Skripal 2, New START and Sputnik 5
In the Navalny case, which now became Skripal 2 because of Novitschok, the Russians are turning the tables argumentatively – so boldly that it almost seems funny again. On the one side, they claim that there was no poisoning, then that he was poisoned in the Charite or now that Navalny was poisoned by the West. And that the poison maybe was not Novichok and the research results of the German Bundeswehr laboratory were wrong (Bundeswehr is NATO member).The latter could be checked again, otherwise: Cheekiness wins. And: attack is the best defense! This theory is now joined by Gysi from the Left Party, who suspects Western Putin opponents and Nord Stream 2 opponents to be behind it, since Putin has no interest in a conflict with the West and would probably not let Navalny fly to the Charite.
Putin fans emphasize that Navalny was not only an enemy of Putin, but that with his corruption investigations and opposition efforts he made many governors, oligarchs and other circles of the Putin clique their sworn enemy. From this they conclude that it was a corrupt oligarch or politician who poisoned Navalny have and not Putin. That Putin could have used such a satrap as a hit man to cover up traces is already ruled out. In the case of Nemtzow, it was allegedly only Chechen people from Kadyrov and not Putin. But then it is questionable how they can get Novichok, especially since this is only accessible to secret services and the military. Then the story again that it were Western secret services. As if the CIA, MI6 or other secret services had fool’s freedom and freedom of movement in Russia and could thus operate freely, where even every small NGO is under draconian surveillance. All that is missing is the variant that it were the Chinese to drive Putin into the arms of China.
The simple explanation that Putin is systematically eliminating Russian opposition leaders, especially since this is not the first political murder, attempt at poisoning or something related, is out of the question for Putin fans, as is that Putin doesn´t care too much about the reactions from the West, which are usually quite moderate, especially since when it comes to questions of internal power relations, which are for Putin more important than foreign policy considerations. It is also considered illogical that Putin wanted to prevent the protests in eastern Russia and Belarus from spreading to western Russia and that he wanted to behead and decapitate one of the most important opposition leaders.
Especially since Navalny had just flown in the direction of Eastern Russia in order to further fan the protests against Moscow, which were not disappearing and wanted to win them over and also expand them to Western Russia, especially since Putin is currently also busy with Belarus. That Putin wants to eliminate Navalny because of the sheer retention of power, which he saw directly threatened and accepts indirect backlashes against Nordstream 2, unintended effects, especially since NS 2 is also an eternal source of dispute between Russia and Trump, which in the end he could sacrifice for better relations and to stay in power is not even considered by the Putinists and thinkable for them. The CCP also did not care about Western reactions and sanctions when in 1989 it rolled down the mass protests on Tiananmen Square, which directly threatened its power, with tanks.
Putin wanted to avoid such an expansion of the protests into a Russia-wide mass movement, which then also spills over to Western Russia, Moscow and St. Petersburg and could have been suppressed only by an open and bloody escalation and repression, which might also have drawn Western demands for sanctions, and a more elegant, more secret service method is the covert beheading of the Russian opposition and its few charismatic leaders by means of a poison attack, a kind of individual preemptive strike whose authorship can be denied. And even if there had been protests for the martyr, they would be without consequences as the protests after the murder of Boris Nemtsov, would also be more spontaneous and without charismatic leadership anymore. Professor Rahr similarly asserted that Western opponents of Putin had an interest in a martyr Navalny, as this could initiate mass protests by the Russian opposition. But that has not happened since then. So far, Navalny’s poisoning seems to have had a deterrent effect, which Putin is likely to have wanted. Intimidation through terror and fear. With the exception of the now and still limited protests in Eastern Russia it worked.
Gazprom consultant Prof. Rahr is now trying another variant. Other Russian forces poisoned Navalny and the chemical weapons may no longer be under Putin’s control. An elegant variant, because as a consequence this would mean that Putin would have to get more power in order to get them back under control. If he did it skillfully, he would not only get an increase in power but maybe also financial support from the West to get the chemical weapons under control again. At the time of the dissolution of the Sovjet Union, the USA gave Russia US $ 13 billion to control the nuclear weapons. With this variant, however, this could be linked to the condition of an international control group, which Putin would then reject.
