February 1, 2021

Alexei Navalny

Sponsored by

Get voluminous, dramatic lashes in seconds! Thrive Causemetics' Liquid Lash Extensions Mascara™ has over 11,800 five-star reviews for good reason: it gives your lashes volume and length without extensions. This mascara is made with nourishing ingredients that strengthen lashes at the root, creating longer and healthier-looking lashes over time. Plus, it lasts all day without clumping, flaking, or smearing! Shop now and get 15% off their entire website site today.

“Riot police broke up protests across Russia on Sunday in support of Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny, detaining more than 5,000 people… Navalny, 44, was arrested on Jan. 17 after returning to Moscow from Germany where he had been recovering from a nerve agent poisoning in Russia last summer.” Reuters

“An online video made by jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny alleging that Vladimir Putin is the ultimate owner of an opulent palace, something the president denies, has now been viewed more than 100 million times, YouTube data showed [last] Friday.” Reuters

Both sides condemn Putin and call for a strong response:

“On Wednesday, [Secretary of State Antony] Blinken told reporters that Navalny’s voice ‘is the voice of many, many Russians and it should be heard, not muzzled.’ Such expressions of concern are positive but must be combined with action to be effective. The Russian people's struggle for a government that isn’t run by authoritarian criminals is their fight, not ours. But the least we can do is not allow those criminals [to] go completely unpunished.”
Josh Rogin, Washington Post

“Mr. Biden has promised to revive the trans-Atlantic relationship, which is a hard pledge to define. One measure would be convincing Germany, the de facto leader of Europe, to pull out of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline from Russia. If that’s too hard, how about getting the European Union to sign up for extensive, joint economic sanctions with the U.S.? Mr. Navalny’s arrest shows that Mr. Putin doesn’t fear the West’s rhetorical protests. Causing him and his friends real economic pain is a different matter.”
Editorial Board, Wall Street Journal

Putin is an aggressive cancer requiring decisive intervention. Europe has been dithering without American leadership, and Biden must change that. The answer is the same it has always been: Follow the money. When Putin wakes up, he doesn’t check the international news or the diplomatic cables. He looks at his offshore bank accounts, and those of the oligarchs who could rise against him should he finally prove too toxic to their profits…

“After Navalny was arrested, his team released eight names to add to the sanctions lists. If the West is finally going to get serious about stopping Putin before his next invasion, his next cyberattack and his next assassination attempt, that list should be on top of Biden’s desk. Freeze their accounts, seize their assets and stop confusing Putin’s interests with Russia’s interests… With Putin gone, the bloody regimes of Syria, North Korea, Belarus and Venezuela would all shake. Biden can lead a new order for democracy, one that should have been formed at the end of the Cold War, when instead the free world celebrated and squandered its advantage, believing that history was over.”
Garry Kasparov, USA Today

“The new administration may have a readily available means to advance knowledge of Russia’s poisoning operations and hold its regime accountable… We say ‘may have,’ because, for mysterious reasons, the FBI has refused to reveal what it knows about attacks on another Russian opposition activist, Vladimir Kara-Murza. Mr. Kara-Murza, a permanent U.S resident and Post contributing columnist who divides his time between Moscow and Northern Virginia, has twice suffered apparent poisoning attacks while in Russia, in 2015 and 2017…

“[The FBI] has refused to release the results of its laboratory tests, which might show whether Mr. Kara-Murza, like Mr. Navalny and other Kremlin targets, was attacked with a banned chemical weapon… In light of the string of attacks on Kremlin opponents and the imperative of holding the Putin regime accountable, that’s not acceptable. Incoming Attorney General Merrick Garland should order the FBI to disclose what it knows about Mr. Kara-Murza.”
Editorial Board, Washington Post

Other opinions below.

See past issues

From the Left

Putin is on the defensive. He’s receiving calls from President Joe Biden and other leaders to release Navalny and his followers, even as authorities round up members of the dissident’s team and family. He’s answering questions about the previously unknown palace, a symbol of opulence enjoyed by Russia’s powerful while millions go hungry. And he’s seeing the first real cracks in his regime, making clear that Putin isn’t the all-conquering leader he projects himself to be. ‘Putin was an untouchable, a god above everything else. But that’s no longer the case,’ Maria Snegovaya, an expert on Russian politics at George Washington University, told me.”
Alex Ward, Vox

