The horizon is not so far as we can see, but as far as we can imagine

The Point People Miss About Navalny’s Imprisonment

Alexei Navalny

Alexei Navalny

So, the “opposition” leader Alexei Navalny is in prison, and is apparently very sick and perhaps near death.

Navalny is not popular in Russia, he is popular in the West. For years he’s been a gadfly for Putin, and little more.

But what got Navalny in prison, and may get him dead, is simple enough: His revelations about Putin’s family, including an alleged illegitimate daughter.

That stepped over a big bright red line. Putin was chosen as Yeltsin’s successor in large part because Yeltsin believed Putin would protect his family after Yeltsin’s death, which he did.

Putin is 68. He recently put in place a law immunizing past Presidents from any crimes they may have committed. He’s not going to be in charge forever.

The trick of being a dictator is leaving peacefully, surviving retirement, and keeping your family safe. For years, Putin has gone to great lengths to keep his family out of the spotlight, and Navalny attacked Putin’s family.

Navalny had an eye for the thing Putin cared most about — for his weakness. He was right.

But if you come for the King’s family, you’d best not fail to take out the King.

(As for Navalny, he’s not a good actor, and if anything, more violently anti-Muslim than Putin. There is no “good” side in this fight.)

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  1. Astrid

    The all sides are bad argument in the context of Russia is asinine. What is Russia without Putin? Ukraine, Belarus, and the -stans wave hello. Not having the stomach to do the necessary and lethal things can get yourself, your family, your supporters, your country, and your allies killed. Saying nobody is”good” is not a meaningful distinction, because in this context there is a very clear less bad and that is Putin. We see what happens when Corbyn, Sanders, and various Latin leftist governments did not have three killer instinct to exterminate the right wingers fast enough.

    If this protecting the family story is true, then it humanizes Putin, as he is seen as the”dead eye killer” who protects his family (and treats his mistresses well long after sending his relationships). Maybe he and Biden can trade stories and build in that common ground.

  2. DMC

    Bernhard, over at Moon of Alabama, has described in Navalny as essentially a Nazi, in that he is an ultra-nationalist opposed to the many minorities found in the Russian federation. His opposition to Putin is opposition from the extreme right. Putin is not putting people in gas ovens and Navalny he’s upset about that. He has some serious health issues, which are probably the source of his hospitalization. The notion that Russian intelligence attempted to assassinate him is laughable on a number of counts, the most obvious of which is the fact that he’s still alive and that the western press has trotted out the absurd notion that they used 40-year-old samples of novichak to try and kill him. when the Russians want you dead you get dead.

  3. edmondo

    So one is Stalin and the other Hitler? And we get to fight over which one wins? Fuck that. I am so old I remember when Russia was “interfering” in the US’s politics and that was a cause for war!

  4. Hugh

    It wasn’t Putin’s family but Putin’s political persona that Navalny has been challenging. Putin is a dictator of a corrupt system. Russians get that. But Putin’s political image is that while he rules over a bunch of kleptocratic oligarchs, he isn’t one of them. What Navalny was doing was showing that the corruption goes right up to Putin and that Putin is, in fact, just another corrupt oligarch. The danger to Putin from Navalny was that Navalny’s charges about Putin’s wealth and corruption were gaining traction.

    I am always amazed at how naïve Americans are about gangster mentality. The point in offing somebody is not just to off them but to do it in a way where everyone knows who did it but with pro forma deniability. And most importantly in a way, i.e. to die as painfully as possible, to send a message to all future protesters and would-be rivals. Navalny was supposed to die excruciatingly and ambiguously in the depths of Siberia. He did not oblige. But Putin has had time to diminish Navalny. Given the amount of pro-Putin propaganda I see around here, it wasn’t that hard. As for Navalny? Death and obscurity in a Russian prison are an aceptable Plan B.

