Putin's gulag gamble with Navalny

MOSCOW, RUSSIA - FEBRUARY 2, 2021: Russian opposition activist Alexei Navalny makes a heart gesture during a hearing into an application by the Russian Federal Penitentiary Service to convert his suspended sentence of three and a half years in the Yves Rocher case into a real jail term

The Kremlin is taking zero chances with opposition leader Alexei Navalny. On Tuesday, a Moscow court sentenced him to nearly three years in prison for violating the terms of his parole in connection with an earlier graft conviction.

To refresh, Navalny is Vladimir Putin's most prominent critic. He is an outspoken anti-corruption crusader who was poisoned, allegedly by state officials, in Russia last fall. After recovering in Germany, he returned to Russia where he was promptly arrested. Since then, there have been two weekends of relatively small, but uncommonly widespread, protests across Russia in his support.


The extended jail sentence is a change of tack for the Kremlin, which has previously jailed Navalny only for short stints or suspended sentences. (You might also say that attempting to kill him was a "different approach" too, but we leave it to you to evaluate that allegation here.)

Now Navalny will languish in a remote penal colony for at least several years, meaning he will be out of the picture while Russia holds legislative elections this fall, and also during the the run-up to the next presidential election in 2024.

By taking the gloves fully off with Navalny, Putin is betting on a couple of things:

First, by packing him off to prison, Russia's president believes he can silence Navalny's uniquely charismatic, media-savvy, and fearless voice for good. Will Navalny — or his family and his fellow anti-corruption crusaders — find a way to stay relevant now? The internet, which is where Navalny lives most comfortably, is still relatively free in Russia.

Second, Putin calculates that his own support is strong enough where it matters: among the two-thirds of Russians who still approve of him after two decades in power, among the police who will will keep a lid on the streets, and among his wealthy cronies who still have much more to lose by turning against him than by sticking with him.

Third, by seeking to crush Navalny, he is forcing Russians to accept that any change to the system can come in only one of two ways: on Putin's terms, through a voluntary decision to cede power after 2024, or on the terms of the streets, through a kind of revolutionary upheaval from below that very few Russians would wish to see.

And fourth, Putin is betting that he can brush off whatever measures the "West" unveils in response to Navalny's plight. Strongly worded statements will abound, and specific Russian officials may be sanctioned. But will Western capitals really have the stomach to rankle financial markets by sanctioning, say, Russia's sovereign debt, or mess with energy markets by hitting Russian oil and gas?

Ranged against all of this, Navalny and his supporters are betting that while the Russian president may be correct in the short run, he faces a longer term loss of legitimacy that will eventually turn the tide of opinion — both popular and elite — against him as he nears a quarter of a century in power.

High stakes for both sides, but for the foreseeable future, only one of them will be gambling from prison.

Okuafo Pa means good farmer in the Twi language of West Africa. Hence, the naming of the project reflects the value of good farming and the rewards it brings to the people of Ghana. The Okuafo Pa Project will support Ghana's sustainable development by promoting socio-economic growth and sustainable business models.

Watch to learn how Eni is helping youth to develop agricultural knowledge and skills.

Iranians head to the polls on Friday to vote for president, and it appears a foregone conclusion that hardliner Ebrahim Raisi, the nation's top judge, will win.

Outsiders, and many Iranians, roll their eyes at the predictability of this vote. Iran's Guardian Council, a dozen clerics and judges who answer only to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, has cleared the field for Raisi by ruling all of his credible challengers ineligible. The fix is in, and Iranians are now preparing for a moment when anti-reform conservatives, those who oppose social change inside Iran and deeper engagement with the West, will for the first time ever control the country's presidency, parliament, courts, and much of the media.

But simmering beneath the cynicism and predictability of this event is a deepening anxiety over Iran's future as it enters a potentially momentous period in the Islamic Republic's 42-year history. The Supreme Leader, in power for 32 years, is now 82 years old. Very few people know the true state of his health. Even if he outlives Raisi's presidency, which could last four or eight years, preparations for a historic, uncertain, and potentially dangerous leadership transition will intensify soon.

