Daily Archives: February 10, 2007

High British Official Tells ABC Kremlin Killed Litvinenko

ABC news reports that a highly-placed British official has told them the British authorities have concluded Alexander Litvinenko was killed in a ” ‘state-sponsored’ assassination orchestrated by Russian security services.” So much for the ridiculous lie propounded by the Russophile scum that there is no “evidence” of Kremlin involvement. Incidentally, did you ever notice that these Russophiles who scream about “evidence” never once say what action they would be prepared to take against the Kremlin if sufficient “evidence” were shown to them, or even what sort of “evidence” would satisfy them? That’s so they can just shift position no matter what “evidence” is given and demand something else.

British officials say police have cracked the murder-by-poison case of former spy Alexander Litvinenko, including the discovery of a “hot” teapot at London’s Millennium Hotel with an off-the-charts reading for Polonium-210, the radioactive material used in the killing.

A senior official tells ABC News the “hot” teapot remained in use at the hotel for several weeks after Litvinenko’s death before being tested in the second week of December. The official said investigators were embarrassed at the oversight.

The official says investigators have concluded, based on forensic evidence and intelligence reports, that the murder was a “state-sponsored” assassination orchestrated by Russian security services. Officials say Russian FSB intelligence considered the murder to have been badly bungled because it took more than one attempt to administer the poison. The Russian officials did not expect the source of the poisoning to be discovered, according to intelligence reports.

Russian officials continue to deny any involvement in the murder and have said they would deny any extradition requests for suspects in the case.

Sources say police intend to seek charges against a former Russian spy, Andrei Lugovoi, who met with Litvinenko on Nov. 1, the day officials believe the lethal dose was administered in the Millennium Hotel teapot.

Lugovoi steadfastly denied any involvement in the murder at a Moscow news conference and at a session with Scotland Yard detectives. Russian security police were present when the British questioned Lugovoi, and British officials do not think they received honest answers from him.

British health officials say some 128 people were discovered to have had “probable contact” with Polonium-210, including at least eight hotel staff members and one guest.

None of these individuals has yet displayed symptoms of radiation poisoning, and only 13 individuals of the 128 tested at a level for which there is any known long-term health concern, officials said.

The Millennium Hotel has closed the Pine Bar and other areas where Litvinenko and Lugovoi met on Nov. 1, although the hotel says the remaining public areas “have been officially declared safe” and are open to the public.

Annals of Cold War II: Amsterdam Releases White Paper on Russian Malevolence

Robert Amsterdam, one of Mikhail Khodorkovsky’s attorneys, issued a press release today in which he announced the release of a 75-page white paper which acidly condemns the Putin regime’s perversion of the Russian justice system and massive assault on civil liberties. Quite properly, he also condemns Western ineptness in meeting this new threat. Read the devastating details here. You can read Amsterdam’s prior White Paper on constitutional violations during Khodorkovsky’s trial here .

LR on PP

Check out LR’s most recent installment on Publius Pundit, summarizing the use of Alexander Litvinenko’s picture for target practice at a facility used by the KGB, and the participation of one of Russia’s highest-ranking political figures in the sordid process. Feel free to leave your comments on this terrifying new twist in the Litvinenko murder case, which gives the lie to the idea that the Kremlin didn’t care about Litvenenko and wouldn’t exercise itself to kill him. This is bolstered by LR’s reporting yesterday on the statements of a former KGB spymaster who called Litvinenko a “traitor” who would have been executed in Soviet times.

Look for a major facelift over at Publius Pundit over the next few days; the portal will be redesigned and reorganized, which should make for a new level of interest for readers.

The Putin Regime Murders not only People, but Trust itself

Writing in the Moscow Times, columnist Georgy Bovt, editor of Profil magazine, explains how the Putin regime has murdered trust in Russia:

Many foreigners visiting Russian cities for the first time, and Moscow in particular, notice immediately that Russians are more likely to wear gloomy, weary or serious expressions than affable, smiling or open ones. It immediately gives the impression that Russians are rather severe.

I noticed this myself long ago: The first reaction to any stranger is usually a wary one. I have noticed, however, that a friendly “hello!” can often melt the ice.

This doesn’t, however, signal the beginning of a social revolution, and you shouldn’t expect the usually gloomy bank clerks or stressed-out ticket sellers in the metro to return the greeting.

All the same, if your “hello” is accompanied by a polite-but-restrained smile, it will likely have a disarming effect upon your interlocutor. (Note the importance of restraint here. If your smile is too big, you will be suspected of being either a flirt or a full-blown idiot). Your little greeting might even engender a sincere desire to help, rather than the common curt response, or worse, no response at all.

