The Other Side of Navalny

We are disappointed and surprised by the ludicrously one-sided nature of the Western mainstream news coverage of Alexei Navalny. He has many virtues, and he’s vastly preferable to Vladimir Putin, but he’s far from perfect and certainly very far from being the best Russia can hope for. Dishonest reporting about him does nobody any favors, least of all Navalny, who is prevented from being forced to confront his own weaknesses and reform.

For a more complete picture of Navalny, two recent pieces from Global Voices are required reading.  They highlight Navalny’s immaturity, his racism and the surprising lack of difference between Navalny and incumbent Moscow Mayor Sobyanin.  They also comment on the Chirikova blog post, cited below.

Here are three poorly-reported items from the Russian blogosphere (Russian-language links) as examples:

(1) О принятии заявления по поводу ситуации в г. Пугачеве

Navalny votes in favor of “legitimate protest against indigenous people” and complains about attempts to label this as “extremism.”  In other words, using euphemisms, Navalny votes in favor of racism.

(2) Про “чудесное освобождение” Навального

Opposition figure Vladimir Milov chastises Navalny for suggesting that street protests caused his recent release from prison. No thinking person can believe this was the case; the Kremlin clearly wanted Navalny to be free to run for mayor so it could defeat him.

(3) Ошибка кандидата

Opposition figure Yevgenia Chirikova, Russia’s leading environmentalist, chastises the Navalny campaign for having no environmental plank in its platform. (There is also no plank for women’s rights or minority race rights — but she doesn’t mention that). She complains that when she raised this issue she was mercilessly attacked by Navalny’s minions as a traitor to his movement.

Putin, Snowden and Ellsberg: Festival of Neo-Soviet Lies

o-DANIEL-ELLSBERG-EDWARD-SNOWDEN-facebookDelighted with the behavior of Edward Snowden in attacking the USA, the minions of Vladimir Putin have taken to claiming like bleating sheep that Snowden is no different from Daniel Ellsberg and therefore should be viewed as a hero and given asylum in Russia.  Since Ellsberg won his case against the US government, they say, Americans could not complain about such an action by Russia.  This absurd bit of neo-Soviet propaganda is extremely bizarre since Vladimir Putin himself, a proud KGB spy, loathes people like Snowden, and his hostility towards Snowden himself is obvious.  But much more important, it is an absolute lie.

Putin’s minions like to point out that the 82-year-old Ellsberg himself has sided with Snowden in an op-ed piece for the Washington Post.

Ellsberg claims that there are “grounds for most countries granting Snowden asylum” but completely ignores the fact that “most countries” certainly have not done so, and in fact the only countries to have even considered the idea are a ragtag group of American enemies.  Ellsberg seems to believe that only he, Snowden and American enemies understand that Snowden is a hero, a laughable and senile notion to say the least.

Ellsberg claims that if Snowden turned himself in and sought to defend himself in court, he would “almost certainly be confined in total isolation” rather than being released on bail as Ellsberg was.  Ellsberg suggests this justifies Snowden’s becoming a fugitive. But Ellsberg then states:  “As Snowden told the Guardian, This country is worth dying for. And, if necessary, going to prison for — for life.”  This incoherent contradiction reveals Ellsberg as a babbling old man, desperate to relive his glory days who cannot but see himself in Snowden (they even bear a physical resemblance).  His credibility vanishes.

With all due respect to soothsayer Ellsberg, “almost certainly” just doesn’t cut it.  Ellsberg proved it is possible to fight the U.S. government and win, and his bizarre claim that America has changed since his time so that this is no longer possible finds no support whatsoever in the facts.  Ellsberg himself admits that a principled whistleblower would have no problem going to jail — or giving his life — for his principles.  That’s exactly what exposes Snowden as a total fraud, and no about of wiggling by the senile Ellsberg can change that.

Putin’s minions hilariously attempt to argue that the world must take Ellsberg’s word as the last one on this subject.  Were that the case, then Putin’s minions would have to take Mikhail Gorbachev’s word as the last one on Putin, and Gorbachev has repeatedly and emphatically denounced Putin.  Of course, they will never do so.  They are hypocrites who will tell any lie they can think of in their furious effort to justify Russia’s neo-Soviet revanchism.

Snowden has turned to China, Russia and Venezuela not because he occupies the moral high ground but because he occupies the depths. Glenn Greenwald, Snowden’s mouthpiece, has openly threatened the USA on his behalf, using anti-American rhetoric that leaves no doubt about Snowden’s true motivations.  Snowden has also been embraced by Julien Assange, who is hiding out in Britain rather than face criminal charges in Sweden.  The notion that Sweden is somehow a force for pro-American evil beggars belief.

