Victor Davis Hanson Private Papers

West’s ‘wokeness’ helped Russia to redefine a ‘prisoner of conscience’

An article by my Hoover colleague Dr. Paul Gregory in The Hill

By forcing the standards of “wokeness” on a Western institution like Amnesty International, the Kremlin has weakened Russian dissident Aleksei Navalny as he begins his almost three years in a penal colony near Vladimir (190 km from Moscow). Everyone understands he is a political prisoner, isolated from Russian political life. That is the definition of “prisoner of conscience,” which Amnesty International has chosen to withdraw from his name.

Navalny, the major opposition figure to Vladimir Putin, was a public relations challenge for the Kremlin even before his run for Moscow mayor in 2013. Through his Fund for the Battle Against Corruption (FBK), he has exposed the corruption and criminality of the Kremlin leadership. He barely survived the poisoning carried out, allegedly, by the Kremlin’s Federal Security Service (FSB); he returned to Moscow from treatment in Germany, only to be sentenced by a Russian kangaroo court to two years and eight months in a labor colony. To the Kremlin’s irritation, Navalny has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize by Poland’s Lech Walesa. Amnesty International, itself a Nobel prize-winning organization, added Navalny to its list of “Prisoners of Conscience,” whose honor roll includes Nobel laureates Nelson Mandela and Aung San Suu Kyi.

The Kremlin could ill-afford to have a principled political prisoner in its penal colonies, revered Mandela-like by the international community. Therefore, its disinformation machine — masterful at discrediting persons inconvenient to the regime — switched into high gear. For Navalny, a young and attractive family man with teenage children, the usual charge of pedophilia would not have stuck. Instead, the Kremlin played on Amnesty International’s “own scruples,” as one writer put it.

The Kremlin attacked Navalny for “racist” anti-migrant statements he purportedly made a decade or so ago. The attack was handled largely through foreign journalists associated with RT — a Kremlin-directed international news and TV network — in various countries.

Read the full article here

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About Victor Davis Hanson

Victor Davis Hanson is the Martin and Illie Anderson Senior Fellow in Residence in Classics and Military History at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, a professor of Classics Emeritus at California State University, Fresno, and a nationally syndicated columnist for Tribune Media Services. He is also the Wayne & Marcia Buske Distinguished Fellow in History, Hillsdale College, where he teaches each fall semester courses in military history and classical culture.

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