These observations have something to say about attitudes toward public space and deportment. The norms have already ceased to be Soviet in many aspects, but the social order forming out of the ruins of the past seems rather unattractive, and at times less humane.

Last week, the Public Chamber published a curious report on the theme of civil society. This was the first report of its type issued by that organization and, as you might expect, it is free of criticism of the government. As such, I found the section dealing with nongovernmental organizations less interesting than the included polling data relating to a number of different parameters.

The report’s most striking conclusion was that people have an almost complete lack of trust in one another. Between 1991 and 2006, the number of respondents who said other people could be trusted dropped from 41 percent to 22 percent. The number who said they were “wary” of others was an alarming 74 percent. Asked “Where would you look for help in the event of a serious problem?” 83 percent answered “immediate relatives.” Four percent said they would turn to an NGO, while only a slightly larger number said they would turn to a government agency.

When asked to identify the “human rights that are the most important for Russians,” the overwhelming majority answered along more Soviet-era, paternalistic lines, with 76 percent citing the right to be cared for in illness and old age and 64 percent citing the right to free education. Only 20 percent chose freedom of access to information, 16 percent cited the right to elect those who will occupy positions of authority and just 28 percent chose freedom of speech. This clearly illustrates the struggle for individualistic against paternalistic values. Even though the number of respondents choosing freedom of speech has risen gradually in recent years, new values are still having difficulty gaining ground.

The general emotional backdrop against which this process is taking place does not offer reason for optimism, although 63 percent of Russians did say they were satisfied with their lives. But when asked which feeling was strongest among those around them at present, only 34 percent chose “hope,” 16 percent answered “self-respect,” and just 15 percent chose “confidence in the future.” When allowed to choose multiple answers, respondents indicated such feelings as “shame at what is happening today” (18 percent), “shame for my people” (33 percent) and “weariness and indifference” (33 percent).

So, despite the bad news, there do seem to be some reasons for more people to start smiling. Now all we need to do is find a way to increase the general level of trust in society and, consequently, the number of smiling people we encounter on the street.

Russia’s Military Dollars go down the Rathole

Writing in the Moscow Times, columnist Alexander Golts explains that no matter how much Russia decides to spend on its military, it won’t acquire real military power:

There are three ways to deal with any problem: The right way, the wrong way and the bureaucratic way. Instead of searching for a workable solution, under the bureaucratic approach, create a new institution to deal with the problem. An impressive demonstration of this approach came in the form of the Kremlin’s recent decision to create a federal agency to oversee the delivery of arms and military technologies and materials.

The problem is that Russia’s leadership, however much it has tried, has for years been unable to increase the effectiveness of arms spending. Every year the Defense Ministry requests about one-third more funding for the purchase of weapons, with the total now at 300 billion rubles, or $11.3 billion. The return on this investment has not been very impressive. This year the army will take delivery of 15 strategic rockets and an unspecified number of aircraft, tanks and other armored vehicles. Senior officials with the Defense Ministry have talked about plans “to equip one long-range aircraft squadron, six aircraft and helicopter squadrons, seven tank and 13 motorized infantry battalions with new and modernized equipment.” But nobody has provided specifics on the breakdown between new and simply modernized equipment. The reason is that the ministry isn’t sure how many new weapons it can get its hands on. When the defense department announced a plan last year to buy 30 new tanks, the suggestion was met with laughter.

The Defense Ministry can’t fathom why military orders are filled so slowly or why weapons manufacturing costs have risen so sharply. Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov recently complained that prices in the military-industrial complex were “not entirely in order” and were often tentative. He seems to believe that the directors of military contractors are milking military contracts for all they can get. The new agency has been set up to deal with the problems with costs and meeting production deadlines. Ivanov also said the new agency, which will administer billions of rubles in budget funds, was guaranteed to be free of corruption. He said this was the case because it will be staffed by civilians and will not answer to the Defense Ministry. After six years in charge at the ministry, Ivanov clearly has no illusions about his subordinates.

This might all generate some confidence if it were not for the fact that Ivanov was himself made deputy prime minister and chairman of the military-industrial complex with the purpose of exercising more control over the sector. He was called on after a federal service created to monitor defense industry orders also apparently failed to deliver the expected results. That agency came into being to take over for the Federal Industry Agency. Deputy defense minister for armaments, General Alexei Moskovsky, and President Vladimir Putin’s adviser on military-technical questions, Alexander Burutin, are also responsible for such oversight. Given that each of these organizations and positions was given full authority over the issue when created, it is hard to believe that the problem is the lack of coordination, management and control.

