Editor’s Note: The CNN Film “Navalny” follows Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny through his political rise, poisoning and search for the truth. You can watch now on HBO Max.
Imprisoned Russian dissident Alexey Navalny says the only way for his country to avoid an “endless cycle of imperial authoritarianism” is to become a parliamentary democracy.
Writing in the Washington Post, Navalny said while Western nations have rightly asserted the importance of Ukraine’s independence and preventing Russia from winning the war in Ukraine, they need to begin thinking about what Russia will look like once the fighting stops.
“The strategy should be to ensure that Russia and its government naturally, without coercion, do not want to start wars and do not find them attractive,” Navalny wrote in an essay conveyed to The Post by his legal team. He is currently serving a nine-year prison sentence at a penal colony.
“The issue of postwar Russia should become the central issue – and not just one element among others – of those who are striving for peace. No long-term goals can be achieved without a plan to ensure that the source of the problems stops creating them,” wrote Navalny. “Russia must cease to be an instigator of aggression and instability.”
Navalny is Russian President Vladimir Putin’s most prominent domestic critic, and his dissenting views have nearly cost him his life.
Navalny was poisoned with a nerve agent in 2020, an attack several Western officials and Navalny himself openly blamed on the Kremlin. Russia has denied any involvement.
After a five-month stay in Germany recovering from the Novichok poisoning, Navalny last year returned to Moscow, where he was immediately arrested for violating probation terms imposed from a 2014 case. Earlier this year, Navalny was sentenced to nine years in prison on fraud charges he said were politically motivated.
Navalny said in his essay, which was published the day Putin announced Russia would annex about a fifth of Ukraine’s territory, that the war in Ukraine – like conflicts before it – have helped those who hold power in Moscow.
“The Russian elite over the past 23 years has learned rules that have never failed: War is not that expensive, it solves all domestic political problems, it raises public approval sky-high, it does not particularly harm the economy, and – most importantly – winners face no accountability,” Navalny wrote.
The solution, Navalny asserts, is to adopt a form of democratic government that decentralizes power, similar to what the Baltic states have employed.
“The threat to peace and stability in Europe is aggressive imperial authoritarianism, endlessly inflicted by Russia upon itself,” Navalny said. “Postwar Russia, like post-Putin Russia, will be doomed to become belligerent and Putinist again. This is inevitable as long as the current form of the country’s development is maintained. Only a parliamentary republic can prevent this.”
CNN’s Paul LeBlanc contributed to this report.