Alexei Navalny during a court hearing in September 2022. Photo: Mediazona
In the run-up to the first anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, jailed opposition leader Alexei Navalny published his anti-war political platform which he called “15 theses of a Russian citizen who desires the best for their country.” Here's what they are:
1. President Putin has unleashed an unjust war of aggression against Ukraine under ridiculous pretexts. He is desperately trying to make this a “people's war,” seeking to turn all Russian citizens into his accomplices, but his attempts are failing. There are almost no volunteers for this war, so Putin's army has to rely on convicts and forcibly mobilized people.
2. The real reasons for this war are the political and economic problems within Russia, Putin's desire to hold on to power at any cost, and his obsession with his own historical legacy. He wants to go down in history as “the conqueror tsar” and “the collector of lands.”
3. Tens of thousands of innocent Ukrainians have been murdered, and pain and suffering has befallen millions more. War crimes have been committed. Ukrainian cities and infrastructure have been destroyed.
4. Russia is suffering a military defeat. It was the realization of this fact that changed the rhetoric of the authorities from claims that “Kyiv will fall in three days” to hysterical threats of using nuclear weapons should Russia lose. The lives of tens of thousands of Russian soldiers were needlessly ruined. The ultimate military defeat may be delayed at the cost of the lives of hundreds of thousands more mobilized soldiers, but it is generally inevitable. The combination of aggressive warfare, corruption, inept generals, weak economy, and heroism and high motivation of the defending forces can only result in defeat. The Kremlin's deceitful and hypocritical calls for negotiations and ceasefire are nothing more than a realistic assessment of the prospects of further military action.
5. What are Ukraine's borders? They are similar to Russia's — they’re internationally recognized and defined in 1991. Russia also recognized these borders back then, and it must recognize them today as well. There is nothing to discuss here. Almost all borders in the world are more or less accidental and cause someone's discontent. But in the twenty-first century, we cannot start wars just to redraw them. Otherwise, the world will sink into chaos.
6. Russia must leave Ukraine alone and allow it to develop the way its people want. Stop the aggression, end the war and withdraw all of its troops from Ukraine. Continuation of this war is just a tantrum caused by powerlessness, and putting an end to it would be a strong move.
7. Together with Ukraine, the U.S., the EU and the UK, we must look for acceptable ways to compensate for the damage done to Ukraine. One way to achieve this would be lifting the restrictions imposed on our oil and gas, but directing part of the income Russia receives from hydrocarbon exports towards reparations. Of course, this should only be done after the change of power in Russia and the end of the war.
8. War crimes committed during this war must be investigated in cooperation with international institutions.
9. Are all Russians inherently imperialistic? This is nonsense. For example, Belarus is also involved in the war against Ukraine. Does this mean that the Belarusians also have an imperial mindset? No, they merely also have a dictator in power. There will always be people with imperial views in Russia, just like in any other country with historical preconditions for this, but they are far from being the majority. There is no reason to weep and wail about it. Such people should be defeated in elections, just as both right-wing and left-wing radicals get defeated in developed countries.
10. Does Russia need new territories? Russia is a vast country with a shrinking population and dying out rural areas. Imperialism and the urge to seize territory is the most harmful and destructive path. Once again, the Russian government is destroying our future with its own hands just in order to make our country look bigger on the map. But Russia is big enough as it is. Our objective should be preserving our people and developing what we have in abundance.
11. For Russia, the legacy of this war will be a whole tangle of complex and, at first glance, almost unsolvable problems. It is important to establish for ourselves that we really want to solve them, and then begin to do so honestly and openly. The key to success lies in understanding that ending the war as soon as possible will not only be good for Russia and its people, but also very profitable. This is the only way to start progressing toward removal of sanctions, return of those who left, restoration of business confidence, and economic growth.
12. Let me re-emphasize that after the war, we will have to reimburse Ukraine for all the damage caused by Putin's aggression. However, the restoration of normal economic relations with the civilized world and the return of economic growth will allow us to do so without interfering with the development of our country. We have hit rock bottom, and in order to resurface, we need to bounce back from it. This would be both ethically correct, rational, and profitable.
13. We need to dismantle the Putin regime and its dictatorship. Ideally, through conducting general free elections and convocating the Constitutional Assembly.
14. We need to establish a parliamentary republic based on the alternation of power through fair elections, independent courts, federalism, local self-governance, complete economic freedom and social justice.
15. Recognizing our history and traditions, we must be part of Europe and follow the European path of development. We have no other choice, nor do we need any.
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