The origin of the problem is much more serious. It derives from the Defense Ministry’s inability to adapt to a market economy. Throughout the 1990s, the ministry and firms working in the military-industrial complex perpetuated a lie. The ministry acted as if it were always just about to receive new funds for weapons, while defense firms, long having lost most of their suppliers and modern technologies, tried to give the impression that they could fully equip a modern army as soon as they received the money.

The whole myth of the military-industrial complex was exposed the moment the Defense Ministry actually came up with the cash. It became clear that there was no manufacturing base from which the component parts could be assembled. Parts left over from the Soviet era were sufficient to build only one prototype of each weapon. When talk turned to small production runs of each, it became evident that the industry was up to the task. Factories that had provided parts during Soviet times had long before switched to other products, so some of the parts had to be made practically by hand. This, in turn, created the problems with deadlines and rise in prices. As the Defense Ministry has been unable to determine which weapons it needs most urgently, it has tried to get its hands on all of them — from pistols to strategic rockets — at once. So even with the increases in the procurement budget, there never seems to be enough money.

The problem is that the creation of yet another oversight agency isn’t going to increase the effectiveness of this spending. All this will do is introduce another bureaucratic layer between the manufacturer and the customer. A much more effective approach would be to create a single oversight structure, responsible to the State Duma. This structure would help prioritize orders and monitor both the ministry and the manufacturer in their fulfillment.

The problem with this approach, of course, would be convincing Ivanov that the parliament should have any say over how he does his job.

Russia’s Military Dollars go down the Rathole

Writing in the Moscow Times, columnist Alexander Golts explains that no matter how much Russia decides to spend on its military, it won’t acquire real military power:

There are three ways to deal with any problem: The right way, the wrong way and the bureaucratic way. Instead of searching for a workable solution, under the bureaucratic approach, create a new institution to deal with the problem. An impressive demonstration of this approach came in the form of the Kremlin’s recent decision to create a federal agency to oversee the delivery of arms and military technologies and materials.

The problem is that Russia’s leadership, however much it has tried, has for years been unable to increase the effectiveness of arms spending. Every year the Defense Ministry requests about one-third more funding for the purchase of weapons, with the total now at 300 billion rubles, or $11.3 billion. The return on this investment has not been very impressive. This year the army will take delivery of 15 strategic rockets and an unspecified number of aircraft, tanks and other armored vehicles. Senior officials with the Defense Ministry have talked about plans “to equip one long-range aircraft squadron, six aircraft and helicopter squadrons, seven tank and 13 motorized infantry battalions with new and modernized equipment.” But nobody has provided specifics on the breakdown between new and simply modernized equipment. The reason is that the ministry isn’t sure how many new weapons it can get its hands on. When the defense department announced a plan last year to buy 30 new tanks, the suggestion was met with laughter.

The Defense Ministry can’t fathom why military orders are filled so slowly or why weapons manufacturing costs have risen so sharply. Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov recently complained that prices in the military-industrial complex were “not entirely in order” and were often tentative. He seems to believe that the directors of military contractors are milking military contracts for all they can get. The new agency has been set up to deal with the problems with costs and meeting production deadlines. Ivanov also said the new agency, which will administer billions of rubles in budget funds, was guaranteed to be free of corruption. He said this was the case because it will be staffed by civilians and will not answer to the Defense Ministry. After six years in charge at the ministry, Ivanov clearly has no illusions about his subordinates.

This might all generate some confidence if it were not for the fact that Ivanov was himself made deputy prime minister and chairman of the military-industrial complex with the purpose of exercising more control over the sector. He was called on after a federal service created to monitor defense industry orders also apparently failed to deliver the expected results. That agency came into being to take over for the Federal Industry Agency. Deputy defense minister for armaments, General Alexei Moskovsky, and President Vladimir Putin’s adviser on military-technical questions, Alexander Burutin, are also responsible for such oversight. Given that each of these organizations and positions was given full authority over the issue when created, it is hard to believe that the problem is the lack of coordination, management and control.

The origin of the problem is much more serious. It derives from the Defense Ministry’s inability to adapt to a market economy. Throughout the 1990s, the ministry and firms working in the military-industrial complex perpetuated a lie. The ministry acted as if it were always just about to receive new funds for weapons, while defense firms, long having lost most of their suppliers and modern technologies, tried to give the impression that they could fully equip a modern army as soon as they received the money.

The whole myth of the military-industrial complex was exposed the moment the Defense Ministry actually came up with the cash. It became clear that there was no manufacturing base from which the component parts could be assembled. Parts left over from the Soviet era were sufficient to build only one prototype of each weapon. When talk turned to small production runs of each, it became evident that the industry was up to the task. Factories that had provided parts during Soviet times had long before switched to other products, so some of the parts had to be made practically by hand. This, in turn, created the problems with deadlines and rise in prices. As the Defense Ministry has been unable to determine which weapons it needs most urgently, it has tried to get its hands on all of them — from pistols to strategic rockets — at once. So even with the increases in the procurement budget, there never seems to be enough money.

