Weekly Column

Gavrilo Princip, Usama Bin Laden and Alexei Navalny

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Putin’s murder of Alexei Navalny may well be a seismic moment. Navalny’s martyrdom will speak to all of the people of Russia, but especially to the liberal elites in Moscow and St Petersburg. They hate the war in Ukraine, they despise the corruption of the Oligarchy, they loathe the despotic regime in the Kremlin. They cannot say so – hundreds of arrests of protestors as Navalny’s death was announced prove that. But all dictatorships eventually are the victim of their own brutality, and Putin’s demise – we hope - may be close.

All Russian regimes end in violence, perhaps because they have never had true democracy, nor even free market liberalism. The turbulent dictatorship of the Tsars was overturned by bloody Bolshevik revolution; it took a civil war to establish the Soviet Union in 1922; Stalinist violence defeated Trotsky and most of the old Politburo; Khrushchev defeated Stalinism, Gorbachev’s Perestroika and Glasnost ended Soviet Socialism; Yeltsin was defeated by the oligarchs and Putin. Violence has been the hallmark of all Russian history, and the demise of Putin will be no different.

The Navalny murder must also influence the decision of the US House of Representatives on the $95 billion package for Ukraine and Israel. It reconfirms the wickedness of the Putin regime, and the urgent necessity of defeating it, which is looking harder by the day without wholehearted US and UK support for Zelensky. Russia’s covert, or implied support for Iran and their proxies, Hamas, Hezbollah and the Houthis; and the consequent risk of escalation into war with the West is not insignificant. And we must never forget the signals which all of this sends to China and their long-held ambition to invade Taiwan (by military or economic means).

Throw political chaos in America into that Navalny- Ukraine- Hamas- Houthis- Hezbollah- Iran geopolitical stew-pot and you land up with a toxic, very probably explosive brew. Biden cannot be a decisive world leader, nor can Trump who has now been fined $350 million for fraud, and very probably faces a prison sentence. There will be crucial elections in all three of the main AUKUS allies simultaneously - US, UK and Australia - meaning a real power vacuum and instability in the West in October/November.

It was exactly 100 years ago – on 28 June 1914 - that an obscure Serbian assassin Gavrillo Princip sparked off the Great War; Usama Bin Laden’s destruction of the Twin Towers on 9 September 2001 lies behind most of the current unrest in the Middle East; let us pray that the murder of Russian political activist, Alexei Navalny on 16 February 2024 is not an equally unpredicted but cataclysmic moment.

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James Gray
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Published Date
February 22, 2024