Sunday, November 26, 2006

[litvinenko] just which side is the west supporting

We needn’t make too much of today’s headline: Suicide possibility of ex-KGB agent probed. This blog always thought it a possibility although, to be honest, it wasn't where my money was:

British detectives investigating the death of an ex-KGB spy probed the possibility he killed himself to discredit Russian President Vladimir Putin, police said. Increasing concerns over the reliability of Russian dissident Alexander Litvinenko's death-bed testimony have prompted police to check every detail of his version of events Nov. 1, the day he said he was poisoned, The Independent reported Sunday.

Look - the leap to blame Putin was premature, the leap to heartfelt emotional support for ‘Alexander’ may well have been misplaced, the leap to wild assertion by many commenters on how ‘the Russians’ would see him as a traitor but ‘we know better’ was predictable and now we have the conversion to Islam and ties with Chechnya reported by the anti-Putin Echo Moskva. The word suicide very much springs to mind in this context.

The man was not a Solzhenitsyn or a Sakharov, with international standing and one thing which must be stressed is that neither of these treated with the enemy. For that reason, Anna Politkovskaya, who made friends with Russia’s enemies, has to be treated with caution, no matter how much her 'fearless reporter' appearance appeals to journalists. People like Vladimir Rezun also present themselves as whistleblowers but questions arise when delving into their backgrounds.

A trawl of the majority of rightist blogs reveals a strong stance against Muslim extremism and the term 'Defending the West ' is often used. Yet the moment Russia is mentioned, all reason deserts many of these bloggers and they side with the very Muslim extremists they've been attacking - in this case the Chechnyans, responsible for Beslan among other atrocities. Putin is doing precisely what these blogs are calling for - cracking down on extremism and being vilified by the bloggers for doing what they ask for.

Nothing is straightforward in Russia and it is best if the British and Americans step back one pace on this issue and take a ‘wait and see’ stance, as UK Daily Pundit has. Links here and here if it's of interest.


Ellee said...

James, The only part I agree with is that nothing is straightforward in Russia.

james higham said...

Ellee, how can you not agree with the documentary record? The connection with Anna and the Chechyen warlord is not speculation. The connection between Litvinenko and a Chechyen warlord in London is not in dispute. The Chechyen role in Beslan is not in dispute. These are exactly the terrorists whom we're railing against, so why on earth are we turning a blind eye to them and pretending they're just a group of misunderstood philanthopists? Which part do you dispute? Litvinenko's death? Well of course, you're right there, as no one really knows. But the rest of it is on the record. It's not a matter of what we believe.

Gracchi said...

Nothing being straightforward in Russia seems to me a fairly straightforward assumption to hold- who knows whether Putin fully controls every single FSB agent anyway and that Litvinenko wasn't killed by an FSB agent who had gone renegade. The possibilities seem endless.

James, I apologise I haven't seen the evidence that Politkovskaya was in leige with the Chechen warlords. I recall something about her attempting negotiations about kidnaps but I don't see that neccessarily as being in league- sorry I'm ignorant and asking for information here.

As to the Chechen dispute- yes you could look at it through the light of Militant Islam and there is a Militant Islamic flavour to what's going on but that shouldn't obscure that there is also a problem with Russian troops and particularly the warlords they've backed down there. Some organisations- I beleive Amnesty included- estimate around 100,000 deaths in the last six or seven years since the second Chechen war began. I wonder whether that might be channelling more people towards Islamic extremism. I heard a Radio 4 Start the Week in April where Anna Neistat of Human Rights Watch argued that the Russians had effectively through their brutality turned a nationalist into an Islamist movement.

james higham said...

No doubt at all they were more than heavy handed. The Russians aren't noted for their delicacy. As for turning the Nationalists Islamist, the two go hand in hand but certainly it fuelled it. Now I don't know your position on Israel - for or against. If you're for, then the parallels are striking. Israel/Hezbollah and Russia/Chechnya, even England/Scotland. It's a major issue here and the average person on the street finds it amazing that Britain holds with the Beslan and Moscow theatre killers. And the average person here, don't forget, is Muslim.

Not Saussure said...

Isn't this conflating two separate questions? Whatever one thinks about Russia vs Chechnya, one can still hold views on the propriety of bumping off people who hold the wrong views, and particularly on the propriety of bumping them off in London.

Of course in Russia nothing's ever straightforward. In such circumstances, I tend to ask who benefits most and who has the opportunity; there's one well-known chap who clearly had the opportunity and whose name springs immediately to mind as someone who stands to benefit from anything that damages Putin's relationship with the British government. Dislike of libellous speculation prevents my naming him (shouldn't take long to figure out to whom I allude, though), but if I were the police officer investigating the matter, I'd certainly want to eliminate him from my inquiries.

Ellee said...

James, I am trying to keep an open mind on this, we are being swamped with so much information in the UK, stories and counter-stories. Can we even believe any evidence that is presented as it could so easily be falsely presented? This is a gripping story, but hugely complicated, I'm going to think about it some more before commenting more fully.