Toomas Hendrik Ilves is the former president of Estonia. A version of this text was delivered as a speech at the Warsaw Security Forum on Oct. 5 in Warsaw.

The Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny has been hounded, persecuted, beaten, poisoned and jailed for standing up to a thuggish autocracy that is well on its way to classic totalitarian rule. His crime? Peacefully using his fundamental human right of freedom of expression to challenge a regime held together by stormtroopers, violence and murder.

Navalny’s story is not a new one. In the decade before the collapse of communism, we saw this tale unfold over and over again. Joseph Brodsky, Natan Sharansky, Alexander Solzhenitsyn, Andrei Sakharov and hundreds of others were persecuted for their beliefs by that real-life Mordor, the U.S.S.R.

There is a difference, however. Back in those days, we in the West at least had the moral clarity to stand up to the thugs, and to raise these issues with our governments, in our parliaments, in all possible international forums.

Paradoxically, it helped that our foes were ideologically anti-capitalist. Commissars and Politburo members could hardly buy villas on the Riviera, ski chateaus in St. Moritz, Switzerland, or apartments in a skyscraper owned by a U.S. president. They did not dock their 470-foot yachts in Saint-Tropez, France, or Piraeus, Greece. On our side, taking money from totalitarians counted as bribery or as espionage — bringing severe criminal penalties and social disgrace.

Today, the liberal democratic West has abandoned that one-time clarity. We have become partners in crime, colluding with the enemies of liberty, of our Enlightenment heritage of rule of law and human rights. We are the unindicted co-conspirators of our own demise and the destruction of Russia, collapsing under the weight of its corruption and thievery.

So it is not enough to celebrate the heroism of Navalny and his immense contributions to exposing the miasma of corruption in Russia. That serves only to give us a smug and utterly false sense of moral superiority. To truly honor Navalny, we instead must confront the stench of our own liberal democratic West.

That stench swirls from our own corrupt politicians and political parties, from our naive and greedy governments, and even the most prestigious, centuries-old universities. It swirls from businesses who prize profit over justice, truth and freedom. It swirls from bankers, lawyers and accountants who launder money and reputations. The revelations of the Pandora Papers, like the other tales of financial skulduggery that have come before, once again demonstrate that we ourselves are systematically complicit in the thievery and corruption that plague so many societies.

It is this corruption, our corruption, that aids, abets and sustains, indeed nourishes the murderous looting of the Kremlin’s boyars and their minions, as well as other odious regimes around the globe.

That is not to say others are innocent. From China to Azerbaijan, from the Philippines to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, dirty money extorted from the weak and powerless swamps our political processes and corrupts our system.

Be it members of the European Parliament whitewashing human rights violations in the Caucasus or a leading British university agreeing to purge unflattering articles from a premier journal at the request of Chinese authorities (and reversing itself only after a public outcry), the fabric of the West is sodden with corruption.

Worse, we cannot even speak about this publicly, for fear of bankruptcy. The great Catherine Belton, author of the searingly insightful book “Putin’s People,” is facing a ruinous personal lawsuit brought by the regime’s insiders. The aim is not just to crush her, but to deter anyone else who dares to investigate the nexus of intelligence, business, organized crime and state power that gave birth to and sustains Russia’s ruling elite.

Where there is no rule of law, where the autocrat can steal or take away anyone’s property, his overriding fear is that someone will do to him what he has done to enrich himself. Thus, the despot’s only recourse is ship his money to a place that enjoys the benefits of a well-established legal system, be it London or Dubai, New York or Tallinn, Estonia — anywhere there are secure legal protections for those earn their wealth through work, rather than through theft or pumping it out of land that belongs to the population, which is just a more indirect form of theft.

This rule of law has made us prosperous. We know the state cannot illegally take away our property. But it also allows authoritarian regimes to maintain their stolen treasure and persecute people such as Navalny, as well countless others. If we genuinely care about freedom, therefore, it is time to change our own laws.

There is much we can do. We must impose transparency on anonymous shell companies. We must impose visa bans on corrupt officials who aim to benefit from our institutions (and the spies who aim to undermine them). The United Kingdom’s unexplained wealth orders, which unfortunately are not widely or strictly applied, should be copied and rigorously enforced across our rule-of-law-based West.

We should honor Navalny not only because he exposes the grotesque thievery and destruction of human rights in Russia. He also holds a mirror up to our own complicity in his persecution and in the backwardness and poverty of Russia. It is time we did something about it.