An article by Alexei Navalny was published in the NYTimes. In case you don’t know who Navalny is, you can find out here. It is huge that the NYTimes has published Navalny because his ultra-popular blog has been shut down by Putin. Navalny is under house arrest and is not allowed to speak publicly or write.
For a while, Navalny didn’t take any position on Ukraine. After repeated requests from his enormous group of followers that he specify what he thinks, Navalny finally wrote a post (remember, every post he writes can cost him 7 years in jail) denouncing the invasion of Ukraine. I can imagine that this was extremely hard for him to do, especially since this stance is likely to lose him many of his followers. Of course, Navalny supported Ukraine in his inimitable manner of, “Why should we be bugging Ukrainians when there are crowds of juicy Uzbeks and Azeri we could be hassling instead?”*
Navalny even joined the anti-invasion protests and published a photo of himself with his wife marching with the protesters. Compared to so many gutless and cringing politicians, one has got to admire a guy who risks so much so openly for a cause. And a cause that he supports on the level of reason and not emotion, too.
Navalny knows more than anybody about how corruption in Russia works because he has dedicated his life to investigating the bandits who exist in the top echelons of authority in Russia. And his article in the NYTimes explains what the sanctions would have been if the US really wanted to punish Putin and his oligarchs.
Please notice how what Navalny says about the current sanctions is exactly what I’ve been telling you:
First, although Mr. Putin’s invasion has already prompted the European Union to impose sanctions on 21 officials, and the United States on seven, most of these government figures cannot be considered influential. They do not have major assets outside Russia and are irrelevant to Mr. Putin.
The dissenting voices both from inside and outside of Russia agree: the current sanctions are meaningless and ridiculous. They are not even attempting to punish the real criminals:
After all the tough talk from Western politicians, this action is mocked in Russia and even seen as a tacit encouragement to Mr. Putin and his entourage, who seem to possess some magical immunity.
Again, this is word-for-word what I wrote yesterday. Can we now remember to trust my analysis, if even a politician from a political camp I oppose profoundly reports the same things as I do?
And what Navalny is practically begging the outside world to do is punish oligarchs “blocking access to their plush London apartments” and investigate the source of their wealth.
I always wondered, which side of Navalny’s personality would win: Navany the Anti-Putin Dissident or Navalny the Ultra-Nationalist? We now have our answer. I can imagine how painful it was for Navalny to write the following:
“Crimea has always been an integral part of Russia in the hearts and minds of people,” Mr. Putin claimed this week. But even among the most nationalist and pro-Soviet of our people, a longing to restore Crimea to Russian rule faded years ago.
Yet Mr. Putin has cynically raised nationalist fervor to a fever pitch; imperialist annexation is a strategic choice to bolster his regime’s survival.
But he did it, and that’s big. I hope that the next step is saying that the Uzbeks are not that bad either.
Navalny knows that his ultra-nationalism hurts him on the international arena. This is why he ends his article as follows:
There is a common delusion among the international community that although Mr. Putin is corrupt, his leadership is necessary because his regime subdues the dark, nationalist forces that otherwise would seize power in Russia. The West should admit that it, too, has underestimated Mr. Putin’s malign intent. It is time to end the dangerous delusion that enables him.
The risks Navalny has been taking in the past weeks are enormous. And it’s one thing to take these risks to defend a cause that you believe in but a very different thing to overcome your personal inclinations and do what’s right against everything that ever pleased you. Navalny is not pro-Ukraine (read the post I linked at the beginning to find out why I say this), and his initial post in defense of Ukraine feels like he was bleeding on his keyboard to write it.
The state-sponsored Russian newspaper The Pravda of the Komsomol (I kid you not, that’s its name) published a piece that makes it seem as if many of the states were practically on the verge of the secession from the US. Lies and idiotic statements about the former (?) Cold War foe abound in Russia and the US. This is why it’s good news that Navalny got to speak out in the pages of The New York Times.
* I’m not kidding about the Uzbeks and the Azeri. See this article on Navalny’s now banned blog.