Vladimir Putin, Fraud and Liar
Back in June, when the story broke about a massive web of pathetically ragtag Russian spies having been uncovered whilst seeking to insinuate themselves at the most intimate levels of American life, the Russian government denied any spies had been caught. Former KGB spymaster Vladimir Putin went further. He didn’t just deny there were spies, he accused U.S. law enforcement authorities of losing control, going on a frenzy and locking up innocent people.
He’d know, of course. Nobody knows better than Putin how to lock up (or simply murder) innocent people.
But it has turned out, of course, that Putin was lying. Shamelessly, after the spies were returned to Russia, Putin met and sang patriotic songs with them. This only confirmed the fact, now common public knowledge, that Putin didn’t merely know about these spies, he sent them to America himself. It was his spy program that imploded spectacularly before a slack-jawed world, and his bitter childish and ridiculous neo-Soviet recriminations in the aftermath prove this better than any other kind of evidence ever could.
The Russians and their Spies
Not even the most crazed of Russosphile or Russian nationalist fanatics can deny it: If a giant sleeper cell of American spies were discovered in Russia, seeking to secretly infiltrate every aspect of Russian society at its most intimate and basic levels, Russians would be livid with rage. Nashi would march on the American embassy with furious anger, screaming epithets of hatred and bile, and America would be vilified as the Great Satan just as it often is in places like Iran. We wouldn’t be surprised if the Russian Orthodox Church weighed in.
So what are Americans to make of the fact that Russians are doing it to them? How should they react? What should their response be when they learn that Russian nuclear bombers are patrolling their coastline, causing their fighter defenses to scramble? How should they understand the fact that Russia is ruled by a proud KGB spy who is liquidating every American value at breakneck speed?
James Kirchick of Radio Free Eurpe and the New Republic, writing in the New York Daily News:
The FBI arrest last week of 10 alleged Russian spies has produced a shrug of the shoulders on both sides of the Atlantic. On Wednesday, a senior Russian government official told the state-run Interfax news agency that the incident “will not negatively affect Russian-U.S. relations.”
Such soothing tones have been echoed in Washington, where The New York Times reported that the White House “expressed no indignation that its putative partner was spying on it.”
Many analysts are echoing this official nonchalance. Writing in the Financial Times, King’s College London Prof. Anatol Lieven concluded that the brouhaha is but a “temporary rift” in Russo-American relations, and should do nothing to forestall the fruitful development of the “west scaling back its ambitions in the former Soviet Union with Russia‘s growing realization that it needs a new partnership with its former U.S. and European rivals.”
The Legalization of the Neo-Soviet State
We have grown genuinely weary of reporting, week after week, a somber new low in the history of the neo-Soviet KGB state of Vladimir Putin known as Russia. Each time we do so, cynics though we may be, we find it hard to imagine how Russia could sink any deeper into the mire of failure and self-destruction. But once again, Russia has surprised us.
And, no, we’re not talking about the revelation that a hoard of Russian soliders stole credit cards off the corpses of dead Polish government officials following the Smolensk air disaster. That display of Russia patriotism was truly horrific, but this week it didn’t qualify for top billing.
The day we have been predicting for some time here on this blog has now arrived, even more quickly than we imagined: Vladimir Putin is moving rapidly to legalize and formalize the neo-Soviet state he has been building in Russia for more than a decade.
Paul Goble reports:
The central apparatus of the Russian security services has been subject to numerous reforms since 1991, but the FSB “provincial empire” is little changed from Soviet times, when the KGB and its predecessors sought to impose “total control over the population through repression,” according to a leading Russian specialist.
In an article in Yezhednevny Zhurnal Andrey Soldatov, the head of Agentura.ru which tracks the activities of the security services, says that this lack of change in the regions “not only defines the spirit of the FSB” but creates serious problems for the Russian powers that be. Soldatov notes that the provincial offices of the FSB seldom attract much attention, except on two occasions: when officers are involved in the struggle with terrorism or on Chekist day when these bodies make their “traditional annual reports” that often cross the border of “absurdity.”
Paul Goble reports:
Since its creation five years ago, Russia’s Social Chamber has not achieved its ostensible goals of serving as place for the Russian public to speak to and watch over power, a Moscow analyst says. Instead, it appears to represent “the latest ‘special operation’” of Moscow’s security service state to “imitate public opinion.”
In a comment on Ekho Moskvy, Yevgeny Gontmakher, a senior scholar at the Moscow Institute of Contemporary Development, recalls the discussion that took place in the Russian capital when then President Vladimir Putin created the Social Chamber. “As always,” he suggested, “something very contemporary was wanted, namely the creation of an organ which would not allow to sleep peacefully either deputies or minister or, it is terrible to say, the President himself.” But each of the four ostensible premises of the organization has proved to be false.
Time magazine reports:
In July, the Russian-manned cargo ship the Arctic Sea disappeared on its way to take timber from Finland to Algeria, sparking reports of the first incident of piracy in European waters since the days of the buccaneers. Experts and observers weighed in with their theories: the ship had been snatched in a commercial dispute; it was being used to run drugs; it was carrying something more precious — or dangerous — than timber.