Despite having uncontested power at home and despite a string of victories abroad, Vladimir Putin's Kremlin is clearly afraid.
It's afraid that the antiestablishment populism that has swept across the West, resulting in Brexit in the U.K., the rise of Marine Le Pen in France, and the election of Donald Trump in the United States, could also strike Russia.
And the Putin regime is also clearly afraid that anticorruption crusader Aleksei Navalny could be the vehicle that harnesses Russia's latent discontent.
Now this is undoubtedly why the Russian authorities this week moved to limit Navalny's ability to raise funds online.
Navalny was planning to crowd fund his upstart 2018 presidential campaign and had already raised 12.7 million rubles online.
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He used a similar tactic in his innovative 2013 campaign for mayor of Moscow, in which -- despite being denied access to state television -- Navalny finished a surprisingly strong second place and nearly forced a runoff.
But this week, Yandex Money, Russia's most popular online fund-raising tool, informed Navalny that the law forbids it being used for political purposes.
And oh, by the way, Yandex Money is 75 percent owned by the state-controlled bank Sberbank.
In recent years, the Kremlin has skillfully used Western democracy as a weapon against Western democracy by stealthily backing antiestablishment forces.
At the same time, the Putin regime is going to great lengths to assure that Russia's opposition is unable to aim the very same weapon at the Kremlin.
And they are doing this because they are afraid.
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