    That Putin passed a law granting himself immunity is funny. If anything, it is a sign of weakness. Dictators don’t retire. They get carried out feet first, either by a long overdue death or revolution. Any future Russian dictator would off Putin just as easily as Putin would them.

    At some point, Putin will die or be incapacitated by natural or unnatural causes. His wretched response to the covid crisis shows he is not on top of his game anymore. Far from being some wise and astute leader, he will leave a string of unresolved screw-ups and disasters for his successors to deal with because he couldn’t.

  5. edmondo


    You getting ready for a weekend gig at the comedy factory? The fact that you can see the corruption in others but not in your own dear, Democratic Party is hilarious and mitigates any semblance of seriousness you pretend to bring to the conversation.

    Fucking everything you wrote about Putin could be said about the Great Democracy you think you live in.

  6. Hugh

    edmondo, isn’t there a short pier you should be goosestepping off of?

  7. Ian Welsh

    Putin’s response to Covid has indeed been bad, but be cautious. I saw a story in NYTimes whose numbers would mean that Russia had almost 4X as many deaths per capita as the next nation as reported. That would give it the most deaths of any nation in the world, per capita, which I find unlikely.

    And remember that Sputnik is probably best non mRNA vaccine: it’s only 1% less effective than Moderna/Pfizer.

    Stuff written in the US press about Russia needs a strong gimlet eye.

    Of course Putin is making sure he’s seen to take out Navalny. But I don’t think the corruption bit was the part over the red line. Putin has been very protective of his family all thru his career.

  8. Ché Pasa

    The Navalny Thing has struck me as a last gasp of Gene Sharp’s Color Revolution model applied to the ultimate target, the USSR, erm… Russia.

    There is something incredibly phony about it, including Navalny’s latest illness.

    Navalny is not someone anyone sane would want running Russia or any of its oblasts. Yet the US and most of Europe is (apparently) absolutely in his thrall. The point of that seems more like harassment of the Putin regime than a serious attempt at regime change.

    As for Ian’s description of the immediate issue and why he’s in prison as Navalny’s interference with Putin’s family, it’s something I’ve never thought of, and it rings likely.

    But there’s never just one answer to these sorts of things, is there?

    After all, the narrative being flogged in much of the media is that Putin is deeply unpopular and the Russian regime must change to reflect the Navalny Movement’s demands. And then… and then….

  9. Plague Species

    Bernhard, over at Moon of Alabama, has described in Navalny as essentially a Nazi, in that he is an ultra-nationalist opposed to the many minorities found in the Russian federation. His opposition to Putin is opposition from the extreme right.

    So, Navalny is effectively a Russian Trump. Why does Putin hate him then — so much so he wants him dead. If Trump is good enough for America he’s good enough for Russia.

    Fyi, I don’t give a shit about Navlny, but not because Bernie at Moon says so.

  10. putinlivingrentfree

    Putin does what he has to do to protect Russia and Western hypocrites hate it that he has less blood on his hands than they do.

    The only thing Americans produce are men with tits.

  11. Mark Pontin

    Not incidentally, it’s not in the Western MSM, but claims are that the U.S. just tried to carry out a coup-by-assasination of Lukashenko in Belarus.

    Accounts by Gilbert Doctorow, a reliable Brussels-based analyst and former colleague of Stephen Cohen’s, here —

    That’s the context for Putin’s remarks reported in the NYT that yesterday Putin promised “asymmetric retaliation etc.” against unnamed aggressors in an addendum to his annual address to the Russian Federal Assembly.

    One very brief Reuters entry —

    Tass here —

    Needless to say, plenty from RTNews and the likes of the Saker and Moon of Alabama, for whatever they’re worth.

  12. Stirling S Newberry

    Excel Lambda for the people who think it is funny.

  13. Plague Species

    The only thing Americans produce are men with tits.

    America also produces a lot of CO2 from what I understand. I guess all those immigrants clamoring to get to America, the men folk amongst them anyway, are really clamoring to get tits and to help contribute to even greater American greenhouse gas emissions.