And it is this seething contempt for American that makes Snowden the darling of Putin’s minions. Their hallucination, however, that Russia can somehow get away with giving Snowden asylum is bound to explode in their faces. They are kidding themselves.  Just as the entire world viewed Russia’s attack on Georgia in 2008 as naked aggression and refused to recognize Russia’s annexation of Ossetia and Abkhazia, the entire world stands with the USA against Snowden.  The mere fact that Putin’s minions adore him so is more than enough proof to convince a reasonable person that Snowden is evil. If Russia gives asylum, even temporary asylum, to Snowden it will be an act of war upon the United States, and Russia will soon find the consequences of that act unbearable.

Putin himself has already recognized this. He has openly stated he will not allow relations with the USA to be destroyed by Russia’s policy towards Snowden. In this, at least, he seems to have Russia’s best interests at heart. Clearly, his minions do not.

Edward Snowden is a thief who stole data belonging to the U.S. government, and hence to the people of the USA, and then fled the country into the waiting arms of American enemies.  He is being prosecuted by the Obama administration, which has been embraced by the world as the antidote to the Bush regime that favored abandoning civil liberties in exchange for national security.  His defense by America’s most hardened foes shows that this policy is correct.

Snowden had a wide array of legal options available to him should he have wished to challenge U. S. policy on surveillance (it’s worth nothing that, to date, Snowden still has yet to name a single U.S. citizen who has been harmed by this surveillance in any specific way).  Snowden ignored all of these legal options, and chose to become a fugitive thief.  The reasons for his actions are therefore obvious, and the reasons that the lovers of Vladimir Putin have for supporting him just as clear.

In Russia, where Navalny is Concerned, Good News is Bad News

We have seen yet another appalling wave of misreporting from the West’s Russia journalists in reacting to the temporary release of Alexei Navalny from custody. Grossly misrepresenting the reason for the release, many of these idiots have claimed it was caused by the minor street protests that followed Navalny’s jailing (Navalny himself has tried to claim this in a shameless propaganda move seeking to bolster his flagging fortunes). Nothing could be further from the truth.  Indeed, the notion that street protests somehow “forced” the Kremlin to release Navalny is the single most ridiculous assertion we have heard about Russia in the past decade.

In fact, the Kremlin wants Alexei Navalny to run for Mayor of Moscow. It knows he has absolutely no chance of winning, and that when he loses it will score not one but two impressive victories. First, it will legitimize the office of Moscow Mayor, having proved the office was filled after a truly competitive election. It can hold this result up for propaganda purposes over and over whenever challenged about its democratic bona fides.  Second, it will delegitimize Navalny.  If he runs in Moscow, his bastion, and fails, he will be exposed as a charlatan and nobody will be able to claim that Moscow jailed him in a political move to silence a dangerous rival.

On Facebook, Navalny invited over 50,000 Russians to appear at Manezh Square to protest his conviction. Only about 3,000 showed up.  Navalny has now been sentenced to five long years in prison, a conviction that will permanently disqualify him from ever again seeking public office and that will have him behind bars during the next presidential election.

And that’s only the beginning. As with Mikhail Khodorkovsky, the Kremlin has plenty more where that came from, so that it it can keep Navalny in jail as long as it likes. Radio Free Europe explains:

Russian prosecutors have opened three other legal cases against Navalny that could be brought to trial. One involves allegations that an advertising company headed by Navalny defrauded the Union of Rightist Forces political party of some $3 million in 2007. The second charges that a postal services company owned by Navalny and his brother deceived the Yves Rocher cosmetics firm. And the third claims he conspired to illegally privatize the Urzhum distillery in Kirov Oblast.

If this is good news for Navalny and his forces, they’d better get down on their knees and pray for some bad news.

Back in Moscow, Navalny made another one of this infamous promises, this time that he’d win the mayorship.  Those who heard this promise can’t help but remember his other promises:  To force a new Duma vote, to force Vladimir Putin into a runoff and to put a million people on the streets of Moscow in protests.  Needless to say, none of these things happened. Meanwhile, Navalny has been endorsing disturbing racist/nationalist political platforms, collaborating with skinhead nutjobs like Edward Limonov and Sergei Udaltsov, and continuing to perpetuate his own personality cult.  He shows no signs of being able to motivate the mass public, no signs of being willing to share power, and no signs of being anything remotely like a real hope for a better future for Russia.

