The bleat of many Scooter Libby supporters in the Valerie Plame CIA-outing scandal is that there was “no underlying crime.” They tried to sidestep the obstruction crime that Vice President Cheney’s Chief of Staff was found guilty of.
Something similar is going on in the UK-Russia standoff over the extradition of former KGB officer Andrei Lugovoy to face charges for the Le Carre-esque murder of Alexander Litvinenko. Well, there is an underlying crime here of course — a murder.
But that has little to do with the diplomatic dance that the UK and Russia are now engaged in. Both sides are escalating the costs to the other over the standoff — in ways that have little to do with the issue of justice in Livinenko’s death.
The Russians are not only meeting Britain’s expulsion of four Russian diplomats with an expulsion of the same number of British foreign ministry personnel, but are now suspending cooperation in anti-terrorism.
According to the Times Online:
Lamenting the breakdown in relations, Mikhail Kamynin, a foreign ministry spokesman, added: “To our regret, co-operation between Russia and Britain on issues of fighting terrorism becomes impossible.”
The Russians wouldn’t blur such lines between a high-profile murder case and major national security issues unless they wanted to communicate that the institutionalized, post-9/11 cooperation among Europe, the US, Russia and other nations against Islamic terrorism was over.
Russia is telegraphing that it sees an American-British colonization of the international security and intelligence apparatus that it either wants to help control as well — or wants to defect from given the clear failure in any case of the stronger Western powers to control or confine Islamic terrorism.
For Russia, the extradition standoff over Lugovoy is a convenient trigger to assert its national ego and position — and to undermine to some degree America and the UK’s standing in counter-terrorism politics.
Russia is back — and the price for collaboration with Russia on common efforts ranging from global warming to containing Iran’s nuclear ambitions has just gone higher.
— Steve Clemons