Editorial: Russia poisons relations with the West

Alexei Navalny, Russia’s top opposition politician who was poisoned on Aug. 20, is out of a coma.

Navalny’s case should prompt the U.S. and NATO nations to emerge from their own stupor regarding Russia, which is increasingly testing the West with its poisonous behavior.

ADVERTISING


In the U.S., an intelligence consensus suggests that just as Russia targeted the 2016 election, it’s doing the same in 2020 — once again on behalf of President Donald Trump, who has refused to respond to the latest intelligence reports with any alacrity.

He’s also failed to confront Russian President Vladimir Putin over any number of provocations, including reports that Russia has placed bounties on U.S. troops serving in Afghanistan.

In the Navalny case, the G-7 issued a statement on Tuesday that confirmed that he was poisoned with the Soviet-era chemical agent Novichok, which has been used on other Russian targets. While the G-7’s call for a transparent investigation are appropriate, they’re impossible in Putin’s Russia. “This attack against opposition leader Navalny is another grave blow against democracy and political plurality in Russia,” the G-7 statement read. “It constitutes a serious threat to those men and women engaged in defending the political and civil freedoms that Russia herself has committed to guarantee.” In Germany, where Navalny is convalescing, Chancellor Angela Merkel said he “was supposed to be silenced.” The world, Merkel continued, “is expecting answers. The crime against Alexei Navalny is a crime against the basic values and basic rights that we stand for.”

Merkel is right, and she should scrap the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, which would further Germany’s dependence on Russian energy.

“The most appropriate thing would be to use this as the final nail in the coffin in that project,” said John Herbst, director of the Atlantic Council’s Eurasia Center and a former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine.

ADVERTISING


But that would require the U.S. to secure an energy alternative — and Trump has been unwilling to offer leadership in response to Russia’s crimes, including its complicity in grave human rights abuses in Syria.

Trump’s reticence only emboldens Putin, and may cause him to further attack perceived internal and external enemies.