, of course, is Aleksei Navalny.
Because whether or not Navalny is allowed to run -- and all signs are that he won't be -- there is just no way of avoiding that he will be a major presence in the campaign.
Despite constant pressure, Navalny has already opened more than 60 campaign offices across Russia.
He's raised more than 1.4 million euros and recruited more than 120,000 volunteers.
Now, in the unlikely event that Navalny is allowed on the ballot, his modern grassroots campaign will contrast sharply with those of Putin and fake opponents like Gennady Zyuganov and Vladimir Zhirinovsky.
Navalny won't be allowed to win, of course.
But he will win by losing, by showing the public what a real campaign looks like and by exposing the Potemkin nature of Russian elections under Putin.
And in the more likely event that Navalny is not allowed on the official ballot?
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Well, in that case my assumption is that he will continue campaigning and act as if he is running anyway.
He'll run a campaign against the fake election.
He'll ridicule yet another stage-managed race between Putin, Zyuganov, and Zhirinovsky.
And in this scenario, he really can't lose.
Because in reality, Navalny isn't running to win in 2018.
He's running in a longer-term election. He's positioning himself for a future when the Putin regime inevitably runs out of steam.
Next year's election is just the opening bell.
And one way or another, it'll be one hell of a show.
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