More Show less

Carl Bildt, former Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Sweden, shares his perspective from Europe:

After Biden's first visit, do his European allies feel that America is back?

I think they do. Wasn't particularly surprising, we've heard that message before. But now it was, sort of more concrete issues. I'm not certain there was, sort of major, major, major progress. But there was the beginning of a dialogue on trade and technology issues with Europe, clearly on security issues with NATO, and quite a number of other issues with G7, and general satisfaction with the outcome of the meeting with Putin. So, altogether good.

More Show less

Listen: Former US Ambassador to NATO Ivo Daalder weighs in on US President Joe Biden's first trip abroad, which included a very important first stop at the G7 summit in the United Kingdom, and the way forward for the US and its closest friends. Did he convince allies that "America is back" and ready to resume its leadership role in global affairs? And if so, does it even matter if Americans still need to be convinced that US engagement in the world is vital? Daalder speaks with Ian Bremmer on the GZERO World podcast.

Subscribe to the GZERO World Podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, or your preferred podcast platform to receive new episodes as soon as they're published.

Jon Lieber, Managing Director of the United States for the Eurasia Group, shares updates on recent policy developments:

With the Supreme Court's recent decision, is the Affordable Care Act here to stay?

Yes, this was the Court's third ruling on the Affordable Care Act upholding its constitutionality. This challenge was brought by Republican attorneys general who argued that the repeal of the individual mandate tax undermined the court's previous justification for allowing the law to stand. They were unsuccessful, yet again. And the political salience of the Affordable Care Act has really diminished in the last several years, with Republicans moving on to fight other issues and the Court signaling very strongly they don't want to get involved in overturning this piece of legislation. The Affordable Care Act will be here at least until Congress wants to legislate on it again.

More Show less

Iranians head to the polls on June 18, in what's widely perceived to be a foregone outcome. Analysts predict that popular disillusionment with Iran's political class will make this one of the lowest turnout elections in Iran's post-revolution history. According to one poll taken by the Iranian Students Polling Agency, as few as 42 percent of the eligible voting population is expected to show up. We take a look at contemporary Iran's demographics, and how this year's vote turnout might compare to previous elections.

Latin America needs vaccines: The World Health Organization has called on the G7 countries that pledged to donate a billion COVID vaccine doses to the developing world to prioritize Latin America, with WHO officials pointing to the fact that out of the top 10 countries with the highest COVID death tolls per capita over the past week, nine are in Latin America, where many health systems are overstretched and vaccines are scarce. This call comes as Latin America's COVID death toll has surpassed 1 million. Cases and deaths are soaring in Argentina and Colombia, for instance, while Brazil has fully vaccinated just 11 percent of its population despite recording the world's second highest death toll. Even Chile, which has carried out Latin America's most successful vaccination campaign to date, has been forced to delay reopening due to a recent surge in infections among unvaccinated younger people. The WHO says prioritizing the region for vaccine donations makes sense in order to stop large sustained outbreaks that may spur potentially more infectious COVID variants that'll cross borders and wreak havoc in populous states. Most of the donated shots will be distributed through the COVAX facility, which is a problem for countries like Venezuela, shut out from COVAX because of payment problems.

More Show less

3: China has launched three astronauts into orbit in its first space mission since 2016. The astronauts will spend three months aboard the country's new space station, demonstrating China's resolve to become a space power following successful earlier missions to collect soil samples on the Moon and land a wheeled robot on Mars.

More Show less

Subscribe to GZERO Media's newsletter, Signal

GZERO World Podcast

GZEROMEDIA

Subscribe to GZERO Media's newsletter: Signal

GZERO World Podcast

GZEROMEDIA

Subscribe to GZERO Media's newsletter: Signal