Russia Notes


Alexander Litvinenko, on his deathbed, accused Vladimir Putin of orchestrating his murder.
Having ranted a few times on this blog about the current state of U.S.-Russia relations, I should say that I was pleased to see that Presidents Bush and Putin are planning to meet in early July.
The State Department is finally striking the right tone. It’s about time, considering the Secretary of State is a Sovietologist by training.

“The Russians still remain a very important partner, despite the tensions that may arise over various issues,” White House press secretary Tony Snow told reporters after announcing the meeting yesterday. “We’re going to make all our concerns known, but on the other hand, we’re going to continue working to work ahead.”

I’m glad the meeting is taking place in Kennebunkport, at the ol’ Bush family homestead in Maine. The invitation is intended to reflect a desire for closer relations and intimacy.
Some in the Bush Administration have tried to push Russia to the fringes of the agenda and pretend Russia – its insecure nuclear arsenal and anti-democratic wave and all – is irrelevant. Others, like Sen. McCain, have suggested that the U.S. should push Russia out of the G8 and create some distance.
At this critical juncture, I’m hoping there’s enough “Baker/Bush 41 realism” still in the Kennebunkport air to keep President Bush away from both of these dangerous detours. The right path is still careful engagement, holding our partner accountable, but emphasizing mutual respect, cooperation, and a common agenda.
Everyone interested in the subject should also have noted with interest two important developments recently. First, British prosecutors have accused Andrei Lugovoi of having murdered Putin critic Alexander Litvinenko. Litvinenko, on his deathbed, accused Putin of ordering his murder.
Lugovoi is probably thinking two things right now:

1.) I really shouldn’t have been so colossally dumb as to have chosen polonium-210, a rare, radioactive material, as my poison of choice. It makes it really easy to trace the murder back to me.
2.) I’d better figure out a convincing alternative theory and stick to it – not because I’m afraid of being extradited or convicted, mind you, but because I need to make abundantly clear that I’m not going to rat out my silovki bosses so they don’t make me next on their list.

This second thought is apparently where Lugovoi’s mind is currently, considering he told the press that Litvinenko was an MI6 agent and was killed by the British government. It’s not a very good alternative story (even in the off chance that Litvinenko is in fact affiliated with MI6) and won’t fly outside the Kremlin, but, as we’ve learned in other instances, it doesn’t need to. It just needs to be good enough to help him avoid extradition to the UK or state-ordered murder in Russia, and it probably is.
The other important development is the posthumous release of Anna Politkovskaya’s book, For What.
As headlines indicated, Mikhail Gorbachev spoke at the official release and called the book important (hidden in the final paragraphs of some stories is Gorbachev’s ironic praise of Putin). Frankly, with respect to Mr. Gorbachev, have to question the wisdom of the invitation. To the surprise of most Americans, polls show that Gorbachev is among the most despised leaders in Russian history.
Gorbachev is badly misunderstood, both in the West and in Russia. In the West, Gorbachev mostly symbolizes reform, peace, and courage. In Russia, he’s associated with long bread lines and declining influence. Much has been made of the book’s publication in Politkovskaya’s native Russian, but Gorbachev’s role in the book launch makes me wonder if its intended audience was Western audiences instead of Russians.
Anyway, it seems there are a few small rays of hope in some very dark times.
–Scott Paul


6 comments on “Russia Notes

  1. Frank de Wild says:

    Before falling for the British Government’s version of what happened I would really recommend all informed people to read the book by the former American editor of Forbes Russia magazine titled “Godfather of the Kremlin” / by Paul Klebnikov.
    It’s a biography of the life of Boris Berezovsky; the exiled oligarch now residing in London who employed Litvinenko.
    The book is extremely critical of Berezovsky who clearly was a major shady Russian mob figure who robbed Russia blind in the 1990’s; shortly after Paul Klebnikov published this book on Berezovsky he was gunned down in the streets of Moscow. The death of this American reporter is one in a series of assasinations that one way or another have always involved Berezovsky.
    I never believed the British Government’s lies on Iraq’s WMD and I don’t believe their version of events on the death of Litvinenko and I think anybody who has read the book by the former American editor of Forbes Russia magazine would agree with me. Read it and reach your own conclusions- this Polonium affair was a setup against Putin who many people would like to see overthrown because of his moves to recover Russia’s sovereignty over its own national oil and gas assets.


  2. Carroll says:

    For a lot of reasons if someone wants to get down to the nitty gritty, Russia should be natural and preferred ally of the US. In fact I might say it should the number one goal of the US right now. righ up there with the ME.
    Of course a lot of interest don’t want to see that happen…they would lose a lot of money and leverage.
    But a US-Russia pact would put our real interest under the microscope and sprinkle magic fairy dust on some of our problems.


  3. Daniel CAZ Greenberg says:

    Wow, some harsh comments on this one! 😡
    For his sake, someone get Mikhail a nice plot on the California coast? Huntington Beach would work, maybe next to coach Klinsmann.
    He’s a brave one to hang around in an ungrateful nation whose ire seems to result in organ complications.


  4. john somer says:

    Polonium 210 is not easy to detect and has a very short half-life. For some mysterious reason, the East seems to have some attraction for “mineral poisoning”; remember Yutschencjo’s poisoning before the Orange revolution in Ukraine ? One British commentator on the BBC pointed out that it wa SOP for MI6 to try and recruit ex-KGB agents, so Lugovoy’s assertion that British intelligence tried to recruit him and has recruited Litvinenko is quite plausible


  5. a lurker says:

    I second the comment about “simple mindend thoughs” and “fine piece of propaganda”.


  6. ... says:

    i like your simple minded thoughts on Andrei Litvinenkos death.. it runs well with the popular propaganda the mainstream media was pouring out on it as well.. seems to be a bit of a stretch to think someone is going to be stupid enough to commit a murder with something as serious as polonium-210 and not have it explored more thouroughly, but that is what you suggest towards Lugovoi. i am also impressed how Boris Berezovskys name always stays out of these type articles as well.. kudos on a fine piece of propaganda.


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