At the moment talks are about a German-Russian research group, which would probably would produce no results, which Putin would therefore prefer to an international research group.In addition, these attempts at investigation are ridiculous. Putin cannot admit that he was responsible for the poison attack, at best he could agree to present some low-level hit men which are put on trial, as in the case of Nemtsov.
As Professor Rahr told me, Russia would like the USA and the UK to be investigated. That would probably be a joke of history if Putin wanted to have Russian investigators investigate in Fort Detrick. The US would probably reject this offer that with thanks. Should the US refuse, the Russian propaganda would probably claim that Putin had shown goodwill, that it had failed because of the US and GB, which probably had something to hide and their C-laboratories in Fort Detrick, Porton Down and the chemical weapons researchers who had emigrated from the Soviet Union to the West wanted to leave the international community in the dark and feared the light of Enlightenment. Novichok was not only developed in the laboratory in Shikhany near Volgograd as part of the chemical weapons program Foliant, but also in the NATO- West and Putin could even portray himself as a peace fighter. But another argument against this option is that Putin is reluctant to show a loss of control that makes him appear as a weak ruler a wimp and no longer the strong man.
It will also be important whether Nawanly wakes up again from the coma or dies as a martyr and if he does wake up, whether he will then recover or be physically and psychologically damaged so that he can no longer be active. In the other case, it will also be decisive what he, as the actual main victim, opposition leader and key witness, declares about the poison attack and at the same time, whether he holds Putin responsible, calls for sanctions or keeps calm. Furthermore, whether he is returning to Russia as an indestructible light figure of the opposition, which has now survived all repression from beatings, trials, prison and even poisoning and has even gained political importance as a superstar of the opposition, or whether Navalny remains intimidated in German exile or abroad and from there, like Khodorkovsky and others, leads his opposition activities.
Trump sees no evidence against Putin, although he does not question the German investigation results, is currently joining Putin, will only target Nordstream 2 when demanding sanctions and in this case, Merkel and Germany would be more at the center of criticism and not Russia. Röttgen, AKK, Manfred Weber (CSU / EPP) and the Greens are in favor of an end to NS 2, Laschet, Kretschmer and Söder are currently against it, Merz wants a 2-year construction freeze. Another suggestion is to finish building the pipeline, but only to put it into operation if Putin makes political concessions, which are not defined in more detail and would then have to be negotiated diplomatically. Gazprom consultant Rahr thinks that if the US should threaten the companies involved with sanctions, prevent access to the US market and the dollar payment system, that these would then cancel their engagements, as in the case of the Iran sanctions. Perhaps the Navalny affair would also be a welcome occasion for many to get out of the project, which strains the transatlantic and intra-European relations, with reference to democracy that it does not look as if one is submitting to Trump, but doing this in the name of human rights as the price of freedom, which is paid willingly in view of possible compensation claims from Russia and the companies involved to the state.
For Trump, the negotiations about arms control agreements with Russia are currently more important than Navalny. New Start expires the next year 2021 and Trump has an interest in defining the ICBM upper limits. There is also the question of whether China will increase its number of ICBMs. The RAND study „Rethinking Armaggedon“ already plays through the case, if China increased its number of ICBMs from 250 to 1000. Then China would be on an equal level with the USA and Russia, and it would be over with Russian hopes of a “nuclear strategic balancer” between the USA and China, as well as the idea of a “global supplier for international security”, as the Russian strategist Karaganov recently put it. The United States and Russia would also have to renew their entire nuclear deterrent strategies if this did not initiate a new arms race. Likewise, Trump still hopes to get Russia on his side against China, as his proposal for an anti-Chinese G11 including Russia recently made clear.
It also remains to be seen how the Covid-vaccine Sputnik 5 develops. Should it be a flop, Russia would be perceived as a highly criminal country that has not only poisoned Navalny but also its population. Should it work contrary to expectations, Putin would be the savior of the world from the Covid crisis and the world community would stand in line for the Russian vaccine. But that is Putin´s rationality: No risk, no fun!