The problem is that the creation of yet another oversight agency isn’t going to increase the effectiveness of this spending. All this will do is introduce another bureaucratic layer between the manufacturer and the customer. A much more effective approach would be to create a single oversight structure, responsible to the State Duma. This structure would help prioritize orders and monitor both the ministry and the manufacturer in their fulfillment.

The problem with this approach, of course, would be convincing Ivanov that the parliament should have any say over how he does his job.

Russia’s Military Dollars go down the Rathole

Writing in the Moscow Times, columnist Alexander Golts explains that no matter how much Russia decides to spend on its military, it won’t acquire real military power:

There are three ways to deal with any problem: The right way, the wrong way and the bureaucratic way. Instead of searching for a workable solution, under the bureaucratic approach, create a new institution to deal with the problem. An impressive demonstration of this approach came in the form of the Kremlin’s recent decision to create a federal agency to oversee the delivery of arms and military technologies and materials.

The problem is that Russia’s leadership, however much it has tried, has for years been unable to increase the effectiveness of arms spending. Every year the Defense Ministry requests about one-third more funding for the purchase of weapons, with the total now at 300 billion rubles, or $11.3 billion. The return on this investment has not been very impressive. This year the army will take delivery of 15 strategic rockets and an unspecified number of aircraft, tanks and other armored vehicles. Senior officials with the Defense Ministry have talked about plans “to equip one long-range aircraft squadron, six aircraft and helicopter squadrons, seven tank and 13 motorized infantry battalions with new and modernized equipment.” But nobody has provided specifics on the breakdown between new and simply modernized equipment. The reason is that the ministry isn’t sure how many new weapons it can get its hands on. When the defense department announced a plan last year to buy 30 new tanks, the suggestion was met with laughter.

The Defense Ministry can’t fathom why military orders are filled so slowly or why weapons manufacturing costs have risen so sharply. Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov recently complained that prices in the military-industrial complex were “not entirely in order” and were often tentative. He seems to believe that the directors of military contractors are milking military contracts for all they can get. The new agency has been set up to deal with the problems with costs and meeting production deadlines. Ivanov also said the new agency, which will administer billions of rubles in budget funds, was guaranteed to be free of corruption. He said this was the case because it will be staffed by civilians and will not answer to the Defense Ministry. After six years in charge at the ministry, Ivanov clearly has no illusions about his subordinates.

This might all generate some confidence if it were not for the fact that Ivanov was himself made deputy prime minister and chairman of the military-industrial complex with the purpose of exercising more control over the sector. He was called on after a federal service created to monitor defense industry orders also apparently failed to deliver the expected results. That agency came into being to take over for the Federal Industry Agency. Deputy defense minister for armaments, General Alexei Moskovsky, and President Vladimir Putin’s adviser on military-technical questions, Alexander Burutin, are also responsible for such oversight. Given that each of these organizations and positions was given full authority over the issue when created, it is hard to believe that the problem is the lack of coordination, management and control.

The origin of the problem is much more serious. It derives from the Defense Ministry’s inability to adapt to a market economy. Throughout the 1990s, the ministry and firms working in the military-industrial complex perpetuated a lie. The ministry acted as if it were always just about to receive new funds for weapons, while defense firms, long having lost most of their suppliers and modern technologies, tried to give the impression that they could fully equip a modern army as soon as they received the money.

The whole myth of the military-industrial complex was exposed the moment the Defense Ministry actually came up with the cash. It became clear that there was no manufacturing base from which the component parts could be assembled. Parts left over from the Soviet era were sufficient to build only one prototype of each weapon. When talk turned to small production runs of each, it became evident that the industry was up to the task. Factories that had provided parts during Soviet times had long before switched to other products, so some of the parts had to be made practically by hand. This, in turn, created the problems with deadlines and rise in prices. As the Defense Ministry has been unable to determine which weapons it needs most urgently, it has tried to get its hands on all of them — from pistols to strategic rockets — at once. So even with the increases in the procurement budget, there never seems to be enough money.

The problem is that the creation of yet another oversight agency isn’t going to increase the effectiveness of this spending. All this will do is introduce another bureaucratic layer between the manufacturer and the customer. A much more effective approach would be to create a single oversight structure, responsible to the State Duma. This structure would help prioritize orders and monitor both the ministry and the manufacturer in their fulfillment.

The problem with this approach, of course, would be convincing Ivanov that the parliament should have any say over how he does his job.