    Putin does what he has to do to protect Russia…

    Too funny. Putin is a communist. The communists cum Stalinists destroyed Russia. What the former Russia has been ever since is an insane perversion. Putin protects the Oligarchs like a mafia Don protects his Capos. Without oil and gas, Russia is a second world country. It’s barely first world as it is. A second world country with an oligarchical dictator with nukes overcompensating for his physical diminutive stature. Short Guy Syndrome is a REAL thing. History has proven this to be true. Short guys should not be allowed to hold any form of power. They need to stick to cleaning out the sewers.

  14. Feral Finster

    @Plague Species: Putin and Russia are depicted as communists when the audience is conservative, and painted as right wing extremists when the target audience are liberals.

    They are neither, in large part because the current USA paradigm of “left” vs. “right” makes little sense outside the context of contemporary USA politics.

    Anyway, I speak Russian, I lived there, I have friends there, I have not a drop of Slavic blood in me, AFAIK, nor am I related to a Russian or Ukrainian by blood or marriage.

  15. Plague Species

    Putin and Russia are depicted as communists when the audience is conservative…

    Not anymore. Once upon a time, yes, but those days are long past. Now Putin is a capitalist. But he’s still a communist too. The best kind of capitalist as far as conservatives (the new and improved conservatives) are concerned — a capitalist who would be king and is. Conservatives love Putin now and they love his brand of capitalism because many capitalists are also communists at heart.

    Putin represents the merging of communism and capitalism, Russian style versus Chinese style. Capitacommunism. Commucapitalism.

  16. Hugh

    Russian trolls, Mark Pontin’s conspiracy theory of history, good times.

  17. Feral Finster

    Plague Species: your answer is incoherent.

    Hugh is just ranting as always.

  18. rkka

    Yeah, almost 600 gigabucks in the central bank reserve, most oil revenue sterilized in a fund to support the pension system, armed forces no longer “ruins & debris” the Soviet debt paid off & the debt/GDP ratio the lowest in the G-20…

    No self-respecting kleptocrat of the Mobuto/Sukharto/Marcos/Somoza/Duvalier/Poroshenko/Yeltsin variety would have permitted anything of the sort.

    Hugh’s just really bad at math.

  19. Hugh

    Yes, Russia is paradise. Ask any troll. There are plenty slouching around here.

    From 2019, but still useful:

    “According to a new report by Russia’s state statistical agency, Rosstat, 35 million Russians live in houses or apartments without indoor toilets, 47 million do not have hot water, 29 million don’t have any running water inside their residences, and 22 million do not have central heating.

    In fact, only 62.7 percent of the Russian population has the usual accoutrements of modern existence – water in the house, plumbing, heating and gas or electric ranges.”

    Paradise I tell you. Run by the Wonderful Wizard of Putin.

  20. Plague Species

    Hugh, what’s further noteworthy about that is the fact living conditions are becoming worse for many Russians than during Soviet times. The Soviets, at least for half their tenure if not a bit longer, invested heavily in infrastructure. Not so any longer. The wealthy elite of Russia, the .01% who report directly to Putin and bring him offerings in return for protection, are stealing the country blind and hiding that absconded wealth in a myriad of creative ways.

    Such an arrangement can not last and wont’t end well. It’s not too different than the West. Whereas the West is truly comprised of oligarchies and is truly ruled by a few rather than just one, Russia is truly not an oligarchy. It’s a kleptocratic autocratic dictatorship. Putin runs a protection racket but his Capos do not rule. He rules. He says what goes and doesn’t go. He says what is and what isn’t. If one of the Capos dares to exert his influence and challenge Putin’s authority in any way, well, that’s it for him and they are all males of course.

  21. Mark Level

    So Hugh finds it “funny” that Putin passed a statute giving himself some kind of legal immunity? Yes, that is pretty sleazy on its face.

