The Murder of Navalny

The death of Alexei Anatolyevich Navalny, the principal opposition figure to Vladimir Putin’s regime which has stood unchallenged for the better part of two-and-a-half decades, should serve as a wake-up call for Americans reluctant to support Ukraine aid in their defense against the Russian invasion.

Navalny, an attorney and anti-Putin activist, has reportedly died in a remote Russian prison in the Siberian arctic. The founder of the since-banned Anti-Corruption Foundation and the co-leader of the now rudderless Russia of the Future Party, Navalny gained international attention through social media connections, denouncing Putin and Putin’s enablers. Navalny was convicted of embezzlement charges by the Russian judiciary in the 2010s. The convictions were condemned by international legal watchdog groups as politically motivated. Navalny ran for president for the 2018 election, but was prohibited. Instead, he attempted to mobilize anti-Putin support at the ballots, but to no avail.

While abroad, he was nearly killed by Novichok nerve agents in the summer of 2020. Navalny and his team discovered and exposed the individuals connected with the Russian Federal Security Service—the successor to the KGB—who carried out the attempt on his life.

A year later, Navalny, a husband and father of two, returned to Russia and was instantly detained, put before a kangaroo court, and convicted of extremism and contempt of court. Navalny’s organizations in Russia were dissolved and his prison sentence was extended on more than one occasion.

When Navanly’s lawyers were unable to reach their client in December of 2023, rumors and worries began circulating that he had died. This was not the case, as he appeared to have been moved to a prison 1,200 miles northeast of Moscow, in the frozen realm of the Kara Sea. On February 16, news hit international headlines that the 47-year-old had died.

“If reports of his death are true,” President Joe Biden said Friday, “and I have no reason to believe they are not, Russian authorities are going to tell their own story. Make no mistake, Putin is responsible for Navalny’s death. Putin is responsible. What has happened to Navalny is yet more proof of Putin’s brutality.  No one should be fooled, not in Russia, not at home, not anywhere in the world. Putin does not only target citizens in other countries, as we’ve seen in what is going on in Ukraine right now, he also inflicts terrible crimes on his own people. People in Russia and around the world are mourning Navalny today because he was so many things that Putin is not. He was brave, principled, dedicated to building a Russia where the rule of law existed and applied to everyone. Navalny believed in that Russia, he knew it was a cause worth fighting for.”

In the Congress, however, House Republicans have stalled further aid to war-ravaged Ukraine, now in the second year of its existential struggle with Putin’s army. In the US Senate Tuesday, enough Republicans—including Mitch McConnell—joined with Democrats to pass a $95 billion package to give military aid to Ukraine, Taiwan, and Israel. But House Speaker Michael Johnson would not bring the bill up for a vote and Congress has gone into a recess. Biden, in turn, has expressed worry that the United States will be seen as an unreliable partner on the world stage, a phenomenon Congressman Andy Kim (CD-3) said is known as “American whiplash” in the field of foreign policy.

Congressman Bill Pascrell, Jr. (CD-9), gathered with the House Ukraine Caucus this week, demanding that Ukrainian aid be passed. “I represent one of the largest Ukrainian communities in our nation,” Pascrell said. “Their anguish is palpable. For two years now, Russia has been committing mass murder. For two years, Ukraine has been fighting for its very survival. America cannot stand idly at this moment of truth. Enough is enough. Senate Democrats and many Republicans passed funding for Ukraine, but House Republicans are refusing to let us vote on the bill. The votes are there to pass it. We all know it. House Republicans need to stop doing Putin’s bidding and put this damn bill on the floor. Russia is laughing. The world is watching. History is paying attention to what we do right now. Democrats stand ready to defend Ukraine. I demand that Republicans do the right thing and join us.”

Congressman Josh Gottheimer had released his own statement ahead of the Congressional recess, urging the passage of the bill which would benefit three of America’s allies.

“Much like Israel,” Gottheimer said, “for almost two years, Ukraine has been on the frontline defending against Russia’s unprovoked and unjustified invasion. Russia has deliberately targeted civilians, raped women, and kidnapped Ukrainian children. Iran has helped arm and support its ally Russia during this reckless and evil assault on freedom and democracy. While Israel and Ukraine may be 2,000 miles apart, it could not be clearer that the evils they face are inextricably linked.”