Many Western scribes are totally ignoring all these harshly negative facts about Navalny. Their “reports” read like Soviet propaganda tracts. It’s just disgusting that even after being humiliated by their grossly, hideously biased statements about Navalny’s protest movement in the past being proved totally wrong, Western journalists can’t be even a little more careful the second time around.  Their gushing, fawning, misleading pseudo-reporting on Navalny only helps Russia speed its way towards oblivion. They are no friends of Russia.  To the contrary, they are Russia’s worst enemies.

Five Years for Navalny (for starters)


The only thing that was more sickening than the obviously prefabricated verdict against Alexei Navalny which was announced today in Kirov was the pathetic spectacle of Navalny smirking like an ape at a photographer as he stood in the courtroom before the judge in an open, short-sleeved casual shirt.  Near him in the foreground stood his partner, also convicted, smirking in a t-shirt and looking for all the world like a mafia goon.

You only have to watch the movie Gandhi to see how inappropriate Navalny’s behavior was, and how unlike the leader of a great protest movement who wants to show himself more civilized than the cruel regime his fighting. Though firm and resolute, Gandhi always behaved with the utmost respect towards the judges who convicted him on political charges.  And Gandhi brought the British Raj to its knees.  Navalny fraternizes with skinheads, acts like one of them in court, and has no chance whatsoever to be the savior of Russia.

Navalny was sentenced to five years in a penal colony, one less than the prosecution had asked for and half the time he could have drawn.  But as the treatment of Mikhail Khodorkovsky clearly shows, the Kremlin may well intend to keep Navalny behind bars forever (with a five year conviction, Navalny will conveniently be behind bars until the next presidential “election” passes).  There are three more sets of charges against Navalny already in the pipeline, the same pattern followed with Khodorkovsky.  Amazingly, Garry Kasparov’s website reported back in April that the five-year sentence and courtroom arrest that Navalny received had been ordered by Moscow after summoning the judge there before the trial began.  As if that weren’t enough, Navalny was not even permitted to cross-examine the one witness against him, nor to call any witnesses in his own defense.  So it couldn’t be more clear that this was a rigged judicial event in the Soviet style.

On Facebook, more than 50,000 Russians were invited to participate in a protest against the trial on Manezh Square in Moscow, but as of now less than 20% of them have accepted.  A new poll from Levada clearly shows that the spirit of opposition has waned dramatically under Navalny, not grown, and that is clear from the shrinking size of the protest crowds Navalny has been able to assemble.

But Navalny’s weakness was made most abundantly clear when the Kremlin did not hesitate in allowing him to place his name on the ballot for Mayor of Moscow.  The Kremlin knew full well that Navalny couldn’t come close to winning a free and fair election against the popular incumbent, that the election wouldn’t be fair and he’d be easily routed, and that he’d be in prison long before the votes were counted.  So instead of giving Navalny something to chew on, it handed him a candidate ID card and said:  “Knock yourself out, buddy. Good luck with that!”

Nonetheless, we see this conviction as a good result for opposition forces. It’s not going to cause a radical increase in opposition activity, nor will it make Navalny a hero or a better man, much less a Mandela.  But it does provide some moral high ground for the opposition, a useful martyr, and most of all it forces them to sink or swim. If they are to continue, they must have a new leader who will pick up Navalny’s standard and carry on. Almost inevitably, that person will be an improvement from the totally failed policies of Navalny himself.

As shown below, immediately after Navalny’s sentence was announced the MICEX Russian stock index began to plunge, fast approaching the 1,400-point psychological barrier.


Once again, the Kremlin has shown it has no hesitation in using political charges in a commercial context. How can any Russian investor trust that he/she won’t be the next Navalny? They cannot, and that is why Russia continues to be plagued by one of the worst capital flight problems in the world.

Russia and America, on the Brink of War

First, Russia allowed Edward Snowden to board a Russian jet in Hong Kong and fly to Moscow.

Then, it allowed Snowden to violate Russian law by remaining for weeks in the Moscow airport transit zone, when she should have been there for days at most.

Next, it provided Snowden with what the U.S. government has called a “propaganda forum” at the airport, during which this venal criminal sought to further his attacks on the USA and his escape from U.S. justice.  It allowed human rights groups to participate in the forum as well as journalists, groups which Russia has condemned and sought to eject from the country as purported dangers to Russian national security.  The White House press secretary acidly chided Russia on its hypocrisy, challenging the Kremlin to let human rights do their work throughout Russia, not just at the Moscow airport.