    However, what’s distressing (not amusing) to me is that the US political and corporate elites don’t have to stoop to any such open measures, as they already have total immunity from all the crimes they openly commit.

    Just a few (don’t want to grow old and grey writing a comprehensive list) examples–

    George W. Bush committed international war crimes, killed a million Iraqis in an invasion even the US bootlicker United Nations admitted was “illegal” (according to the Nuremberg principles), as well as massive torture in violation of the US Bill of Rights, & his successor says “Don’t look back,” all is forgiven.

    How many 100s of financial crimes has D.J. Trump committed defrauding and stealing from others, and never meaningfully prosecuted? Whatever happened to those tax returns he couldn’t share because of legal disputes before he was President? (It is nice to know when he evaded NY State taxes on jewelry sent from out of state, the vendor was punished, the little folks always should be).

    I live in California and just yesterday I heard that sleazeball, murderous utility Pacific Gas & Electric was in court charged in the deaths of numerous people in a 2019 fire caused by their negligence. Needless to say, none of their execs ever have been or will be prosecuted for now hundreds of deaths in fires they caused. Oh, and when they blew up 6 people due to neglect in San Bruno (a Norcal suburb) & homicide was admitted, just the usual cost-of-doing business fine.

    Jeffrey Epstein’s sweet, sweet deal in Florida years ago after massive sex-trafficking of girls– well, okay his plea put him in a 6 days a week release pretend “prison” confinement before he was released and went back to the same-old same-old sex trafficking of minor girls.

    “Too big to fail” and “Too big to jail” are enshrined for our corporate elites. It all started with Ford’s pardon of Nixon and has become evident and overt, it is not even hidden. Will little Matty Gaetz see a day in confinement for his current underage girls and drugs shenanigans? I wouldn’t bet on it.

    I’m not a Christian, but I think Jesus’ (or his gospel writers) statement about criticizing others while ignoring the beam (or mote) in your own eye applies here. Could we try to clean up our “own” government & corporate crimes? I guess we could try, though it wouldn’t likely succeed. But oh, Hugh’s great moral jouissance comes from standing in the posting forum and denouncing the bad, corrupt Putin. (To be clear, I’m sure Putin is a vicious turd, however, he’s not in power due to MY consent or tax $$$, maybe I should look at my own country’s glass house before throwing rocks?)

    But what was truly funny was PS’s fact-free assertion that “Putin is a communist”!!? ROTFLMAO. So 21st century Russia is a Communist nation? Why did they arrest and jail those Pussy Riot women for ridiculing the orthodox church (along with Putin’s state)? . . . PS’s claim is very similar to all the Bircher’s claims that President Eisenhower was “a conscious agent of the Soviet conspiracy” or Hoover’s claims that MLK was on Moscow’s payroll!! Sometimes a good belly laugh is healthy though, so my thanks for the “facts not in evidence” of PS’s fantasy projections.

  22. Plague Species

    Plague Species: your answer is incoherent.

    I can’t help it if it doesn’t translate into Russian very well.

    Can Putin be both a communist and a capitalist? Of course he can and he is. The communists were capitalists in waiting. Russia proves this. China proves this. The capitalists were communists in waiting. Wall Street has proven this with its capture of governance and subsequent tyrannical rule.

    For a century they yearned for the merger. The time has come. Together at last. Vidal would be delighted. He always believed Russia and America would make great bed fellows if they could just put their egos aside and make it past flirtation. All Putin has to do is share some power and all will be well in the garden. The wealthy elite have a rule. No one person should have absolute power.

  23. Purple Library Guy

    As to Putin, I find myself more and more drawing a thick line between what I think of his foreign policy and what I think of his domestic economic policy and what I think of his domestic, political policy. His foreign policy is extremely competent and even, all in all, pretty ethical considering. There is probably no other head of state as good at that stuff as Putin.

