Sunday, February 18, 2024

Sunday Reading

No Braver Man — Charles P, Pierce on Alexei Navalny.

Long ago, a very wise friend told me that, under any form of government, Russia does not change. Communist, Tsarist, briefly Democratic, or kleptocratic, as we’ve seen over the past several decades, the dynamics of political power in Russia remain implacable and ruthless. From Reuters:

The death of Navalny, a 47-year-old former lawyer, robs the disparate Russian opposition of its most courageous and charismatic leader just as Putin prepares for an election which will keep the former KGB spy in power until at least 2030. Navalny rose to prominence more than a decade ago by speaking publicly – and documenting – what he said was the vast corruption and opulence among the “crooks and thieves” who ran Putin’s Russia. The Federal Penitentiary Service of the Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous District said in a statement that Navalny felt unwell after a walk at the IK-3 penal colony in Kharp, about 1,900 km (1,200 miles) northeast of Moscow into the Arctic Circle. He lost consciousness almost immediately and died shortly afterwards despite the efforts of the prison’s medical team and ambulance staff, the prison service said. Attempts to resuscitate him failed, it said.

I don’t mean to jump to conclusions, but this sounds like complete bullshit on ice. And, apparently, I’m not alone. From Politico:

“Whatever story they tell, let us be clear, Russia is responsible,” Harris said during a speech at the Munich Security Conference, adding the Biden administration would have more to say about its response soon. The vice president noted that the United States had yet to confirm the news, but if it’s true, “this would be a further sign of Putin’s brutality.”

And, also, too:

“It is obvious to me: He was killed — like other thousands who were tortured to death because of this one man,” Zelenskyy said of the Russian president, during a meeting in Berlin with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz. Zelenskyy’s voice was part of a global wave of outrage following the announcement that Navalny had died in a Russian prison colony… Also in Munich, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said: “I am deeply saddened and concerned about the reports coming from Russia that Alexei Navalny is dead. All the facts have to be established … Russia has serious questions to answer.” He added that Navalny had been a strong voice for freedom and for democracy for many years: “NATO and NATO allies have called for his immediate release for a long time. Today, my thoughts go to his family and his loved ones. Russia has become more and more an authoritarian power.”

“The indecisiveness of the democratic world is seen as weakness by dictators, and they like testing how far they can go without a response,” Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, the Belarusian opposition leader, told POLITICO. She also tweeted: “I urge the global community to act now to protect my husband & other political prisoners, who are in great danger.” Her husband Sergei has been a prisoner of Belarusian dictator and Putin ally Alexander Lukashenko since 2020.

There was no braver person alive than Navalny, who went back to Russia when he already was the embodiment of resistance to the current regime, which already had tried to kill him once. He was never going to be a Mandela, or a Havel, or a Walesa because he never was going to get out of his Arctic prison alive. Even if he somehow served his full sentence, which was a real long shot even without outside interference, he would’ve been over 70 upon release. Now he has to be a symbol, and he will be a damned good one. Even Republican U.S. Senators like Thom Tillis of North Carolina have noticed.

“Navalny laid down his life fighting for the freedom of the country he loved. Putin is a murderous, paranoid dictator. History will not be kind to those in America who make apologies for Putin and praise Russian autocracy. Nor will history be kind to America’s leaders who stay silent because they fear backlash from online pundits.”

This country invented the architecture in which political courage can be nurtured and encouraged, and yet it seems in criminally short supply these days. Meanwhile, somehow, it lives again in the wilderness at the top of the world.

Doonesbury — Lesson learned.