Finally, Russia continued to let it be known that it would never extradite Snowden from Russia and might give him political asylum to protect him from American justice.

All these deeds amount to acts of war by Russia against the United States. Snowden has been publicly identified by the President of the U.S. as a major American criminal figure. The President has specifically raised the issue of Snowden with Russia, and has demanded that Russia not provide aid and comfort to him.  Snowden has broken U.S. law by stealing highly classified information and releasing it to the public and then he has fled into the arms of countries like China, Russia and Venezuela who are enemies of the U.S. and who reject basic American values like democracy. Snowden has also associated himself with the venal Wikileaks organization, whose founder is also a fugitive from the justice of many countries.

When true freedom fighters like Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela and Mohandas Gandhi broke the law, they did not flee to countries who were enemies of their nations.  They stayed right where they are, accepted arrest and challenged the validity of the laws under which they were prosecuted, ultimately bringing needed change to the countries.  Snowden’s actions stand in stark contrast to the actions of such heroes, and clearly brand him as the criminal he is.

But despite all this, Snowden has done the USA a great favor.  He has clearly shown Americans that Russia is their enemy, as Russia has eagerly and repeatedly rushed to Snowden’s defense.  Even as Russia complains that the West refuses to arrest and extradite figures such as William Browder and Boris Berezovsky, Russia itself refuses to extradite those who are charged by the USA. Russia continues to provide aid and comfort to rogue anti-American regimes in places like Syria, Iran and Venezuela, and it continues its frenzied efforts to revive the USSR under KGB leadership.

We can’t help wondering what Russians and their government would do if the U.S. allowed a man wanted by the Russian government for high crimes against the Russian state to fly to JFK airport, hole up there for weeks, and hold a press conference attacking Russia. We wonder how Russians and their government would react if the U.S. were to publicly consider giving this criminal asylum to protect him from Russian justice.

Well, in fact we don’t have to imagine. We know how Russians reacted when Britain refused to extradite Boris Berezovsky.  Russia’s reaction was swift and furious.  It launched virulent attacks on Britons throughout Russia, including even an attack on the British Council.  Russians screamed loudly and furiously that Britain had no right to shield Berezovsky, and then they turned around and shielded Andrei Lugovoi, the accused killer of Alexender Litvinenko, from British justice.

But there’s a big difference between Berezovsky and Snowden, of course. Berezovsky was only accused of stealing money to line his pockets, not stealing and publishing secrets which could assist Russia’s enemies in destroying Russia.   Refusing to extradite Berezovsky might be a irritant to Russia, but it’s not an act of war.

And there’s another difference:  Snowden isn’t British, he’s American.  As U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has pointed out, America has repeatedly extradited wanted Russian criminals to Russia, and there is no Snowden or even Berezovsky being given aid and comfort in the USA.  So Russia’s harboring of Snowden is that much more outrageous.

Snowden has exposed the craven policy of appeasement that has been pursued for five years now by the Obama administration.  Now Americans and the world clearly see that there never was any “reset” of relations between Russia and America as Obama claimed, that Russia’s proud America-hating KGB spy ruler has only continued to work towards America’s destruction.

Now. the USA and Russia stand on the brink of war.  With double Russia’s population, ten times its financial resources and host of powerful allies, Russia has no more chance to prevail in this war than did the USSR.

Levada Delivers Brutal Cold Facts to Navalny

A pair of recent polls by Levada, Russia’s most-respected polling company, pours icy cold water on the political fantasies involving Alexei Navalny.

The first poll addresses the Kremlin’s prosecution of Navalny in Kirov for alleged corruption.  The second poll deals with Navalny’s quixotic bid for Mayor of Moscow.  Both links are in Russian.

The news these polls deliver to Navalny is relentlessly, brutally bad.

The polls reveal that at most less than a third of Russians know who Navalny is.  The one bit of good news is that among those in that tiny group the overwhelming majority, 67%, believe the charges against him in Kirov are politically motivated.   But that means that less than 15% of the Russian population agrees with Navalny’s closing statement in court that he is being persecuted. The rest have no idea what he’s talking about.

Similarly, the polls show that a mere 5% of likely voters intend to cast their ballots for Navalny, roughly the same number as plan to vote for the Communist Party candidate Ivan Melnikov.  A strong majority of 53%, by contrast, plans to support the incumbent mayor Sergei Sobyanin.  Only 32% of respondents said they knew who candidate Navalny was, compared to 89% for Sobyanin.

