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Navalny Will Remain ‘in Prison’ as Long as Putin Remains ‘in Power’: Ex-Obama Advisor Rhodes

By Belal Awad · August 5, 2023

In brief…

  • Ex-Obama advisor Ben Rhodes predicted Russian dissident Alexey Navalny will remain in prison as long as Putin remains in power.
  • Rhodes believes Putin's increasingly totalitarian regime risks internal instability.
  • Rhodes said Biden advisor Jake Sullivan's Middle East visit to Saudi Arabia was, in part, to help promote normalization between Israel and Saudi Arabia.
  • He said Saudi Arabia wants security assurances, arms, and a nuclear program from the U.S.
Russian dissident Alexei Navalny (right) may spend many years in prison for taking on Vladimi Putin.  IlyaIsaev/Roman Kubanskiy/krassotkin/Wikimedia

Former Obama Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes said Russian dissident Alexey Navalny “is going to be in prison probably so long as Vladimir Putin is in power.”

Rhodes commented on MSNBC regarding Navalny’s recent sentencing in Russian court, where 19 years were tacked on to the outspoken insurgent’s current two-and-a-half-year sentence. Navalny, a vocal critic of President Vladimir Putin, was arrested upon his return from Germany in 2021.

Rhodes said the stacked sentences were evidence of Putin’s increasing campaign of fear and repression as he cracks down on both left and right-wing foes. Rhodes suggested that Putin’s actions presage a more totalitarian Russia, which could result in destabilizing the country’s internal politic establishment. Rhodes said Putin is becoming “more and more afraid” of dissent.

On the Middle East, Rhodes pointed to U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan’s visit to Saudi Arabia, which took place amid ongoing negotiations aimed at normalizing relations between Saudi Arabia and Israel. Saudi Arabia is also preparing to host a peace summit on behalf of war-torn Ukraine, which, according to observers like Rhodes, is part of the Kingdom’s strategy to demonstrate its diplomatic relevance to the international community and, most particularly, to the U.S.

“Saudis want a lot from the United States,” Rhodes explained. “They want a security guarantee and mutual defense pact. They want weapons. They want a nuclear program.”

Rhodes said this is all part of the complex and ever-evolving relationship with the U.S. and Saudi Arabia.