    His domestic economic policy is not very good; if you ever watch him talk about it you can see that he’s got a better grasp of the files than most Western politicians, but he seems to have accepted a lot of neoliberal premises as well as being willing to do what it takes to keep various oligarchs on side, and that leads to bad policy no matter how good your detail work is. So for instance, he’s pretty anti-union and doesn’t seem to be trying to do much about inequality, although he does talk about it sometimes. Mind you, Western politicians are about the same except for the “grasp of the files” part.

    His approach to actual politics . . . does seem to be pretty authoritarian and corrupt, and if anything getting worse over time. And somewhat paranoid, but after all, we know they really are out to get him.

  24. Hugh

    With first the Russian trolls, it was only a matter of time for the America haters to show up. With this group, anything serves as an intro to another exposition of their obsessions. It’s like they want to make QAnon types look reasonable in comparison to them. Well, good job, guys, you’re succeeding. That Putin is a dictator and a thug should be uncontroversial but to the trolls and the hate USA crowd, that’s treated as either heresy or as an intro: “You think he’s bad, let me tell you about the USA!” blah, blah, blah.

  25. Hugh

    Purple Library Guy, I see Putin’s foreign policy as short-sighted and opportunistic. His backing of Russian separatists in Georgia and Ukraine, his invasion and seizure of Crimea, have simply de-stabilized and turned permanently hostile most of his western frontier. As for Syria, Putin backed a failing police state. It is still largely failing. Putin, stateman that he is, isn’t going to pay to rebuild it.

    The worthwhile question for me remains what happens to all these problems after Putin kicks off.

  26. Astrid

    Everybody stop being mean and oppressing Hugh by intentionally and premeditatedly disagreeing with him! You all need to be cancelled and sent to troll prison for being the dictionary definition of troll (“individual who disagrees with Hugh”).

    What is wrong with you Nazi Commie authoritarian dictator worshipping Trump-voting Chink-Hasbara Putin justifying trolling troll? Why can’t you just reasonably agree with Hugh that USA need to launch freedom missile and freedom drones and freedom sanctions so no German will ever be in danger of using Russian natural gas and no Uighur will ever have to work again. They need to be living in the blessed freedom that the US was able to give Libyans and Iraqis and Chileans and continues to give to Venezuelans and Syrian.

  27. Astrid

    Don’t you know that Hugh has the bestest of intentions and want everyone to be free, unless they voted for Trump, by voting for Trump or by not voting straight ticket Democrat? Sure, after an election, Hugh can magnanimously take time out of his busy TRUTHTELLER schedule to tell discuss whether Biden might be a wee bit flawed (too friendly to Putin?).

    Why are you oppressing him with “information” that evidence of Uighur oppression was made up by a right wing Christian fabulist *TRUTHTELLER* and that people in Donbass and the Crimean prefer the Russian Federation to having their heads kicked in by neoNazi *DEMOCRACY ADVOCATES*.

    Who are you to tell Hugh that as an American with no actual knowledge about the history and people of these regions, and an amazing ability to never learn about those places by not reading or responding to anything that might conflict with his TRUTH, maybe he should learn more about them and also leave them alone to resolve their issues without outside interference? Hugh know best. Hugh knows bestest! For Hugh is the long foretold second coming of Giblets (!;&_&*$7)/!!!$$!!!!!!

  28. Hugh

    Ah, and here’s Astrid with her pro-China comic strip view of history. If progressives want to be credible on foreign affairs, they need to have an informed, reasoned view on those affairs. There is a lot to criticize about US foreign policy but that doesn’t give any other country a pass, allow double standards, or permit conspiracy theories that would embarrass someone even on the wingnut right.

  29. Astrid! You’re killing me! I don’t think I ever laughed so hard at a pair of Ian Welsh blog comments.

    Unfortunately, you will only confirm, in Hugh’s mind, that everything he writes is correct!

