Monday, March 29, 2021

Kremlin Making a Magnitsky Out of Navalny in Violation of Its Own Interests, Pastukhov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, March 27 – Something remarkable but not unexpected has happened in Russia: the Kremlin has violated its normally strong instinct for self-preservation and acted instead in a reflexive manner to push Aleksey Navalny toward his death, a move that reflects the obvious limitations of those now in power in Russia, Vladimir Pastukhov says.

            The Kremlin has failed to see both the similarities and the differences between Navalny’s situation and that of Magnitsky, the London-based Russian analyst says. It does not see that it is torturing both to death and is likely to produce the same response by the West (

            And it does not see that by its efforts to make the Navalny situation different, by applying not brute force but rather insisting that all it is doing is following the rules of its own penal system, the regime is showing to all concerned that it has become something worse than it was when it killed Magnitsky.

            Now, its “technology” for getting rid of its opponents has become conveyor-like and is in a position to get rid of people more often than new cars come off the assembly line, a warning not just to the West but perhaps even more significantly to the Russian people and even Russian elites of what is coming next.

            All this prompts the question: “why is the Kremlin subjecting Navalny to tortures even if they are masked under the following of rules?” The answer may be simple: for the Kremlin, this is today “a political necessity, although whether this necessity is recognized or not [by the powers that be] is another question.”

            Perhaps, Pastukhov says, what is going on is the operation of “’the collective unconsciousness’” of the Russian leadership, “but an objective motivation for applying tortures does exist.” The Kremlin needs to transform Navalny “from a hero-victor into a sufferer and complainer.” Up to now, Navalny has refused to accept that. But torture may change things.

            From the Kremlin’s perspective, it would be great if Navalny would admit he is an agent of the US government, but even in the Kremlin, people are not foolish enough to expect that. But they can achieve this: by inflicting torture, they can turn the subject away from Navalny’s plans for a future Russia to constant talk about his health and his complaints about treatment.

            But according to Pastukhov, these objective wins aren’t the main thing for the Kremlin. “More important are its subjective requirements.” And those have overridden its calculations of self-interest. The smart thing would be to treat Navalny well in prison both to avoid attracting more attention to him at home and abroad and to avoid new sanctions.

            The regime could have arranged for Navalny to be confined “in one of those ‘apartment hotels’ which have been build for former law enforcement personnel and thieves in law.” It could then have pointed to this as an exemplar of its humanism and divert the West from plans to impose more sanctions on Russia.

            But it didn’t choose to do so, and that forces one to ask “what made the Kremlin, typically cautious and prudent act against its basic instinct” for self-preservation? The answer is to be found in “the reflexes of punks from the yard, vindictive people who could not resist the temptation to stomp on someone who has annoyed them.”

            “In the difficult struggle of the instinct for self-preservation and the reflex for revenge, the latter has won out in the Kremlin,” tragically but entirely logically if one considers the picture from a broader perspective, the London-based analyst says.

            “Physiologists may correct me,” he continues, “but it seems to me that reflexes are more ancient than instincts and that instincts are more from human beings while reflexes trace their origins to apes. In this situation [surrounding Navalny], the Kremlin took its own IQ test and completely failed it” – and “’the Kremlin ape’ defeated ‘the Kremlin human.’”  

            And “’an ape’ who has in his hands an entire machine of torture is even worse than an ape with a grenade,” Pastukhov says, because he is entirely “capable of undermining the very stability that actually allows him to be a resident of the Kremlin.”


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