“None of this means that Putin’s reign is in immediate jeopardy. It just means it’s found its most effective opponent. Unlike so many other dissidents in recent years, Navalny is untainted by any past entanglement with the system he now opposes. He never served in the Russian government, nor made a fortune by enabling, only to later repudiate his former masters out of principle or opportunism or a combination of both. Try though his enemies might to silence him, Navalny won’t shut up. And he speaks in a 21st-century, digitally savvy language—mordant, ironic and thoroughly unimpressed by authority—which even some of his detractors must at least find ballsy. More importantly, he gets results.”
Michael Weiss, Time

Some argue, “The whole struggle in the streets is associated with Navalny. After twenty years of stagnation, all hope for change is now affixed to his name — with no room to discuss what that change should mean… The Kremlin has always suspected that Navalny enjoys the tacit support of part of the elite… Each new investigation by Navalny fed similar suspicions. Who can be supplying him with exclusive facts and materials?  The film about Putin’s palace demonstrates many intimate details of the life of the country’s top elite. So, how did this oppositionist manage to look into the president’s luxurious bedroom?…

“[Navalny] is careful to make sure that his social populism does not overstep the line. Sharp criticism of the luxury of Putin’s entourage does not lead him toward radical social demands. Navalny is against revising the results of the criminal privatization of the 1990s or the redistribution of the national income in favor of working people. The most he agrees to is a small ‘compensation fee’ that some oligarchs must pay to legitimize the property seized in the 1990s…

“Inequality, then, will remain intact… just like when the USSR fell or during the ‘color revolutions’ in post-Soviet countries. These events [have] left a legacy of social ruin, deindustrialization, rising inequality, and cultural reaction. And the result has been the endless disappointment of working people, who feel themselves used and betrayed.”
Alexey Sakhnin, Jacobin Magazine

From the Right

“Navalny, for his part, seems to be betting that the threat of civil unrest in Moscow and other major cities will rattle the Kremlin into renewing its former forbearance. It worked in 2013, when Navalny was convicted and sentenced to five years in jail for embezzlement. Large demonstrations followed, and the conviction was quickly overturned (though later replaced with re-conviction, house arrest and a suspended sentence). But times have changed. Back then Putin was gearing up for the Winter Olympics in Sochi, a showpiece that public unrest could spoil. He faces no such restraint now…

“Seen solely from the point of view of electoral arithmetic, the smart strategy for the Kremlin would be to let Navalny walk free and continue its policy of officially pretending he doesn’t exist. But the electorate is not the constituency that keeps Putin in power — it’s the FSB. And the hard men of the Lubyanka have made it amply clear that they are not in a forgiving mood.”
Owen Matthews, Spectator USA

“The [Russian] government has broken the unwritten ‘social contract,’ first devised in Soviet times, whereby the state guarantees steady material welfare in return for political passivity. Revolt is even more likely in a society in which rising expectations of material well-being over the past two decades, especially among an ambitious younger generation, have been thwarted by repeated failures in government policy…

“Russia’s escalating crises do not signify that Moscow is incapable of continuing to inflict serious damage on its neighbors and international rivals… In many respects, Russia’s domestic failures make it even more dangerous as Moscow camouflages its increasing fragility through external aggression… Instead of banking on containment or cooperation, the Biden administration needs to prepare for an imploding Russia that will present a multitude of challenges for Western security.”
Janusz Bugajski, Washington Examiner

Some argue, “Dissidents matter to the U.S. strategically. The dictatorships that most threaten the free world are too powerful to be brought down militarily. Nor are they likely to moderate their behavior thanks to economic prosperity or reformers working within the system… What can bring dictatorships down is a credible domestic opposition that galvanizes public indignation through acts of exposure, mockery and heroic defiance…

"International pressure alone was not sufficient to bring down the apartheid government in South Africa. It took Nelson Mandela. Economic decay alone was not sufficient to bring down the Communist regimes in Poland and Czechoslovakia. It took Lech Walesa and Vaclav Havel… A dissidents-first foreign policy would immediately revive America’s moral leadership.”
Bret Stephens, New York Times

A libertarian's take

“The sobering reality is that there are major constraints on what Washington should — or even can — do in response to [countries’] internal repression, no matter how repulsive we might find it. Other, ultimately more important, interests will be jeopardized if U.S. officials act imprudently…

“The Biden administration wisely has given a high priority to extending New START and other arms control agreements that President Trump had undermined. Imposing economic sanctions, even measures carefully targeted to impact only Putin’s inner circle, will not be helpful to that process. Nor will adopting a punitive approach facilitate needed overall improvements in a badly strained, but extremely crucial, bilateral relationship… The Biden administration needs to accept that reality and carefully temper its response to Putin’s latest crackdown on political opponents.”
Ted Galen Carpenter, Cato Institute

Get troll-free political news.

Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.