Though Novichok seems to have done him good in the looksmaxxing department:
Novichok continues working wonders as looksmaxing supplement. pic.twitter.com/6VjmTqKegS
— 🇷🇺 ANATꙮLY 🤔 KARLIN (@akarlin88) September 23, 2020
But reality is rarely as important as the narratives around it, and so far as narratives are concerned, there are two big ones.
- The effects of Navalny’s novichok treatment on domestic Russian politics.
- On international relations, esp. the fate of Nord Stream.
Let’s consider each of these in turn.
Russian domestic politics – as I wrote:
Navalny’s big problem is that his entire image is built on him being a “man of the people” revealing how Russia’s oligarchs and regime insiders preach solidarity and “spiritual values” (духовные скрепы) within while maintaining Italian villas and holidaying in Courchevel and getting treated at elite European clinics without. … But here’s the problem. No ordinary Russian is ever going to be airlifted out of a run down hospital in a Siberian rustbelt city into one of Germany’s top clinics, paid for by a tycoon telecoms family (the Zimins) and at the personal invitation of Chancellor Merkel herself. And not just any ordinary Russian – not even any Russian high official. The closest example from amongst the Russian “elites” that would come to mind is… the DNR supporter and washed out Soviet-era crooner Kobzon. Hilariously, Navalny has de facto ended up far more “apatride” than any of the big targets of his political invective in the past decade.
… and, indeed, there has been no discernible effect on Putin’s ratings.
This Levada poll was conducted on Aug 20-26 (Navalny was poisoned on Aug 20). If Russian Presidential elections were to be held next Sunday, of those who’d vote, 56% of Russians would vote Putin & 2% for Navalny (Zhirik #2 with 5%).
Sidenote: Indeed, the one notable result I would point out – already strongly in evidence during 2020 Constitution referendum, which I blogged about – is the collapse of support for Putin amongst youth. 64% of participating 55+ y/o’s would vote for Putin, while only 36% of 18-24 y/o’s say they would. There are otherwise no significant class or regional differences, though women (60%) are more likely to support Putin than men (50%).
Following that was a VCIOM poll, conducted Aug 24-30 – former date is four days after Navaly poisoning – shows no change in Putin’s ratings either. An indeed a marginal increase a week after that.
In the meantime, there is talk in the EU of “Navalny Sanctions.” If they do actually go ahead with that, that would constitute the final nail in Navalny’s political coffin. Imagine normies voting for sanctions person.
Nord Stream. And while there has been a boycott of insurers due to US pressure, and opposition to it in the European Parliament, it looks like Germany is not willing to torpedo it.
However, one thing this affair has helpfully clarified is precisely why the Germans are in no rush to cancel NS2. It’s not because Merkel particularly values a “special relationship” with Russia, or can’t do with a more diversified energy supply (as I pointed out, Germany is much less dependent on Russian gas than is much of East-Central Europe – which doesn’t stop it from being much more hardline towards Russia), or that it threatens Siemens contracts in Russia, or whatever.
But because of two rather concrete political and energy realities (as explained in this article by Dmitry Lekukh):
(1) Half of the financing for NS2 is provided for by European (primarily German) companies, not Russian ones. And the insurers are European companies. The bulk of the losses from this $10 billion project will be swallowed by them.
(2) Even more to the point, Germany would still be buying Russian gas, just as LNG sourced from the Yamal field and liquified in Saint-Petersburg. A pipeline would just make it less expensive, but Russian LNG would still be cheaper than American (distance from SPB to to Hamburg is 2,000 km; from the US East Coast to Hamburg it is 5,500 km). Short of banning German companies from sourcing Russian gas period, the market choice would still be to buy Russian, just at a higher price than if delivered from a pipeline much of which has already been built anyway.
So we can expect NS2 to be completed and go into exploitation, short of much more serious crises that threaten to derail EU-Russia trade in general, something that never happened even during the Cold War.