Navalny becomes an international problem for the Kremlin
Russia’s President Vladimir Putin speaks on Pro-Navalny protests | World News | WION
Experts believe that the participation of the West in the fate of the Russian oppositionist is due to Russia’s failure to fulfill its obligations
This week, the West made it clear to the Russian authorities on several occasions that it is closely following the fate of Alexei Navalny. – a Russian anti-corruption fighter who was arrested in Moscow after his return from Germany, where he was treated after being poisoned «Newbie».
Foreign ministers of countries «Big seven» issued a statement in connection with the arrest of Navalny, as well as the brutal crackdown on street protests that took place in Russia over the weekend.
On Wednesday, during his first long press briefing as Secretary of State, Tony Blinken said that the United States is very concerned about the life and health of Alexei Navalny, and «exclude nothing» as a reaction to possible harm that could be done to him.
In addition, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, which includes Russia, criticized official Moscow for repressions against Navalny and raised the issue of the possibility of limiting the rights of the Russian delegation to PACE..
On Wednesday, calls for Moscow to stop persecuting the opposition and suppressing peaceful protests by force were also heard during special debates at PACE. When discussing repressions against Alexei Navalny and Russian civil society, many members of the Assembly drew the attention of Russian parliamentarians to the fact that Russia is in direct violation of its commitments when joining the Council of Europe.
French delegation member Jacques Maire, PACE special rapporteur on the Navalny poisoning investigation, appointed by the Assembly last year and meeting with the opposition in Berlin, said on Wednesday:
«The arrest of Mr. Navalny, which followed after his return to Moscow from Germany, where he was after being poisoned with a prohibited poisonous substance «Newbie», contrary to our values… Mr. Navalny faces grave consequences, he can go to prison for three and a half years. In accordance with the European Convention on Human Rights, we must act in defense of Mr. Navalny».
Members of the Russian delegation to PACE personally defended Moscow’s actions against Alexei Navalny and the people who came out on January 23 to protest his arrest in the Assembly hall. Deputy Speaker of the Russian State Duma Pyotr Tolstoy said that his European colleagues allegedly «succumbed to myths»:
«How do you talk about poisoning if there is no court decision on this topic? How do you talk about thousands who were thrown into prison, which is generally a pure lie, after the demonstrations? … He (Navalny – ed.) is not a political prisoner, as you imagine him here, and as he himself wants to appear… Russia saved his life, because doctors from Omsk and the pilot of the plane that landed this plane did it».
Leonid Slutsky, chairman of the Duma committee on international affairs, echoed Tolstoy: «Mr Navalny was not poisoned with the substance «Newbie». 15 questions were in the letter of the Prosecutor General’s Office of Russia (to the law enforcement agencies of Germany – ed.), and, unfortunately, not a single question received its answer… There are only attempts to deform the image of Russia in this hall, and we opposed this, and will act in the Council of Europe… So far there is no poisoning, but there is the salvation of Mr. Navalny».
However, so far, PACE has not taken any action in relation to Russia: it is expected that the Russian delegation on Thursday will not be limited in rights, in any case, this is the proposal of the PACE Monitoring Committee, the draft of which has already been published.
A similar situation is now in the European Union: the European Parliament recently harshly condemned the Russian authorities, but the head of European diplomacy, Josep Borrell, is going to come to Moscow on February 4-5 for talks with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, and until that moment the EU will not take any specific measures against Russia will be.
However, experts in Washington say that «Navalny’s case» went beyond the internal problems of the Kremlin – judging by the statement «Big seven» and personally to Secretary of State Blinken, gradually it becomes an international problem for the Kremlin.
Brian Taylor: Russia is shown not fulfilling its obligations
As he says in an interview with the Russian Service «Voices of America» Brian Taylor, professor of political science at Syracuse University and author of the book «Putinism Code», western countries through «Navalny’s case» make it clear to Moscow that they are unhappy with the way Russia treats its international obligations:
«What caught my attention in the statement «Big seven», – and I have to say they chose the words well, – it is a call to Russia to abide by the commitments it has undertaken. This also applies to the Chemical Weapons Convention and the obligations under the Council of Europe and its Human Rights Convention, to which Russia is a party. The basis for criticism of Russia in this case is the message «you are not fulfilling your obligations». So, the specific reason for the statement was the poisoning and arrest of Navalny, but this was also used «Big seven», to draw attention to Russia’s failure to do what it itself has undertaken to do. «Big seven» will be much more united on this issue than was possible under the previous US president, who wanted to be friends with Putin».
Brian Taylor believes that it is too early to say that at the current stage the protests in Russia pose a threat to Putin himself: «He remains in control of the siloviki and is supported by the bulk of the current Russian political elite, which is part of the system.».
«But it is obvious that they were all taken by surprise by Navalny’s steps. – they did not expect him to return or his film about «Putin’s palace». And they also did not imagine the scope of the protest, that the actions would take place throughout the country. All this means they don’t know what to do next. – plant or release, and the problem is clearly more difficult for them than they initially thought» – the political scientist is sure.
Moreover, according to Brian Taylor, propaganda clichés connecting Navalny with «intrigues of the West»: «Anything they could think of – «all this is sponsored by the West, if these forces win, everything will get worse, the dashing 90s will come again», and it no longer works, because 20 years have passed since they were in power, and the generation of 25-year-olds and 30-year-olds no longer really remember these dashing 90s, but they see the current reality well».
Jeffrey Gedmin: Russia under Putin – it’s not a democracy at all
Jeffrey Gedmin, editor-in-chief «American purpose», founded by him recently together with renowned political scientist Francis Fukuyama, believes that the West now has many problems of its own, but the current US administration is more inclined to defend democracy and human rights than the previous one:
«President Trump has had authoritarian impulses and some kind of special affection for Vladimir Putin for all four years, as strange as it sounds. Joe Biden, on the other hand, has an interest in democracy and human rights issues around the world. But the moment is quite difficult, because democracy around the world is now experiencing a moment of serious tension, this is manifested in developed democracies, transition countries and countries with authoritarian rulers. I don’t think this is a good time for us to teach democracy to others, but we can still support and inspire those who fight for it.».
Jeffrey Gedmin, the former head of Radio Liberty / Radio Free Europe, believes that Vladimir Putin’s references to the harsh actions of the US FBI in relation to those involved in the capture of the Capitol on January 6 as an excuse for the actions of the Russian authorities – this is a typical false narrative:
«No one, of course, should be surprised that Putin and other authoritarian leaders use such comparisons to their advantage. We have a democracy with problems – cultural, media, public, it needs renovation, but it is still a democracy. Russia under Vladimir Putin and other similar regimes – it is not a democracy at all, it is a system built on orders and control from top to bottom, on the use of special services and police to intimidate the media, the judicial system, and so on».