Don’t Look for Political Logic in the Kremlin’s Treatment of Navalny
By Tatiana Stanovaya,
How best to explain the Kremlin’s spectacular mishandling of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny?
At first glance, Navalny’s arrest at a Moscow airport on Sunday looks like an irrational and self-injurious overreaction. The Kremlin’s move all but guarantees a new wave of protests inside Russia. For years, the Kremlin had tried to treat Navalny like a run-of-the-mill nuisance. Now it has transformed him into something of a folk hero for a growing number of Russians.
Yet beneath the surface, the failed assassination and the dramatic arrest of an endlessly combative yet media-savvy opponent of the Putin regime reveal a different storyline. For quite some time, it has been commonplace to talk about Kremlin decisionmaking as though Russia’s leadership were a monolith. It isn’t. Nor is the Russian ruling elite all that cohesive. When it comes to the Navalny case, its ranks are deeply split—in ways that have all too often been ignored.