The conclusion to be drawn from these polls is inescapable:  Navalny has no chance of being elected Mayor of Moscow and no chance of causing a national scandal if sent to prison for many years.  Most Russians simply don’t know who he is, and don’t care. The reason for that is simple:  Navalny has focused exclusively on the Internet, which most Russians can’t access.  He has failed to raise significant funds and failed to use them to reach out to the main part of Russia’s population.

Top 10 Reasons Why Russian Opposition is Better off with Navalny Behind Bars

Navalny barsLast week the curtain came down on the farcical show trial of Alexei Navalny in Kirov. The accused was not permitted to call a single witness in his own defense, and pundits far and wide believe from the disturbing conduct of the judge that  he has no chance of being acquitted of corruption charges that are eerily similar to those faced by Mikhail Khodorkovsky soon after he announced he would like to have Putin’s job.

Ironically enough, if he does intend to send Navalny to prison on July 18th (some say Navalny will get off with a slap on the wrist, which will be enough to disqualify him from political office), Putin is doing the Russian opposition a huge favor. Here are the top ten reasons why:

10.  Navalny is a worrying racist-sexist-nationalist.  Navalny has been revoltingly silent on issues like anti-gay legislation because Navalny is not a real democrat. At his core Navalny is a racist nationalist with a mirky past and many very scary attitudes.  He’s not the only freak of this kind who has been embraced by the mainstream opposition; they’ve also marched with the even more dangerous and scary Edward Limonov, to name just one.  Navalny is Limonov lite.  Navalny’s silence on issues like Russian support for Syria and Russia’s invasion of Georgia are equally disturbing indications of the dark ideas that lie beneath the surface, many of which are actually in sympathy with Putin.  Navalny has the same barbaric attitudes towards women that most Russian men have. He has totally failed to make women’s rights a central part of his platform and he has not elevated women to positions of power.  Navalny has done nothing to drive the right-wing element out of his organization; to the contrary, huge numbers of Communists and neo-Nazis still march in opposition rallies.

9.  Navalny has lost focus on doing what he does best.  Navalny’s main claim to fame is that he built a highly successful blog that fearlessly shone light on horrific acts of official corruption.  Now, Navalny is actually stealing the work of other corruption fighters and passing it off as his own.   Had Navalny continued focusing on this work, and given an endorsement and publicity (and financial support) to a political leader more skilled than he in building consensus and national opposition, he could have been a great Russian. Instead, he has become preoccupied with doing everything himself.

8.  Navalny participated an highly questionable “election” and prejudged his own trial.  Navalny is an incredible hypocrite.  The online “election” he personally organized and won by a landslide and his public statements that he’d be found guilty in Kirov before the verdict was rendered show this unfortunate quality in its worst light.  Instead of leading by example towards a pluralistic state, it appears Navalny is building his own cult of personality and in many ways is acting in an anti-democratic manner.  Part of this could be the result of being under siege from the Kremlin, and another part could be because it’s what Russians actually expect from their leaders. But that doesn’t change the fact that Navalny is far from a role model on democratic politics.

7.  Navalny is obsessed with the Internet.  Navalny’s belief that the Internet could unseat Putin has proven childish. It has totally failed.   Navalny has not been willing to do the kind of hard work on the street at the grass roots that leads to a successful revolution.  That may be because he’s just lazy, or it may be that he is incapable of the type of one-on-one canvassing required.  Most Russians get their news from TV, not the Internet, and therefore most Russians have no idea who Navalny is.  Most won’t even know, much less care, if he’s sent to prison.

6.  Navalny can’t communicate with the provinces.  Navalny doesn’t seem to understand that Moscow isn’t Russia.  He’s totally failed to cause a successful revolt against Putin in Moscow, but even if he had done so that would leave 90% of Russia’s population out of the loop.  The vast majority of Russians have no idea who he is, and he’s done nothing significant to change that.  There is simply no evidence that Navalny can connect with ordinary Russians; rather, he clearly seems limited to the yuppie class in Moscow, a tiny minority of Russians who have no power to change anything.

