Contrary to the belief that Putin is an unstoppable tyrant, something may be up. Is it a palace coup in the making? Or is it an improbable string of blunders?
The answer may lie in the saga surrounding the declared poisoning of Putin's domestic foe, Alexander Navalny.
You may have heard that in late August he became ill in Siberia and fell into a coma. He was whisked off to a German hospital as soon as Russian doctors found him stable enough for evacuation. In Germany doctors declared him a victim of Novichok poisoning.
A key part of that story is absolutely untrue. He did not fall into a coma from his illness. Doctors at the Russian hospital that first received the ailing Navalny placed him into a medically induced coma to protect him in case he had been poisoned.
Despite the seriousness of this tragedy, an international political squabble erupted between Russia and Germany and its allies. I've been following it from my vantage point here in neutral Switzerland.
I've seen this quickly grow into a major global news story. That's where the "fell into a coma" descriptor arose. Navalny's staff and others seemed bent on blaming Putin. Western political actors and media organizations added the notion that Navalny's illness was so acute that it made him comatose. "Fell into a coma" became an adversarial emphatic.
That's why I was surprised to see that RT, the Kremlin financed international news agency, used the same allusion.
On August 22, RT reported, "The Kremlin opponent has been in a coma since falling critically ill on Thursday." Why was RT siding with Russia's self-avowed enemies? Was this the sign of a budding Kremlin coup?
This may seem like splitting hairs. But it hit me like a blockbuster. Indeed, why was RT using language so similar to the blatant distortion invented by Putin's enemies? Surely they knew that Russian doctors had placed Navalny into an artificial coma. In fact, in Germany the doctors there kept him in a coma for the same reasons the Russian doctors initiated it: to protect Navalny.
I asked myself, are there any other signs to support the Kremlin coup suggestion? I saw none immediately connected to the Navalny case. Then I asked, what about long term? Have there been any historical signs?
There is one thing that popped to mind. It is even related to today's situation. I noticed that in the face of all the international condemnation of Putin regarding Navalny, the Kremlin asserted absolutely no cogent defense. That's nothing new. When Putin has been subjected to international ridicule in the past, even over things that were obvious fabrications, the Kremlin offered no sensible or effective response.
That's why Western politicians talk about Navalny's poisoning as just the latest in a series of attempts by Putin to murder a critic. That succession of failed murder attempts makes Putin look like a flaming incompetent. How could that happen? Is the person charged with protecting Putin's reputation a saboteur?
We've seen how Trump has had trusted people in his administration that were covertly working against him. Is that what's happened to Putin? Has there been a saboteur at work all along?
These failed murder attempts make Putin appear to be a bumbling idiot. Certainly if a man with Putin's resources wanted to kill someone he should be able to have it carried out with precision. Even a lesser person could have done better than Putin.
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