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The Buck Stops with Putin

Summary:
Whether or not Russian President Vladimir Putin directly ordered the poisoning of Kremlin opponent Alexei Navalny, he created the system that allowed it to happen – one that is ineffective, unaccountable, and prone to destabilization by rogue actors. The West should hold him responsible. MOSCOW – German, French, and Swedish medical experts agree: Alexei Navalny, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s highest-profile domestic critic and the founder of the Anti-Corruption Foundation, was poisoned with the nerve agent Novichok. Navalny has survived. Russia’s relationship with Germany may not – and that would not necessarily be a bad outcome. The Roots of American Misery PS OnPoint

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Whether or not Russian President Vladimir Putin directly ordered the poisoning of Kremlin opponent Alexei Navalny, he created the system that allowed it to happen – one that is ineffective, unaccountable, and prone to destabilization by rogue actors. The West should hold him responsible.

MOSCOW – German, French, and Swedish medical experts agree: Alexei Navalny, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s highest-profile domestic critic and the founder of the Anti-Corruption Foundation, was poisoned with the nerve agent Novichok. Navalny has survived. Russia’s relationship with Germany may not – and that would not necessarily be a bad outcome.

Emphasizing the importance of taking “a clear stance,” German Chancellor Angela Merkel has declared Navalny to be the “victim of a crime intended to silence him.” The case, in her view, raises “very serious questions” that “only the Russian government” can – and must – answer. “The world,” she averred, “will wait for an answer.”

Merkel has called for Russian authorities to launch an independent and transparent investigation into Navalny’s poisoning. The European Union and the United Kingdom have echoed that call. If such an investigation were to expose the Russian state as the culprit, the European Commission suggests, new sanctions may be in order. After all, according to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, the poisoning qualifies as use of a banned weapon.

This is not the first time Russia’s government has been implicated in the use of Novichok against Putin’s supposed enemies. In 2018, the former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, were poisoned on British soil. Both survived, and are in hiding.

The Kremlin vehemently denies involvement in either case. Regarding the Navalny poisoning, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov

Nina L. Khrushcheva
Nina L. Khrushcheva is a Professor of International Affairs and Associate Dean for Academic Affairs at The New School and a senior fellow at the World Policy Institute. Khrushcheva received a degree from Moscow State University with a major in Russian in 1987 and a Ph.D. in Comparative Literature from Princeton University in 1998.

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