Alexei Navalny and the West’s corruption

Alexei Navalny and the West’s corruption

In 2021, Toomas Hendrik Ilves, the former president of Estonia, said:

We are here to honor Alexei Navalny, a man hounded, persecuted, beaten, poisoned, and jailed for standing up to a thuggish autocracy that is well on its way to classic totalitarian rule. His crime? Peacefully using his fundamental human right of freedom of expression to challenge a regime-held together by storm-troopers, violence, and murder.

Navalny’s story is not a new one. In the decade before the collapse of communism, we saw this tale unfold over and over again. Iosif Brodsky, Natan Sharansky, Alexander Solzhenitsyn, Andrei Sakharov and hundreds of others were persecuted by that real-life Mordor, the USSR. There is a difference, however. Back in those days, when I was a young research analyst and later the Estonian service director at Radio Free Europe-Radio Liberty (RFE-RL), we in the West at least had the moral clarity to stand up to the thugs, to raise these issues with our governments, in our parliaments, in all possible international fora.

Helping to maintain that moral clarity, paradoxically, the commies were at least ideologically anti-capitalist. Commissars and Politburo members could hardly buy villas on the Riviera, ski chateaux in St. Moritz, apartments in the U.S. president’s skyscraper or dock their 100 meter yachts in St. Tropez or Piraeus. On our side, taking money from totalitarians counted as bribery or as espionage — bringing severe criminal penalties and social disgrace.

Today, the liberal democratic West has abandoned that one-time clarity. We have become partners in crime, colluding with the enemies of liberty, of our Enlightenment heritage of rule of law and human rights. We are the unindicted co-conspirators of our own demise and in the destruction of Russia, collapsing under the weight of its corruption and thievery.

In my brief laudatio to Alexei Navalny, I shall for that reason not focus on his immense contributions to exposing the miasma of corruption in Russia. That only serves to give us a smug and utterly false sense of moral superiority. To truly honor Navalny, we instead must confront the stench of our own liberal democratic West.

That stench swirls from our own corrupt politicians and political parties, from our naïve and greedy governments, and even the most prestigious, centuries-old universities It swirls from businesses who prize profit over justice, truth and freedom. It swirls from bankers, lawyers and accountants who launder money and reputations.

It is this corruption, our corruption, that aids, abets and sustains, indeed nourishes the murderous looting of the Kremlin’s boyars and their minions as well as other odious regimes around the globe. [Continue reading…]

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