Tuesday, August 23, 2016

The Power Vertical

Navalny Wins A Round

Aleksei Navalny speaks outside the Moscow Election Commission shortly before being briefly detained by police.
Aleksei Navalny speaks outside the Moscow Election Commission shortly before being briefly detained by police.
One has to wonder whether the Moscow police aren't secretly working for Aleksei Navalny.

Accompanied by hundreds of supporters and with video cameras rolling, the anticorruption blogger and opposition figure walked down the capital's central Tverskaya Street to the city's election commission on July 10 to register as a candidate.

When Navalny came out of the building to address his supporters and speak to journalists, he was inexplicably seized by police and hauled into a waiting paddy wagon. Chanting "shame," "Navalny is our mayor," and "release him," the crowd surrounded the bus.

And then, after a tense standoff, the police let Navalny go -- and reportedly apologized to him.

"Thus begins our spectacular election campaign," he told his cheering supporters, who then fanned out to stump for their newly minted candidate.

"Thank you everyone! Thank you that you didn't disperse and didn't leave me alone in this. Because of you they let me go. Let's be like this for everyone. One for all!" he said.

And the crowd chanted back: "And all for one!"

It could easily be turned into an advertisement -- and perhaps will be. The video, in any event, is clearly destined to go viral. (You can watch the whole thing from start to finish here or here.) 



As a metaphor for -- and a microcosm of -- the battle Navalny finds himself in, the whole incident was pretty fitting.

Today he started his campaign for Moscow mayor, an uphill struggle under the best of circumstances.

And next week, on July 18, a court in Kirov Oblast is due to issue a verdict in Navalny's highly politicized trial on embezzlement charges widely viewed as trumped-up. If the expected guilty verdict comes down, Navalny could find himself incarcerated for a lot longer than the brief stint he spent in a paddy wagon. 

But with thousands of people already pledged to take to the streets in his defense, locking up Navalny for the six years prosecutors -- and thus the Kremlin -- are asking for will not be without cost.

Which gets to the heart of the asymmetrical tactics Navalny has long deployed.

If I'm right about him, and I think I am, he's playing a long game, building up a reservoir of goodwill and street cred that make him the clear eventual alternative to Vladimir Putin's regime.

In his closing statement in court last week, when he vowed to "liquidate the feudal system that is stealing from us all," Navalny acted like someone who knows he owns the future.

"Despite the fact that you sit in judgement of me and can imprison me, I will fight for you," he said.

"And if anybody thinks I am afraid of this six years I am threatened with and will run away abroad or somewhere, they are seriously mistaken. I will wait it out. I cannot run away from myself. I don't want to do anything but help my fellow citizens."

This is a man who just might be even more dangerous to the Kremlin in prison than he is on the street.

NOTE TO READERS: I wasn't planning on blogging on Navalny for the second day in a row, but today's events left me little choice.

Tags: Aleksei Navalny

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
by: Eugenio from: Vienna
July 11, 2013 03:59
One has to wonder whether Navalny is just a stooge of NATO, a Zionist pawn on the road to irrelevance.
In Response

by: Alex from: Baltimore
July 11, 2013 17:06
No need to wonder about you - an anti-Semitic, anti-American left wing fool already made irrelevant by the spectacular global failure of communism and socialism. Stop maligning Russian dissidents, you pathetic, conspiracy-mongering pro-Putin troll. Navalny has nothing to do with NATO, Israel, or the US - he's just a Russian fighting Putin and his gang of crooks and thugs. More power to him.
In Response

by: shay from: boston
July 11, 2013 19:30
Alex – I like your response to that clown, but please don't be so hard on socialism. The Soviet Union was never socialist, instead look at present-day Sweden, or Norway where 90% of their oil profits are funneled directly back to the people. Even France has an acceptable model. In America I challenge you to defy the manifesto of avowed socialist Senator Bernie Sanders in Vermont, a lone voice of reason in a broken political system.
In Response

by: Eugenio from: Vienna
July 14, 2013 19:30
Aha, I am the clown who has spent more than two years promising the "endgame" for Bashar al-Assad, and I am also the clown who is currnetly making a complete fool of himself by trying to "pressure" all sorts of countries into handing Edwars Snowden to the US to "face the music". Just laugh into my face, as long as it is my criminal activities of spying on everyone all over the world that have recently been exposed :-)).
In Response

by: Shay from: Boston
July 11, 2013 19:23
One has to wonder if Putin is just a stooge of the cleptocracy of elites who have robbed Russia blind, a figurehead for the KGB/FSB thugs who rely upon imagined enemies in order to justify their existence, with no safe exit planned due to the endless enemies he has spawned throughout the world.
In Response

by: Asehpe from: The Netherlands
July 12, 2013 01:22
Always designed to maximize laughing.

Have a good weekend! :)

by: La Russophobe from: USA
July 12, 2013 12:02
I find it kind of troubling that there is not one single critical word said about Navalny in this piece. I reads much more like a piece of campaign propaganda produced by Navalny himself than like journalism or critical analysis.

And then there's the wishful thinking! It's rather naive to suggest that Navalny is dangerous to the Kremlin. This is exactly the kind of thing that used to be written about Khodorkovsky before it turned out that the latter was never going to let out of jail and that the people of Russia didn't care. Long game? You must be kidding.

Don't forget that a big part of the street support for Navalny came from Nazis and Commies, and even then it wasn't that substantial. Navalny is no King, Mandela or Gandhi.

Navalny isn't going to get more powerful or well known by spending time in prison. He'll be permanently disqualified from holding elective office and he'll be forgotten. It's now very clear he has no real electoral support even in Moscow, much less elsewhere in Russia. Meanwhile, who is going to front the opposition while he's in prison? Is there any reason to think it won't degenerate further into the same type of squabbling we've always seen?

by: Eugenio from: Vienna
July 14, 2013 19:55
VIDEO: 'No justice, no peace!' Angry protests sweep Russia over Navalny trial - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8XojO_N2E3M&feature=youtube_gdata_player

by: Zackery from: USA
July 16, 2013 03:24
It's becoming clear that it is only a matter of time before the Russian people throw the failing Putin system out.

You can sense in it the crowds everywhere.
In Response

by: Eugenio from: Vienna
July 16, 2013 09:05
:-))) Aha, that is probably also the sense of Gérard Depardieu and Edward Snowden: that's probably the major reason why they left their native France and USA and moved to Russia.
By the way, will the Russian people throw Putin out before or after the so often promised "endgame" for Bashar al-Assad has finally come :-))?
In Response

by: La Russophobe from: USA
July 17, 2013 10:53
Sure! Just like it was only a matter of time for the Communists.

And how long did that take, exactly?

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The Power Vertical is a blog written especially for Russia wonks and obsessive Kremlin watchers by Brian Whitmore. It offers Brian's personal take on emerging and developing trends in Russian politics, shining a spotlight on the high-stakes power struggles, machinations, and clashing interests that shape Kremlin policy today. Check out The Power Vertical Facebook page or