Nemtsov Steps Up
It seems that Garry Kasparov may at last be evidencing enough good judgment to step into the background of the “Solidarity” opposition movement and let Boris Nemtsov take the leading role. As a result, we’ve seen Nemtsov in public far more often at opposition rallies, and we’ve even seen Nemtsov elbow Kasparov aside on the pages of the Wall Street Journal, as he recently did while excoriating the Kremlin for its failed policies in Chechnya — a failure he believes is leading to a third regional war.
Nemtsov is a figure far more palatable to the Russian public than Kasparov, who is tainted by his connection to the West and by his long absence from Russia. Nemtsov has served as an effective regional governor and in the Kremlin under Yeltsin. His loyalties and bona fides cannot be questioned by a serious person. Nor can his intelligence. Working with his sidekick Vladimir Milov, Nemtsov has authored a series of white paperson the Putin years, translated by this blog into English, have dealt a devastating blow to Putin’s credibility. The fact that the Kremlin has aggressively sought to censor the publications is all the proof you need of how excellent they really are. Garry Kasparov can make no such claims.
There is no doubt that Nemtsov, flawed though he may be, is the best the Russian opposition has to offer at this moment. Therefore, he should be supported. He made a serious bid for the mayoralty of his native Sochi in the last election cycle, bravely facing down threats and attacks of various kinds throughout the process even though he knew he would never be allowed to win. He has not, to be sure, shown that he is ready to lay down his life for Russia by saying the things that really need to be said in places where lots of Russians can hear them (few read the Wall Street Journal), but the craven cowardice of the Russian people makes it very hard to ask that sacrifice of anyone. Are they really worth the ultimate sacrifice? Who can say.
History makes it clear that tyranny like that presented by the Putin KGB regime is only overcome by a movement led by men and women who are willing to risk their lives. History has shown again and again, from George Washington to Mohandas Gandhi to Martin Luther King and, yes, even the Bolshevik revolutionaries, that even the most awesome power can by laid low with determination and courage. Whether Nemtsov, unlike so many who have come before him, has that courage remains to be seen.
What’s clear is that the leaders of the Western democracies must rally toNemtsov’s aid. He should be given a serious knew level of recognition, invited to Western capitals, included in the caluculation of Russia policy. Our leaders must make it clear that they stand behind democratic values and are prepared to fight for them, even if a vast swath of the Russian population is not.
Our security, as much as theirs, depends on it.