War always works and is not expensive: Navalny on Putin’s thinking

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, who is serving a nine-year sentence in a maximum-security prison, says the West’s short-sighted approach has brought Russia up to what it is today, and the only way to put an end to the “endlessly self-reproducing Russian authoritarianism” is to become a parliamentary republic.

In an opinion piece in The Washington Post, Navalny writes the push by Western leaders to ensure Ukraine defends its democracy and independence is a correct tactic but lacks a long-term strategic vision to solve “the fundamental causes” and to prevent Russia from instigating more aggression and instability in the future.

He warns the West against repeating the same “cynical approach in the 1990s” when the post-Soviet elite was effectively empowered to do what they want as long as they watch the nuclear weapons, and keep pumping oil and gas.

According to him, Putin and his top brass don’t view war as a catastrophe but as a time-tested tool that solves all problems.

“…the Russian elite over the past 23 years has learned rules that have never failed: War is not that expensive, it solves all domestic political problems, it raises public approval sky-high, it does not particularly harm the economy, and — most importantly — winners face no accountability,” he adds.

Navalny raises an important point here why the Russian elite don’t care much about the short-term implications of the sanctions and pressure by the West and look at the long-term protects of the relations:

“Sooner or later, one of the constantly changing Western leaders will come to us to negotiate. It does not matter what motives will lead him — the will of the voters or the desire to receive the Nobel Peace Prize — but if you show proper persistence and determination, the West will come to make peace,” he underscores.

He urges the West to send a clear message so that the Russian people and elite make a right choice for the future because, if not, Russia will rise again and take revenge even if it is defeated now in Ukraine.

“The threat to peace and stability in Europe is aggressive imperial authoritarianism, endlessly inflicted by Russia upon itself. Postwar Russia, like post-Putin Russia, will be doomed to become belligerent and Putinist again. This is inevitable as long as the current form of the country’s development is maintained”.

“Only a parliamentary republic can prevent this,” Navalny says, repeating his call multiple times for a parliamentary system that would make sure power is not concentrated in one hand.

The West must give “a clear signal and an explanation of why such a choice is better. Crucially, parliamentary democracy is also a rational and desirable choice for many of the political factions around Putin. It gives them an opportunity to maintain influence and fight for power while ensuring that they are not destroyed by a more aggressive group”.

“The strategy should be to ensure that Russia and its government naturally, without coercion, do not want to start wars and do not find them attractive”.