by J. R. Nyquist
“You may succeed in silencing me,” Alexander Litvinenko explained on his deathbed, “but that silence comes at a price.” He was addressing his murderer, Russian President Vladimir Putin. “You have shown yourself to be as barbaric and ruthless as your most hostile critics have claimed. You have shown yourself to have no respect for life, liberty or any civilized value. You have shown yourself to be unworthy of your office, to be unworthy of the trust of civilized men and women.” Stalin said that one death was a tragedy while one million was a mere statistic. The slaughter of the Chechen people failed to arouse the West. But Litvinenko’s death was a tragedy that caught the world’s attention, underscoring the evil that has emerged in Moscow. British authorities have privately conceded that the Kremlin dispatched the assassins who poisoned Litvinenko with radioactive Pollonium-210 in November 2006. I bring this story up, once more, because of the indecency of President Bush, who regards Putin as his “friend.” If meeting with Putin, if praising Putin’s “frankness” is some kind of strategy, then it is doubly shameful. Embracing a treacherous partner is not a strategy. To call such a thing “political realism” is shortsighted and even suicidal. America has been down this road before, when FDR trusted Stalin, when Nixon and Carter embraced Brezhnev, when Reagan hugged Gorbachev. Only now the situation is worse. The structures used to contain Russia have collapsed on the assumption that Russia is an emerging democracy. And now, as the Russian dictator breaks out of the Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE) Treaty, NATO is unable to properly respond. President Putin will now have a stick as well as a carrot (i.e., energy) with which to bring Europe into obedience.
The political realist, if he were truly realistic, would know that the KGB regime in Russia faces a difficult transition within the coming months. Putin must step down and new elections must be held. But how can this be? If the history of Julius Caesar has taught us anything, it is that a powerful criminal cannot give up power without exposing himself to prosecution. He must cling to power as a matter of personal survival. This is the case with Putin and the thugs who serve him. More and more, the blood on Putin’s hands is visible to everyone, including the Russian people. His crimes are coming into focus at home and abroad. The apartment bombings that triggered the Second Chechen War are almost certainly his work. The assassination of journalist Anna Politkovskaya is rather obvious, like the death of Alexander Litvinenko. “You may succeed in silencing one man,” stated Litvinenko. “But a howl of protest from around the world will reverberate….”
One killing leads to another. You blow up apartments in Moscow and blame it on terrorists in order to establish your regime. And then, when investigators start digging into certain suspicious details, you assassinate the investigators – like legislator Sergei Yushenkov, Anna Politkovskaya and Alexander Litvinenko. You send assassins to kill the exiled Russian tycoon, Boris Berezovsky, who continues to finance these investigations. As noted above, one murder leads to another; one massacre leads to another; one war leads to another. The modus operandi takes over. If your house is built on a lie, if someone questions the lie, then your last line of defense is murder. As Alexander Solzhenitsyn once pointed out, the Communist regime in Russia survived “not because there has not been any struggle against it from the inside, not because people docilely surrendered to it, but because it is inhumanely strong, in a way unimaginable in the West.” And so, the Kremlin will not regurgitate Politkovskaya’s murderer. Putin will not hand over Litvinenko’s assassins. They are instrumental to the maintenance of his regime. If they are handed over the regime is doomed. This is the ABCs of the situation.
Just as an economic crisis is coming to America, a political crisis is coming to Russia. The two crises are interlinked. The assassination of Anna Politkovskaya and the poisoning of Alexander Litvinenko foreshadow a necessary train of events in Russia – just as Stalin’s purges foreshadowed World War II. The Kremlin knows what is coming, what cannot now be avoided. The dictatorship in Russia is on a set path, firm in the understanding that Western-style freedom is the enemy. Therefore, the Kremlin must (1) exploit America’s growing strategic weakness, and (2) avoid political destabilization as the legitimacy of a criminal regime is called into question. Even if the Russian public remains sleepy and compliant, it will only be on account of carefully engineered events. And the logic of events should be obvious to everyone. As a matter of internal policy, the Kremlin must demonize the United States, naming America as its “main enemy.” It must elevate international tensions. It must divert attention from its own criminality by accusing the United States of worse criminality. The accusations over the NATO missile shield in Poland are only the beginning. Further accusations will follow. The alliance that Russia has been building with China, Venezuela, Iran, etc., will eventually come into play.
The Western experts think Russia can be gradually brought back into the democratic fold. They imagine that Russia can be turned into a solid, compliant partner by small steps. But this is not in the cards. History is a great teacher and history shows that the KGB has been here before: with Stalin at the end of the Soviet economic liberalization of the 1920s; at the end of World War II, when Moscow promised democracy to Eastern Europe; after Khrushchev denounced Stalin and announced a policy of peaceful coexistence; after the appearance of “Communism with a human face” in Czechoslovakia in 1968. The promises are always deceptive and always broken. What little is given, is used as a lure. Under whichever dictator, the Kremlin has its method: to reverse the economic liberalization of the 1920s with episodes like the Ukraine famine and Stalin’s purges; to introduce democracy to Eastern Europe through the establishment of several Communist dictatorships; to denounce Stalin and announce peaceful coexistence only to raise the Berlin Wall, arm the North Vietnamese and put offensive missiles into Cuba; to crush the Czech liberalization beneath armored columns.
Vladimir Putin has canceled the CFE Treaty because the Russian armed forces are reviving. They have new weapons, higher pay and better morale. Meanwhile, NATO is not ready. The United States is not psychologically prepared. Putin’s withdrawal from the CFE Treaty is thought to be a dramatic gesture, indicating his disapproval of NATO’s projected plans for missile defense. It is more than a gesture, however. It is the first step in a longer sequence. With further accusations, with further complaints of treachery, the Russian leader can start moving tank and motorized rifle divisions Westward. He can apply direct military pressure to supplement his economic pressure. He can tighten the screws on Europe. He can move into Serbia, bringing the Serbs into the Russian Federation itself. He can reassert the former “Soviet sphere of influence.” He can employ a subtle kind of blackmail as he assassinates his critics throughout Europe.