Now, after getting rid of all his opponents, real and imaginary, Mr. Putin finds himself alone. Like the queen in a Russian fairy tale, who every day asks a magic mirror who’s the fairest of them all, he desperately craves supremacy. But when he asks the mirror who Russia’s true leader is, it answers: Aleksei Navalny.
In the preceding paragraph, Kashin claims that “[b]y not recognizing Mr. Navalny’s right to participate in politics, Mr. Putin brought himself into a confrontation with a leader who is his equal.” I would argue that the Kremlin would have brought itself into a confrontation with a broad popular movement associated with – or symbolized by – Alexei Navalny regardless of Putin’s actions. Unless, of course, Putin had improbably launched a revolution from above, destroying the dreadful system he had created.
The word “equal” in the quote above has a curious ring to my ears. I suspect that Putin suffers from a thoroughly concealed but deeply rooted, ineradicable inferiority complex. To some degree, it is understandable considering his humble class background and unremarkable looks. However, a true master of transformative politics should be able to transcend the traumas of his childhood and youth. He should be able to project magnanimity and equanimity, rather than small-mindedness and a thirst for revenge.
And, above all, he should be able to make it clear to his audience that there’s much more to life and more to politics than the Law of the Jungle.