Staunton, January 21 – Aleksey Navalny, like Bolshevik leader Vladimir Lenin, isn’t a politician, Vladimir Pastukhov says. “A politician wouldn’t return in this situation.” But he is “an outstanding revolutionary” and as such, by returning to Russia, he has behaved exactly as a revolutionary should.
In just three moves – he didn’t die, he returned, and he publicly insulted the king – Navalny has pushed the Kremlin into the corner of the board, the London-based Russian analyst says; and consequently, despite how it had appeared at first, his return was “neither senseless nor useless” (mbk-news.appspot.com/sences/nezhelannyj-vozvrashhenets/).
“Navalny has become the most famous Russian ‘returnee’ of the 21st century,” a figure who is causing problems for the men in the Kremlin not because he left but because he came back. “Until now, they always k new how to conduct themselves in such circumstances,” Pastukhov says; but it is clear they don’t know what to do now.
This doesn’t mean that there is going to be a revolution in Russia anytime soon, but the foundations of the regime have been revealed as shaky. Putin has lost the first round of this contest “on points.” As such, it is not yet a fiasco but rather a confusion. “Navalny wanted a show and he got one. Putin became laughable and Navalny a hero.
The opposition leader struck “a most powerful blow to Russian collective unconsciousness” and that is something that over time can lead people who now line up behind the powers to desert them and demand they be replaced. Navalny as such “won not a political but a moral victory,” one that is going to have results only with time.
The Kremlin wanted to isolate Navalny from the people, but it has behaved like a chess player who thinks two moves ahead but “each third turns out to be one it hadn’t counted on.” That reflects the composition of the leadership whose members don’t want to take responsibility but do want to get credit for everything.
These people do not have any clear plan on what to do with Navalny now that he is back. They are improvising, with only three possibilities now on the table: his death, his imprisonment or his expulsion from the country. What they haven’t counted on is that each of these will entail problems for them that are larger than the ones they now have.
Killing Navalny would get him out of the way; “but to kill someone twice is a special perversion not given to everyone.” It would certainly make him a martyr not only inside Russia but abroad. And if the Russian people and the West are patient, their patience is not infinitely elastic – and the Kremlin can’t be sure how either would react.
Imprisoning him in strictest isolation would backfire as well, but Navalny as a symbol might very well prove more influential than Navalny as a political actor. Everyone in this drama could then invest in him whatever he or she wanted and that would make him more, not less powerful. The Internet would ensure such outcomes.
Over the long term, “Navalny’s being in prison would become an ever more destructive factor both in domestic and foreign policies,” Pastukhov continues. “Sooner or later a moment would come when he would fill all the political space and poison life in the Kremlin.” Then the powers would have to think about killing him but be in a worse starting point than now.
That suggests that exiling Navalny would be “the ideal solution of the problem” as far as the Kremlin is concerned. “But how could this be done?” Unlike in the cases of Bukovsky or Khodorkovsky, it is entirely possible Navalny would not agree. And simply stripping him of his citizenship and then expelling him would require changing the constitution.
Consequently, one is justified in concluding that “Navalny has driven the Kremlin into a dead end. Putin has no good moves. That always happens if you play with someone who is prepared to put his life on the line but for you life itself, fat and comfortable, is an absolute value.”
According to the London-based analyst, the Kremlin in its contest with Navalny is now in a zugzwang, a position when “any move by it leads to checkmate, with the only difference being in how many moves.” Putin can delay things but he can’t change them without betraying his own position. “Navalny has shown the main thing: the defenses of his opponent are crumbling.”