The CD-5 Democrat blamed the MAGA wing for imperiling global security during a crisis. “At this moment, the far-right appears to be walking away from Ukraine during its time of need, which will only further empower Putin and his cronies, and endanger our European allies. Our colleagues should not turn their backs on Israel. Doing so will embolden Iran and its proxies, and endanger Americans abroad. Speaker Johnson should put forth a comprehensive supplemental aid package that stands up to murderous dictators and terrorists. We must do both of these things, while also securing our own borders at home. Watching the far right walk away from securing our borders for political purposes perpetuates the dysfunction of the least productive Congress in thirty years.”

Navalny’s death represents the most significant, and internationally recognized figure in opposition to Putin’s regime at home. That an otherwise healthy and active man in his late 40s should suddenly die is beyond suspect. What will become of domestic resistance to the regime in Russia or among the Russian diaspora will be seen only with the passage of time. Perhaps Navalny will be seen as a martyr, or perhaps as a man who made a grave and naïve miscalculation in returning to his homeland. But Putin’s actions, not his curated statements or propagandistic dancing with Kremlin-friendly figures like Tucker Carlson, are the only measure of truth by which his character can be judged.

In the inaugural address of President John F. Kennedy, a Democrat, on January 20, 1961, the president said that the United States “…shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and success of liberty.”

On June 12, 1987, President Ronald Reagan, a Republican and unquestioned leader of the NATO alliance, went to Berlin, divided between the democratic West and Communist East. He stood at the Brandenburg Gate, and issued a demand of the Soviet Union. “Mr. Gorbachev,” Reagan said, “tear down this wall!”

On February 10, 2024, Former Republican president and returning-candidate Donald Trump said he was asked by the president of “a big country” if the US would defend them if they were not meeting NATO spending requirements and were invaded by Russia. Trump claimed to reply, “No, I would not protect you… in fact, I would encourage them to do whatever the hell they want. You got to pay. You got to pay your bills.”

Condemnations poured in not only from the White House, but also NATO Secretary Jens Stoltenberg. “Any attack on NATO will be met with a united and forceful response.” Stoltenberg, a national leader himself, having served as Prime Minister of Norway from 2005-2013, added that the implication that the US or any other allied power would not come to each other’s defense “…undermines all of our security, including that of the US, and puts American and European soldiers at increased risk.”

European and other global allies increasingly see the United States as an unreliable partner, from the 2019 abandonment of Kurdish allies under the Trump administration to Turkish predation (with the president absurdly saying the Kurds “didn’t help us at Normandy”), the entry-withdrawal-reentry of the Paris Climate Agreement, the collapse of Kabul to the Taliban following the withdrawal of American forces in 2021, and an American Congress’ apparent unwillingness to render critical aid to allies in their struggle against brutal authoritarianism and terror. The solidarity of the Western Powers—excepting the US—has become focused in a new, perhaps unimaginable way to the likes of Reagan and Kennedy. The West knows they must finally take a serious look to their own defense as the United States slips and flounders in the face of global tyranny.

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One response to “The Murder of Navalny”

  1. What Putin did to Navalny is what the Democrats are using LAWFARE to do to Donald Trump.

    As for the Congress not giving funding to Ukraine, you can tell how many politicians are going to lose money in their pockets by how they’re berating the House Democrats and Speaker Johnson for not passing the aid bill. The reason the Republicans won’t release the aid package is because there is no accountability for the spending. We’re sending money and equipment to the Ukraine with no accountability and controls. Instead of throwing U.S. taxpayers’ money down a rabbit hole, not knowing where it is going (especially since some Ukrainian military officials were forced to resign when money under their control disappeared), the Democrats should be enforcing the spending by demanding controls. And, why aren’t the Democrats doing this??? Because a good chunk of the Ukrainian aid money will be coming back to Democrat politicians in the form of donations, kick-backs and pay-offs.

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