Is Vladimir Putin about to get a taste of his own medicine?
Is the Kremlin leader about to face a Russian version of the populist wave that has swept the West?
Is Russia about to get its very own antiestablishment leader who channels the anger of the disenfranchised and those left behind by globalization?
Anticorruption blogger Aleksei Navalny's announcement on December 13 that he will run for president in 2018 certainly opens up that possibility.
Just as populists like Nigel Farage, Marine Le Pen, and Donald Trump caught Western establishments flat footed and capitalized on their complacency, Navalny is hoping to do the same in Russia.
Like his Western counterparts, Navalny taps into ethnic nationalism, anger about corruption, and fatigue about an entrenched elite.
But unlike his Western counterparts, he also manages to appeal to liberals as well.
It's a potentially potent combination.
And now the Kremlin has an unpleasant choice.
It can crush Navalny's fledgling candidacy with a show-trial conviction, which would be a tacit admission that they are afraid of him.
Or it can run against him and hope for the best.
Navalny is betting Russia is not immune to the antiestablishment wave. And he is betting that he can ride it.
Sure it seems quixotic right now. And sure it's a long shot.
But then again, so were a lot of other things that happened over the past year.
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