Day: 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.

– – – – – – –

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.

Iran Conducts Missile War Games

Via AP:

TEHRAN, Iran — Iran plans three days of military maneuvers, including short-range missile tests, beginning Sunday — its first since the U.N. Security Council imposed sanctions against it in late December, state-run television said.

“The elite Revolutionary Guards plans to begin a three-day missile maneuver on Sunday near Garmsar city,” said the broadcast. The city is located in northern Iran on the edge of Kavir desert, about 60 miles southeast of Tehran.

“Zalzal and Fajr-5 missiles will be test fired in the war game,” the television quoted an unnamed commander of the guards, as saying. Both are considered short-range missiles.

Conversation – II


You didn’t find his profession a strain?

“Well, Sasha wasn’t in a department where they were involved in spying or where there were any super-secrets. And it wasn’t as if he would come home from work, sit me down at the table and start telling me all about it. Actually it could be compared to work in the police, because he did a lot of criminal investigations, carrying out some sort of detective work. At the time we met he was working on what’s called the “Georgian line” – there were disputes between Georgia and Abkhazia, and in Moscow members of rich Georgian families were often kidnapped for ransom, and the money was spent on the war. To me this didn’t seem especially dangerous – one got the feeling that in this kind of work he was protected, he was working in a serious branch of government, it was all official. But what I saw mostly was how people were grateful in a human way for what he did for them. Just a month after we met, he freed the kidnapped son of one family – and the family said that Sasha was now like a son to them.

“But then he gradually began to move from one department to another, out of anti-terrorist work into other fields, and in 1996-97 I could already sense his dissatisfaction with the work. He was a detective, doing the groundwork before a criminal case was opened, collecting evidence, and when he was given an assignment to carry out he would have this boyish enthusiasm. It seemed me that in some ways he even romanticized his work, because there was no ideology in it for him, he just saw it as a way to help people. And then suddenly the problems began – he took on some some case, and at a certain stage they got in his way, wouldn’t let him carry it through – they said he’d dug too deep. And at some point the disillusionment set in. He wanted to find a place in the system where he would be allowed to take a case to its conclusion. But in the last place he worked – it was URPO [Analysis and Suppression of the Activity of Criminal Organizations, tr.] – the violence had already begun, and it seems to me that there already was a miniature model of what just now has acquired a governmental scale in Russia.

“The bosses simply gave themselves the right to murder – independently of whether it was in Russia or abroad, if they thought these people were terrorists or committing unlawful acts. The task might be to abduct someone, beat them up – and this was done completely outside the law. It was in these conditions that he got to know Mikhail Trepashkin, who is now in prison. That was the first time that Sasha realized something was wrong. Because Misha Trepashkin had once started a conflict in the FSB and had even won a criminal case against Patrushev, who was then the chief of some division. And since Misha still had an official FSB identity badge, an assignment was issued to meet him in the entrance, give him a bad beating, frighten him and take away his official ID. When Sasha began to get to the bottom of this episode, he realized that it quite simply should not have happened, because Misha was an absolutely normal chap, an absolutely straightforward individual, and as a result they became friends. But what happened next was already the beginning of the end, when Sasha received the order to kill Berezovsky. That was a perfect example of how an order could be given orally, in conversation with the leadership – and then you couldn’t even prove that it had been given.”

[To be continued]

See also: Conversation