What happens between Merkel and Putin on the Navalny case. The in-depth analysis by Enzo Reale for Atlantico Quotidiano
It is unlikely that Angela Merkel had not calculated the possible consequences of Alexey Navalny’s arrival in Berlin in a coma. Yet the case of the poisoning of Putin’s most famous opponent risks putting his leadership to the test far more than one could imagine. When on Wednesday afternoon the military laboratory entrusted with the analyzes confirmed the presence in the victim’s body of a nerve agent from the Novichok group, the German government’s response was blunt: “It was an attempted murder with a chemical substance, which raises serious questions that only the Russian government can answer, ”said a visibly shaken Merkel. She was echoed by Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, who immediately asked the European Union for “an adequate reaction to the gravity of the facts”. For the moment, the Germans, beyond the inevitable declarations of circumstance, have however carefully avoided saying what they think they are doing, that Europe-Russia relations are the real custodians. On any decision hangs a mortgage from which it will be difficult to free themselves, despite the pressures coming from Washington, that Nord Stream 2 to which the chancellor had referred with some timing right at the end of August, freeing its completion from the geopolitical events of the continent: ” The Navalny case and the murder of a Chechen rebel in Berlin must be kept separate from Nord Stream 2, which is a private economic project and as such must be carried out ”. A rather specious argument in truth since the company in charge of the execution of the pipeline is the exclusive property of Gazprom,
But let’s go back to poisoning. When we talk about Novichok we are referring to a potentially lethal chemical weapon, developed in its different variants first in the Soviet laboratories and then in the Russian ones starting from the 70s of the last century. Never used in combat, and instead considered the substance of the attack committed by the Russian secret services against the former double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia, in the English town of Salisbury more than two years ago. If it is not a smoking gun, we are very close, since this kind of poison is within the reach only of subjects linked to military circles or to the state security apparatuses. This is why, as soon as the news spread, the Novichok was almost unanimously interpreted as the Kremlin’s signature on the attack on Navalny. The counterattack of Moscow and the pro-Russian sites was not long in coming: a few minutes after the official statement of the German government, the online magazine Sputnik published a statement by Leonid Rink, identified as one of the architects of the Novichok, according to which the symptoms presented from Navalny would not be compatible with those of the indicated substance. The official defense of Russia basically consists of one question, always the same: where is the evidence of our involvement
Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, even went so far as to insinuate that the poisoning may have occurred on German territory, stating that “as long as he was in Russia there was no trace of poison in his body”. If it is true that the Russian doctors immediately administered atropine to the patient – official sources confirm – it was only as a precaution, since Navalny would have suffered a sudden glycemic shock of natural origin that caused him to go into a coma. How the German laboratory identified the chemical agent
In what conditions did Navalny leave Omsk for Berlin
Why German doctors refused the initial offer of assistance from the Russian colleagues who had treated him at the beginning
These are the issues around which the Russian denial machine will move in the coming days. By now, however, the Navalny case has taken on an international dimension which risks blowing up the increasingly delicate balance of Moscow power, already severely tested by the Belarusian crisis.
But because Putin would have decided, right now, to physically eliminate a potential opponent that he had already politically gotten out of the way through the courts and, definitively, with the latest constitutional reform (which prohibits the candidacy of anyone who has lived abroad)
Kremlinologists are questioning and, in general, are skeptical about the possibility that the president or his closest entourage ordered the poisoning, arguing that such a decision would cause far more problems for the head of state than it would help solve. If, however, before the Novichok it could be thought that other subjects might have an interest in settling accounts with Navalny, for personal purposes or to do “a favor” to the president, after the confirmation of the nerve agent the circle around the Kremlin tightens (Nemtsov, Politkovskaya, Litvinenko, Yuschenko are the most illustrious precedents). True or not, from Wednesday it is more difficult for Putin to convince the international community of his innocence. As long as he’s interested in doing it.
The overturning of the German position is evident at this point: asking Russia to answer the questions of the West is an error of reasoning, a non sequitur. Putin has already chosen the path that his country will have to follow in the coming years, and it is not precisely a path that leads to Europe. His plan for the annexation of Belarus, which is crumbling under the perplexed eyes of an incredulous community leadership unable to react, is a further confirmation of this: for Moscow Lukashenko and the past, the future and Putin who is in fact transforming himself in his stunt double. And the progressive sliding of Russia towards the category of failed states which, contrary to what Merkel says, must find a response from the European Union in general and from Berlin in particular:
From today, despite himself, a double game is being played on the halved body of Navalny in the center of political Europe: on the one hand, that of the stability of the Putin system, whose officials will not be able to set foot beyond the Elbe without being asked about Novichok but that, at the same time, it has survived practically unscathed evidence far more decisive than this, including a battery of sanctions that German companies themselves have had no difficulty in circumventing; on the other, that on the proverbial European hypocrisy, which since Wednesday afternoon Angela Merkel has a unique opportunity to deny once and for all.
(Extract from an article published in Atlantico Quotidiano; here the full version)

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