Why the death of Alexei Navalny is a warning for US politics – Tennessee Lookout

As the world struggles to grasp the death of Russian lawyer and political activist Alexei Navalny, which came after years of depraved treatment by the Kremlin, the timing could not be more ominous.

World leaders who just gathered at the annual Munich Security Conference to discuss the slow drip of aid to Ukraine are seeing Navalny’s death as a siren to the world that Russian President Vladimir Putin has demonstrably amassed unfettered power and control over the largest country in the world by land mass.

The Ukraine war is being fought on multiple fronts: militarily, economically, and informationally.  A recent Washington Post investigation found evidence the Kremlin is actively orchestrating distribution of some hundred thousand social media posts per month in an effort to delegitimize the democratically elected President of Ukraine. 

If these are the lengths Putin will go to in order to diminish to any extent the popularity of one man — to say nothing of his treatment of Navalny — one has to ask: what Russian resources are being leveraged to put whole democracies to the test? And what other democracy would be a greater threat to Russian imperialism than the United States?

In the wake of the 2016 election of Donald Trump, Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report found that a social media troll farm controlled by then-Russian oligarch Yevgeniy Prigozhin, succeeded in reaching millions of Americans with disinformation about domestic U.S. leaders on social media platforms with by propagating disinformation for the intended purpose of influencing elections.

Tennessee audiences were not overlooked as a target of these efforts. According to the Mueller Report, Prigozhin’s troll farms “created accounts that mimicked real U.S. organizations. For example, one IRA-controlled Twitter account, @TEN_GOP, purported to be connected to the Tennessee Republican Party.” Perhaps, then, it should come as no surprise that just last year, the Nashville Banner reported that two prominent Tennessee Republicans participated as “foreign observers” in elections held in the Ukrainian regions now illegally occupied by Russia. 

One thing is clear: the Kremlin has spent years honing mechanisms for election manipulation, sustainment of imperialism by force, and wreaking global instability. Every American voter has the option to choose to either support Russian values or to reject them when they go to the polls this November.

Despite the questioned validity to changes to the Russian constitution removing term limits for Putin in 2020, and the illegal 2022 annexation of these portions of free Ukraine, these two local observers traveled to occupied Ukraine in 2023.  In recounting their “observations,” they touted themselves as election experts and purported that no Russian election fraud was possible based on what they saw.  It’s very unclear how they reached such sweeping conclusions of election integrity under such dubious circumstances.  However, it is worth noting that at least one of the Tennessee “observers”  — attorney Kline Preston — has business ties to Russia.  

While the Kremlin’s bot farms intentionally promote rampant disinformation, American ultra-right-wing conservatives loan credibility to their conspiracies. Tucker Carlson has spent weeks promoting a pristine and well-washed view of Moscow to his audience on “X,” expressing fascination at grocery carts just like the ones at Aldi, swooning over the artistic beauty of Moscow’s most decadent subway station, and hailing the values of cheap food at McDonald’s while failing to point out that sanctions against Russia have greatly increased the purchasing power of the U.S. dollar compared to pre-2022.

And Republican Presidential front runner Donald Trump said he’d allow the Kremlin to do “whatever the hell they want” to NATO countries that do not remit at least 2% annual GDP to NATO, effectively threatening that U.S. foreign policy will become the means by which the NATO funding requirement would be enforced by his administration. Putin knows an opening when he sees it.

But our European allies are not the only ones falling behind their commitments of security guarantees.  In 1994, the U.S. signed  the Budapest Memorandum along with Ukraine, Russia, and other nations.  Ukraine agreed to give up their Soviet stockpiles of nearly 2,000 nuclear munitions in exchange for Russia’s agreement to Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.  In exchange for Ukraine’s nuclear de-proliferations, security assurances were committed by the U.S. and other countries.  Russia violated this agreement with both its 2014 and 2022 invasions, thus triggering an obligation by the U.S. and the other signatory allies to support Ukraine’s fight for its existence.

One thing is clear: the Kremlin has spent years honing mechanisms for election manipulation, sustainment of imperialism by force, and wreaking global instability for the purpose of amassing total dictatorial power over its subjects, whomever it defines those to be. America has the distinct privilege of being the most powerful country in the world. We have a moral — if not also a legal — obligation to step up our efforts to stop this brutal Russian power with all the resources we can muster.  

Ukrainians aren’t asking us to send troops — they’re asking us to stand by our word. Vladmir Putin wants us to be so distracted and distrusting in one another that our word no longer has meaning. 

Putin’s cruelly transferred Navalny to a sub-Arctic Siberian prison after an overt assassination attempt failed – and evidence of a possible second such attempt will likely never be known.  Navalny was the primary potential opponent with enough grassroots support to call for uprising, and even in a Siberian prison this perceived threat was too much for Putin.  If Navalny scared him that much, what must he think of America?  

Every American voter has the option to choose to either support Russian values or to reject them when they go to the polls this November. I’m hoping we won’t have to live to see a day when Putin can do whatever the hell he wants with total American impunity.



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