5.  Navalny sucks all the oxygen out of the room.  The only factor that ameliorates Navalny’s sexism is that he’s actually hostile to anyone who would like to share power with him.  Navalny has not shared power with other opposition leaders, he has not sought to elevate any of them into a prominent public role, and he has not unified the opposition via consensus building. Rather, he has sought to dominate it.  The worst, most venal act of Lenin was his failure to identify a successor, creating a power vacuum upon his demise that the murderous Stalin was able to fill.  Navalny has behaved exactly the same way.  His hoarding of power has been carried to such an extent that he’s not even able to identify the person who would pick up his flag and carry on were he to be assassinated or jailed, both of which have been obvious possibilities since he began his agitation.

4.  Navalny isn’t a great leader, but he can be useful martyr.  Navalny doesn’t write or deliver great speeches. He’s not truly inspirational.  He’s no Mandela, King or Gandhi. He just looks good because he has no real competition, and he has none in part because he has choked it off. See no. 5 above.  Navalny was very good at outing acts of official corruption on his blog. He should have used that power to identify and support capable political leaders who could push forward his agenda. Instead he tried to do it himself, which indicates a woeful lack of belief in his countrymen (and/or a woefully gigantic ego).  However, in jail Navalny can succeed in the role of martyr, giving impetus to further opposition activity that might not otherwise take place.

3.  Navalny has broken every promise he’s ever made.  Navalny said we’d see a new round of Duma elections. We didn’t. He said we’d see Putin in a runoff election. We didn’t. He said we’d see his protest movement grow rapidly. It shrank rapidly.  He said he’d win a series of victories in local elections across Russia. He lost.  Not one thing Navalny has ever promised has been delivered. If Navalny were a CEO, he would have been fired by the Board of Directors long ago. But Navalny doesn’t answer to a Board or to anyone.  He demands accountability from Putin, but he himself is not accountable.  If Navalny were a true visionary, he’d step down so someone else could have a chance to do better.

2.  Navalny has not made a name for himself in the West.  The easiest of Navalny’s failures to understand is his failure to make a name for himself in the West, to generate support there as for example Boris Nemtsov has done.  Doing so is risky, because it is something the Kremlin could as a weapon to brand him a “foreign agent.”  But figuring out a way to achieve this should have been a top priority for Navalny. It’s just not possible to challenge  Putin for power without having at least some support from the Western democracies.

1.  Navalny has failed at fundraising.  Even if he was not able to generate ever-larger street demonstrations or achieve any actual political goal, the very least Navalny could have done would have been to use the Internet to raise a large war chest.  He’s totally failed to do this, and this failure goes hand-in-hand with his inability to reach out to the provinces and create a national organization. This failure alone should disqualify him from continuing to hold power over the opposition movement.  The only way any rational person can support Navalny continuing to lead the opposition movement is by adopting an absolutely hostile and patronizing attitude towards Russia, an attitude which posits that, pathetic though he may be, he’s the best a pathetic country can do. If you believe that, you may as well write Russia off. We don’t believe it. We believe that there are many other possible leaders who need to be given a chance to fail just as Navalny has failed. They can’t possibly do any worse.  Instead of hoarding power, Navalny should distribute it to such people and see what they can do.

Gandhi used to say that his country couldn’t have its revolution until it was ready for it, and that maybe in the meantime the best thing he could do for his country was to go to prison.  The same may be true for Navalny in Russia, but not because Navalny is even remotely as well-loved as Gandhi was.  Gandhi had no Internet. He didn’t have the luxury of kicking back with a brewski in front of the telly and tapping out messages to millions the way Navalny can.  Gandhi built a much more powerful movement with only hard leg work and the force of his own ideas and personality.  When he went to jail, the whole nation knew, and wept. It was galvanized. Nothing like this can happen when Navalny is jailed. But at least jailing Navalny will take him out of the picture, forcing the opposition to look for his replacement and perhaps invigorating the movement. Indeed, it could well be that the best thing Putin could do if he wants to undermine the movement is to set Navalny free and let him go back to running it into the ground.

Another Day, Another Spectacular Russian Disaster

Remember when Vladimir Putin told you that the Russian economy was an “island” and a “sanctuary” from the failure of Western economic policies?  Remember how, shortly after that, in 2008, the Russian economy was the worst performer during the global economic downturn, which saw the Russian stock market lose three-quarters of its value?

Keep that in mind as you remember how Putin told you that the Russian space program would leave the West in its dust, serving as the reliable conduit into space as the U.S. space shuttle program was shuttered.  That claim was just as false as Putin’s lie about the economy, as the latest in a long string of spectacular Russian space disasters has just shown.

Now, keep all that in mind as you reflect on Putin’s promise to keep the 2014 Olympics safe from terrorism, because rebel leader Doku Umarov has just announced total war on those games.