Sunday, January 21, 2007

FrontPage Symposium

FrontPage Magazine is currently hosting a symposium moderated by Jamie Glazov, on the subject From Russia With Death.

Participants include:

Oleg Kalugin, a retired Major General of the Soviet KGB.

Richard Pipes, a Professor Emeritus at Harvard who is one of the world’s leading authorities on Soviet history. He is the author of 19 books, the most recent being his new autobiography Vixi: Memoirs of a Non-Belonger.

Vladimir Bukovsky, a former leading Soviet dissident who spent twelve years in Soviet prisons, labor camps and psychiatric hospitals for his fight for freedom. His works include To Build a Castle and Judgement in Moscow.

Jim Woolsey, director of the CIA from 1993-95 and a former Navy undersecretary and arms-control negotiator.

Lt. Gen. Ion Mihai Pacepa, the former acting chief of Communist Romania’s espionage service. He is the highest ranking official ever to have defected from the Soviet bloc. He is author of Red Horizons, republished in 27 countries. In 1989, Ceausescu and his wife were executed at the end of a trial where most of the accusations had come word-for-word out of Pacepa’s book.

David Satter, a senior fellow of the Hudson Institute and a visiting scholar at the Johns Hopkins University Nitze School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS). He is the author of Darkness at Dawn: The Rise of the Russian Criminal State.

Yuri Yarim-Agaev, a former leading Russian dissident and a member of the Moscow Helsinki Group. Upon arriving in the United States after his forced exile from the Soviet Union, he headed the New York-based Center for Democracy in the USSR.


Andrei Piontkovsky, a member of International PEN-club, currently a Hudson Institute Visiting Fellow and author of Another Look into Putin’s Soul (Hudson, 2006).

From the discussion:

Bukovsky: I am an analyst, not a policeman, so I don’t follow the current lines of Scotland Yard’s investigation, and, frankly, I don’t believe they will catch any murderer. But the general picture is pretty clear to me.

Consider this: in July of this year, the Russian Duma passed a law authorizing the Russian President to use secret services as “death squads” in order to eliminate “extremists” — even on the foreign territory (Federal Law of 27 July 2006 N 153-F3).

At the same time, the Duma amended another law, expanding the definition of “extremism” to include anyone “libellously” critical of the current Russian regime (Federal Law of 27 July 2006 N 148-F3).

Thus, as we warned in a letter to the Times on July 11 (together with Oleg Gordievsky):

“a stage is set for any critic of Putin’s regime here, especially those campaigning against Russian genocide in Chechnya, to have an appointment with a poison-tipped umbrella. According to the statement by the RF Defence Minister Sergei Ivanov, the black list of potential targets is already composed.”

Then followed the murders of Anna Politkovskaya and Alexander Litvinenko. The question is: why would the Russian authorities rush through these laws if they had no intention of implementing them? The ball, therefore, is now in the Russian court: they have to prove to us that they did not do it.

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I agree with most of what has been said. Except, perhaps, a largely unnecessary analysis into as deep a history as Ivan the Terrible or even Nicholas I. Both of them were hardly worse than their contemporaries in Europe. Instead, let me provide an update to the general political context of the present-day Russian situation:

The current ruling clique in Kremlin knows very well how much they are hated in the country, all the "polls" notwithstanding. They know that they are perceived as usurpers and impostors. True, in 2000 Putin came to power by winning an election, but so did Hitler in 1932. And, pretty much like Hitler, he immediately proceeded to dismantle all democratic checks and balances.

Now, as the power transition of 2008 is approaching, Putin is paranoid in his suspicion that the West will try to use this opportunity to stage an "orange revolution" Ukrainian style. Hence his government’s clumsy provocation against the British Embassy in Moscow a couple of years ago (the "electronic stone" case) aimed at discrediting non-governmental organizations perceived by them as hostile, cutting their funding from abroad and placing them under the Kremlin's control. Hence is the decision to silence the most persistent critics of the regime -- even by violent means if need be. In a way, this is understandable: they know they all will be in jail if a genuine democrat wins an election, particularly if it happens by means of a popular upheaval.

The question is: what should be done by the West and, first of all, by the British government? As the police investigation of the case is at its end, we expect the British Government to finally make a statement and to announce the measures in connection with it. I am afraid that the preliminary indications are that Blair will try to avoid a firm stand on the matter using one or another excuse. At least a leak to that effect was published by Sunday Times couple of weeks ago alleging that he said to the cabinet: "Our priority is to retain good long-term relations with Russia". If this is to happen, and quite apart from the fact that he will be in dereliction of his prime duties to the security of the UK citizens as well as to the sovereignty of this country, it will send a very wrong signal to the Russian rulers. They already believe that their energy supplies and the world's dependence on them places them above the international law and will allow them to get away even with murder. Further acts of appeasement by the West will make them outright dangerous.

What if they occupy Georgia or Moldova tomorrow? What if they do something equally stupid against one of the Baltic countries which are members of NATO now? What would the West do then? More excuses, more appeasement? No, in my firm belief, they should be stopped now, they should be shown their proper place in the world.

The options are limited and none of them is good. If Britain simply kicks out some 30 odd Russian diplomats from the Russian Embassy in London, there will be tit-for-tat expulsions, and the British government will be left looking rather silly. A suspension of diplomatic relations is even more silly, as we all know they will be quietly resumed in a year or so. In both cases, nothing would be achieved. Russia would not be forced to back off while relations will be spoiled for a couple of years anyway. Therefore, I suggest:

First, it should be made absolutely clear that a murder of a British citizen on British soil by agents of a foreign power constitutes an act of aggression and a violation of British sovereignty, and, as it happened, an act of a radioactive attack on a NATO country. Second, Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty should be invoked demanding a collective response by the NATO countries. Third, NATO should present Russia with an ultimatum demanding an immediate repeal of that offensive law with apologies. Failing that, Russia should be expelled from all international organizations, starting with G8, Council of Europe, WTO, etc. etc. Top Russian officials should not be allowed to step on the territory of NATO countries. Russia should be proclaimed a rogue state.

What would be the likely response? At first, Russia will posture as an injured innocent, it might even flex its "gas muscles" for a while. But, then, in two years time, after that all-important transition of power in 2008, they will quietly drop that law from the books (without saying much to their public at home), and will be eager to mend fences. Of course, for two years relations will be strained, but they will be in any case. At least, Russia will be forced to climb down.

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