Navalny is the most impressive and intriguing rising Russian politician
Alexey Navalny, one of the leaders of the Russian protest movement became the only Russian in the annual list of the top 100 most influential people in the world published by the US-based Time Magazine. Ariel Cohen, Senior Research Fellow, the Heritage Foundation dwells upon the position of Alexey Navalny in the list in an interview for the website of the Valdai International Discussion Club.
Why did Time Magazine include Alexei Navalny in their list of the most influential people in the world? Is Navalny the most influential Russian in the world?
Despite the fact that it was Alexey Navalny who became the only Russian in the list, Vladimir Putin still remains the most influential Russian in the world. However, as of today, Navalny is the most impressive and intriguing rising Russian politician and I suppose the Time Magazine journalists who were behind this list believe that he has a great future in front him.
What are the criteria for choosing these people, and who is able to influence these choices?
The list reflects dynamics - not only the status quo. Creation of such lists is an internal process of the magazine, or a journal, or an NGO. I do not believe that the Time journalists included persons in this list via voting mechanism, be it an expert vote or internet vote. Moreover, some of the people in the list are not well-known to the general public. Thus, essentially this list was created by the journalists of the Time magazine, who are indeed very influential and well-informed on the events in the world, so the choice of the Top 100 is not random. Moreover, I also believe that it was based on timing. So if, for example, the choice that was published now was made in the December-January-February framework, during the highest peak of Moscow civil protests, then it may explain why Alexey Navalny got as high as he got.
Is it possible for PR or GR companies to insert someone into the list?
Somewhat, but not really. They can't just buy it. Theoretically, PR and GR companies can meet with their contacts in the media community, can send some materials and information, but journalistic ethics and the editorial process most probably would prevent a PR-GR company from inserting their protege or their client. Moreover, being an expert in the U.S.-Russian relations and having a considerable experience and connections, I have never heard that Alexei Navalny or someone on his behalf employs a PR or GR company in the States, let alone one that can impose him in the list in Time magazine.
Is it true that Navalny's position on the list is the result of a failure of Russian agencies that promote Russia's image abroad?
No! Navalny is a part and parcel of Russian political protest that characterizes our times: firstly, we need to mention that in 2011 the Time chose The Protester as the Person of the year. They meant protests across the globe – the so called "Arab Spring", Occupy Movement, the Tea Party movement as well as protests in China, Greece, India and Russia. Thus, the Time Magazine is looking at the real change, the tectonic shift of Russian politics since the fall of 2011. And no public image company can affect that. Public affairs companies can promote a good product, but they cannot cover up indefinitely if their product is not so good.
On Navalny himself - how is he regarded in the United States? Is he well known or not?
He may be well known among Russia-watchers. He is somewhat known among people who are engaged in the foreign policy field in general. And I would say he is not known to the general American public.
In your opinion, what has Navalny's influence been, and what has he accomplished?
Navalny emerged as a new and alternative voice of the internet generation, and of the angry urban citizens of Russia. By focusing on corruption, he brought to the fore the pent-up frustration of the Russian middle class, with shoddy police work, corrupt officials, problematic interethnic relations. And Navalny resonates, not just with the liberal intelligentsia, but with broader masses in Russia, and therefore has a political future. The authorities could do nothing worse to themselves and to the future of Russian politics if they turn Navalny into some kind of a martyr. I hope they're smart enough not to do that.
Views expressed are of individual Members and Contributors, rather than the Club's, unless explicitly stated otherwise.