Dueling for the Soul of Russia
Rutland writes that Putin "has met his nemesis [in Alexei Navalny], a man who has proved his courage by facing down repeated physical assaults, and who is manifestly willing to die for his cause." He further argues that “Navalny’s challenge to Putin is not just political—it is personal. Putin has tried to avoid this, refusing to utter Navalny’s name, and referring to him instead as ‘the Berlin patient’ or ‘this gentleman.’ " Although "[o]bservers disagree about Navalny’s political values," Rutland states that there is no ambiguity about his political goal. "He does not believe that it is possible to hold Russia’s leaders accountable within the existing political system. The investigative journalism, the protests and the election campaigning are just a means to the end of regime change.” Rutland concludes that due to continued low public support, "[i]t looks unlikely that Navalny will succeed in his quest to topple Putin in the near future. … But his very existence serves as a moral rebuke: a symbol of the Russia that might yet be.”
Read the full article at Transitions Online.
Peter Rutland is a professor of Global Issues and Democratic Thought at Wesleyan University.
Image by Ilya Repin shared in the public domain.