Naval’ny Wins Respect

It might have been supposed that given President Vladimir Putin’s tight grip on Russia and those Russians abroad who have reason to fear for their lives, the leader of the opposition would keep out of his gunsights and the Russian press would go out of their way to avoid drawing attention to themselves by reporting favourably on Putin’s most potent opponent.

So I had almost thought of not bothering to scan most of the Russian press today to follow up on the fate of Naval’ny after his return to Russia; that he finds himself held in custody till mid-February. Novaya gazeta was the obvious, and I wrongly thought the only, port of call worth making.

To my surprise the centrist, state oriented newspaper Nezavisimaya gazeta held a surprise in store. It offered comment worth reading. Signed off as an editorial, the brief leader on Naval’ny asks why he has returned given that humans are normally guided by self-preservation. Only Daniel walked into the lions’ den (and who is to say that actually happened?) The editors then go on to note the positive characteristics that won power for Putin and that sustained his popularity for two decades, comparing them with the qualities that Naval’ny displays.

Surprise, surprise, we see the manly qualities that rewarded Putin in public opinion are shared equally by Naval’ny, though what they do not say is that in terms of courage Naval’ny is, of course, far the braver: when did anyone try, on three occasions, to poison Putin? But there are other qualities not mentioned that the President displays only in the conduct of foreign policy: notably doing the unexpected to throw the opponent off guard. This is precisely what the Japanese martial arts offer in great measure. But the Chinese martial arts teach something else that is not in Putin’s judo manual: namely, the importance of winning without fighting. Putin had better watch out.

8.01.2021 19:40:00

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