    However, as long as you continue providing comic relief, I’m fine with that.

    IMNSHO, American politics is crying out for a Jimmy Dore of the right. You could pretend to be a right winger, and fill that considerable void, and monetize your talent on rumble (and youtube, until they cancel you).

    For that matter, I see a lot of opportunity for more lefty Jimmy Dore and Bill Maher types.

    I used to live in a house with a couple of teenagers, who regularly took in the Jon Stewart show. The would also watch professional wrestling, though I like to think both of them (with aptitude scores in the 95th percentile) knew it was fake. What they wouldn’t watch is any serious news show. (Which, to be fair, is a tough ask, since the ‘news’ is so bad, and even NPR went with the Russiagate hoax, so where are you going to find good sources with good signal to noise characteristics, anyway?).

    In short, their knowledge of politics came from and through Jon Stewart, but that’s not so bad, considering the options. You just might have what it takes to step into his shoes.

  30. Soredemos

    Hugh: you yourself are consistently about the most ill-informed commenter on this site. You’re in absolutely no position to be lecturing anyone else on the need to know what their talking about. You also have a child’s view of world politics, while berating others as being too simplistic.

    And you currently seem to be in a competition with Plague Species to see who can put out the most inane drivel (though as of right now, I thing Plague is winning; some gibberish about communist-capitalists)


    “The would also watch professional wrestling, though I like to think both of them (with aptitude scores in the 95th percentile) knew it was fake.”

    Uh, pretty sure every adult knows it’s fake.

  31. Astrid

    Hmmm, the only thing I said about China in those two comments was a reference to Adrian Zenz, which has been brought up multiple times when Hugh yells ” what about the poor Uighurs” but he never bothered to acknowledge or counter.

    “Informed, reasoned” = only MSNBC/NYT/WaPo/BBC/NPR/Guardian can Hugh what to think. Don’t you dare to contaminate his mind with any discussions about whether the accusations against Russia/China has any basis in fact or make any sense, rights of other countries and peoples to national sovereignty and national security, and why the US, after 20 years of unmitigated failure (and a much longer track record of toppling populist regimes, installing right wing terrorists, and being generally evil), might not be in a moral position to lecture anyone.

  32. Feral Finster

    Oh boy, more Team D cultists who accuse anyone who disagrees with them of being “Russians”.

    It’s the equivalent of a Goebbels dismissing something as a “Jew argument”.

    As if so many “Russian trolls” were able to post in idiomatic and grammatical English, and had the time to do so on a website that relatively few people read, one where the same people post most of the comments.

    Pro tip: the Russian language does not have definite articles. Some Russians speak English quite well; most don’t. I am yet to meet any Russian, other than one who grew up in an English speaking country, who could consistently use definite articles in English the way a native speaker can.

  33. Cesar

    I’m sitting at a bar sipping a stout and would like to propose a toast to Astrid for the clarity of her comments and the sharpness of her wit. Cheers! Cient’anne! Prost!

  34. Plague Species

    I’m sitting at a bar sipping a stout…

    Is drinking it, the beer that is versus the Kool-Aid, through your mask a bit like being waterboarded because clearly and obviously if you’re at a bar you’re wearing a mask like good considerate citizen. Surely you wouldn’t be irresponsible and not wear a mask, right?

  35. Astrid

    Some people have home bars. I inherited one with our house and use it for potting up plants.

    Thanks for the kind words and for overlooking my many misspellings and skipped words (blaming the iffy Android phone). I must say that Hugh seemed to have gone down the deep end lately. But then, Covid has been rough on pretty much everyone. I’ve gone from being vaguely progressive with some awareness of Democratic duplicity to being a raging Marxist ready to chop off the heads of the entire US political-media-CEO-billionaire class.

  36. Astrid

    Also, I wasn’t really trying to be funny. Just saying the quiet parts of team D’s assumptions out loud.

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