Staunton, September 19 – The Kremlin’s behavior since Aleksey Navalny was poisoned shows that it doesn’t care if it gets in a fight with those it had been cooperating with, is quite prepared to sacrifice both its own projects and the divisions in the West it had promoted, and may even want such a fight for domestic as well as foreign policy reasons, Sergey Shelin says.
Other regimes caught in such a crime have gone through the motions of an investigation, the Rosbalt commentator says; but Moscow has insisted that the West accept its own implausible and absurd explanations without question and blamed the West’s failure to do so on a conspiracy of anti-Russian special services (rosbalt.ru/blogs/2020/09/18/1864136.html).
The Kremlin had to know in advance that its unwillingness to organize even a pocket investigation to show its good intentions would “leave even the most loyal Europeans without any choice” but to conclude that the Russian regime was behind the poisoning of Navalny and draw broader conclusions from that.
What is even more disturbing, Shelin suggests, is that those in Russia who could reasonably be expected to come to the same conclusion have overwhelmingly fallen in line with the Kremlin’s suggestion that it is innocent and that all the charges against Moscow are the work of Russophobic Western intelligence services.
Even those “systemic intellectuals within the regime” – not “systemic liberals” as there are no longer any of those – by their very nature cannot want to see Moscow behave in this way and break all its ties with Europe because they are “in spirit Europeans” even if as is likely “they do not like and even fear Navalny.”
Why are they not at least silent? Why are they going along with the Kremlin’s propaganda claims? Shelin says that he doesn’t understand this. But Russian history provides an answer, albeit an ugly one, that is rooted in the desire of rulers like Stalin to test the loyalty of their subjects in a most horrible way.
As the Soviet dictator understood, getting people to accept things that are plausible is no proof of loyalty: people may decide to go along because they are convinced. But forcing them to accept the implausible and even absurd is a good measure because they are doing so not because they believe it to be true but because they fear to show in any way that they don’t.