By Paul Robinson, a professor on the University of Ottawa. He writes about Russian and Soviet historical past, army historical past, and army ethics, and is writer of the Irrussianality weblog
The launch of a video exhibiting an in depth Alexey Navalny affiliate asking for assist from a British authorities official, who the FSB claims is a spy, will solely make extra Russians imagine the opposition determine serves Western pursuits.
In June 2016, Donald Trump Jr. met with Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya as a result of she recommended that she had compromising materials about Hillary Clinton, who on the time was difficult Trump Jr.’s father for the US presidency.
When information of the assembly emerged, the outrage was huge. It “borders on treason,” claimed former White House ethics lawyer Richard W. Painter. It was “treason and espionage,” stated former CIA officer and FBI particular agent Tracy Walder. It was “potentially treason,” declared Senator Tim Kaine (D-Virginia).
What goes round comes round. While the information this week has been filled with tales about demonstrators in Russia demanding the discharge of opposition activist Navalny, RT has additionally printed excerpts of a movie launched by the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) exhibiting a 2012 assembly between Vladimir Ashurkov, the pinnacle of Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation, and a British diplomat, James Ford. The FSB claims Ford is an agent of the British Secret Intelligence Service (MI6), an assertion that may’t be verified.
In this assembly, Ashurkov talked about that Navalny’s marketing campaign wanted some $10-$20 million. He didn’t straight ask for the cash however was quite extra direct with one other request, particularly that the British present him with compromising supplies that he might use towards outstanding Russians.
Ashurkov stated to Ford: “In some cases we don’t have, maybe, you know the direct evidence, our evidence is circumstantial, but I’m sure that SFO [Serious Fraud Office in the UK] has access to a lot of information that would not be available to us right from British sources, and if, you know, I’m sure there is information within the British agencies that would link [businessmen] [Roman] Abramovich or [Alisher] Usmanov, people in the Russian government.”
Trump Jr., it should be stated, by no means straight requested the Russian authorities for compromising data. Nor has it ever been proven that the individual he met with was working for the Russian state, not to mention that Trump had cause to imagine that she was. None of this is applicable in Ashurkov’s case. It is apparent that he straight requested a identified consultant of a overseas authorities for dust on members of the Russian authorities. If Trump had completed this, the headlines would have shouted ‘COLLUSION’ in capital letters.
Why, then, has the video solely simply come out now, over eight years after the occasion? The reply is evident. The Kremlin is attempting onerous to discredit Navalny by portraying him as a instrument of overseas powers. This clip performs into that narrative.
In that regard, it should be stated that it’s not completely convincing. The video reveals one assembly a few years in the past. It hardly establishes a steady chain of interplay between Navalny and overseas states. Moreover, Mr. Ford refused to assist Ashurkov, telling him to use as a substitute to the group Transparency International.
This may very well be stated to quite undermine the case that Navalny and his associates are working for overseas powers. It appears that the British weren’t that , at the very least at the moment. One would possibly conclude that if that is the most effective that the FSB has bought, its case towards Navalny should be pretty weak.
That stated, it would not look good, and within the wrestle for the general public’s hearts and minds perceptions are extra vital than the finer particulars. Even if unsuccessful, Ashurkov was fairly clearly making an attempt to collude with a overseas energy. The undeniable fact that it was greater than eight years in the past quite weakens its relevance for at this time, nevertheless it gained’t get rid of the notion that Navalny and his workforce are keen to promote themselves to foreigners, if solely the foreigners would have them.
After all, think about if the roles had been reversed, and a video emerged of a British politician asking a Russian diplomat for dust on the British authorities. It wouldn’t actually matter if it was from at this time or a decade in the past, the criticism could be fierce. There’s no cause why it ought to be any completely different in Russia.
In truth, the video might properly resonate fairly strongly as a result of it suits into an current narrative. Ashkurov’s Anti-Corruption Foundation has already harmed its personal picture by showing to ally itself with Western powers towards Russia. A number of days in the past, as an illustration, it despatched a letter to US President Joe Biden requesting that the United States enact sanctions towards a listing of outstanding Russian residents.
Vladimir Dzhabarov, first deputy chairman of the Russian Federation Council’s Committee on Foreign Affairs, responded that the letter “smacks of treason.” Lots of Americans thought that manner about Trump Jr., so we shouldn’t be stunned if many Russians suppose the identical about Navalny after this.
Two narratives are at present competing for consideration. The first is that Navalny is the harmless sufferer of a brutal homicide try by the Russian authorities. The second is that Navalny is an agent of overseas powers (The two aren’t essentially incompatible). For some good causes, the primary narrative has gained the day within the West. But in the end, what issues is which wins the day among the many Russian folks. And in that regard, narrative quantity two appears to be doing higher. This most up-to-date revelation will in all probability make it do even higher nonetheless.
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The statements, views and opinions expressed on this column are solely these of the writer and don’t essentially symbolize these of RT.