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Митинг против ареста оппозиционного политика и блогера Алексея Навального, арестованного властями после возвращения в Россию. Санкт-Петербург, Марсово поле, 23 января 2021.

I have been paying only limited attention to the Navalny Protests in Russia, but it’s worth our time to create some space here to talk about them. The Monkey Cage has a good two part series on the arrest and consequent protests, examining the thinking of some Russia experts on what the arrest has done to Russian politics. Vox, of course, has an explainer that details a lot of the key issues. I do have to wonder whether it would have made more sense for Navalny to return to Russia in the spring, instead of the middle of winter.

I also think that it’s interesting in context to think back a couple months and note how carefully Putin has handled the situation in Belarus. The momentum of the Belarus protests shifted back and forth a few times, and Russia was careful not to throw in too hard with Lukashenko, while at the same time warning the protestors not to push too far and recognizing the validity of the (apparently awfully corrupt) Belarusian elections. While it often seems to us that Putin is in an extremely secure situation, it’s clear that Putin believes his own position to be considerably more precarious. The economy isn’t great, the sanctions imposed by the US have inflicted some pain, and Putin’s personal corruption is becoming increasingly clear. Had Belarus experienced a Colored Revolution, the consequences in Russia could have been severe.

Anyway, protesting in either Russia or Belarus is an extremely courageous thing to do right now

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