In the intrigues for power in ancient Rome, poisoning was a popular, if not necessarily honorable, means of getting rid of undesirable opponents. It also paved the way for women to participate in political competition on an equal footing: men killed their opponents with the naked sword, women secretly mixed death with their meal or poured it into their cups. And whenever a poisoning was to be investigated, the first question was “Cui bono?” – “Who benefits?”
Then we ask in all innocence: Who would find it useful if Alexei Navalny was killed by poison?
Putin certainly not. These days he is aiming to finalize the major Nordstream 2 project, arranging for the sale and transport of 110 billion cubic meters of gas per year by pipeline from Russia to Germany. This is not some trifle, but an economically important project for Russians and Germans – and indirectly also for anyone who competes with Russia on the international market when it comes to raw material exports. For Putin, a failure of this project would be a debacle, especially since Germans and Russians have already invested immense funds in Nordstream 2.
If the Russian President doesn’t need anything at all now, when Nordstream 2 is front-and-centre and the question of whether this mega-project will be completed, or at least cancelled, then it is another poisoning of a more or less important Kremlin critic.
In addition, from a patriotic Russian point of view, Alexei Navalny is actually a very passable guy, apart from his notorious overconfidence. Navalny sees himself as a “nationalist democrat” and took a leading role in several large-scale demonstrations, including in Moscow, against the mass immigration of foreigners to Russia.
According to the standards of the mainstream media, he is undoubtedly to be classified as a “right-wing extremist.” Unfortunately, he embezzled a large sum of money about ten years ago and was therefore sentenced to several years in prison. Since then he has been politically unimportant for Russia’s internal development. He had long since passed the zenith of his political career when an unknown perpetrator apparently mixed his tea with Novichok, a nerve agent with apparently about the same mortality rate as the Coronavirus.
It could also be that it was an opponent of the natural gas pipeline to Germany, or an opponent who knew that if you staged such a murder, which is then blamed on the government, it will worsen relations.
This is not as unreasonable as it may appear. Navalny could have got caught between the front lines in an international intrigue for power and money. And whoever shouts “Stop, thief!” with a view to Putin should wait and ask, according to the old custom, “Cui bono?”