So, we’ve been seeing a lot of Russia on the news lately. It’s funny how an American administration that constantly lies about meetings with Russian operatives makes the public all the more fascinated with this topic. At this point, we’ve all heard about Russian President Vladimir Putin. Ruthless, smart, hardworking, and unbelievably cruel, Putin has been in charge of Russia for a solid 17 years. Russia actually does have term limits for their presidents, but Putin works his way around this. He switches with his publicly buffoonish running mate Dmitry Medvedev periodically as president then prime minister. The titles don’t really matter in this instance. We all know that Putin’s the real one in charge. He’s going to hold onto power with all he’s got, too, as he likes to be in charge, and he loves the money.
For, Vladimir’s personal wealth is estimated to be the greatest in the world. This is in spite of Russia’s recent economic troubles and Putin’s own lack of career differentiation. He’s only ever worked as a government official, and Russian presidents get paid a measly $100,000 annually. Clearly, something is not adding up here.
There’d probably be a lot more investigation into Putin’s finances by Russian officials if he hadn’t immediately dismantled the free press upon his rise to power. Anyone who opposed him tended to disappear, die, or be discredited in some way. This includes activists, other politicians, judges, and pretty much anyone else Putin found to be a threat. His tactics have proven quite useful to himself. Putin now enjoys an approval rating in the 80%-range.
In this midst of all this enforced complacency and ignorance by way of the public enters Alexei Navalny. He’s an activist and a would-be politician. Over the last ten years, Navalny’s had to face multiple charges for obscure claims of embezzlement. He’s even been convicted and served significant jail time. He’s been arrested so many times that it seems as if guys in handcuffs would show up if he sneezed too loudly. His most recent foray into politics is to run against Putin in 2018.
Just remember the atmosphere of Putin’s Russia where anyone he perceives as a threat is discredited, openly murdered, or secretly taken out of the picture. I’m not exaggerating about any of this, by the way. I know it sounds like a bad James Bond film premise, but this shit really is happening right now. Just imagine how scary it must be to run against Putin in such a country where most of the citizens hate you and love him, even when you see the corruption in your government–when you see just how much the people who work for the government have transformed into Putin’s puppets.
Navalny has seen what his country has become, which is why he is acting upon his convictions. Yesterday, he posted a documentary that truly demonstrated his current attitude towards the Russian administration. He posted a 49-minute video about the real wealth of Dmitry Medvedev, Putin’s favorite puppet. I actually watched it late last night, and I urge anyone interested in this topic to do the same. Throughout the video, you get the strong sense of Navalny’s dedication to his country. He mentions several times about tomorrow’s Russia, as he feels it will be a significant improvement over today’s. He follows the money, and backs all of his claims with documented evidence. I’ll admit, I was surprised just how methodical they were, following the money, linking it to Medvedev’s Instagram account, and tracking down every elaborate property owned by the current Russian prime minister. There were a number of them, and Navalny made sure to get drone footage of each one.
Throughout this video, I did get the sense that Navalny knew the risks he was taking by showing his country this. He knows that he probably just signed his own death warrant. Such a documentary is a declaration of war in Putin’s world. Yet, knowing this didn’t stop Navalny. He posted all this anyway. He found his people and his country more important than his life. I find myself quite moved by this man’s actions. He even found a way to slide in considerable dry humor into the video. When noting a man-made lake on one of Medvedev’s estates, Navalny claimed that they had yet to establish if there were any ducks in it, for example. He might be about to lose his life, but Navalny proved himself a fighter. I really do hope he doesn’t die because of this this, but I’m not particularly hopeful.
In the meantime, we can all take a deep breath that Russian politics are not yet American politics. There’s enough people in the intelligence communities, judiciary system, the free press, the public, and the legislative branch who are dedicated to investigating Trump that his presidency will prove quite short-lived. His illegal activities have been too obvious (both those involving Russia and those which haven’t). It’s up to us to show the world that such a man is unworthy to remain our president.
Photo by The Interpreter