By Eric Walberg
Online Journal Contributing Writer
Nov 2, 2007, 01:48
diplomats were expelled from Britain this summer as a pressure tactic to try to
force Russia to extradite Andrei Lugovoi, the key suspect in the death of a
former KGB officer and proud new UK citizen, Alexander Litvinenko. The expulsion
came shortly after Russian President Vladimir Putin announced that Russia was
pulling out of the Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE) treaty and as Polish
President Lech Kaczynski was visiting Washington to finalise the US missile
bases in Europe. What a coincidence.
coincidence: less than 48 hours before the expulsions, ex-US Secretaries of
State Henry Kissinger and George Schultz, Chevron Chairman David O'Reilly and
assorted friends had discussions with President Putin in Moscow at a conference
"Russia-USA: A view on the future," which the US side later described
as "frank," meaning Putin didn't give an inch on anything. In case
Kissinger didn't get the message, Putin slipped out of the conference to meet
Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi who agreed with him that China wants a
"multipolar world" and even more trade with Russia. Chinese-Russian
trade has increased by almost 50 percent annually the last few years.
It seems all the
Western guns available weren't able to budge the Kremlin, so the British
bulldog, or in today's world, poodle was called in to bark and make a scene.
A spokesman for the
Russian Foreign Ministry said that the expulsions were "a well-staged
action to politicise the Litvinenko case" and pointed out that the government
of Britain had refused to extradite two prominent opponents of the Kremlin who
live there: a businessman, Boris Berezovsky, and Akhmed Zakayev, the exiled
Chechen leader -- both friends and mentors of poor, dead Litvinenko.
Although both sides
expelled diplomats in 1996 on accusations of spying, the latest turn of events
seemed far more serious, reminiscent of 1985, when Prime Minister Margaret
Thatcher expelled 24 Soviet diplomats, prompting CPSU General Secretary Mikhail
Gorbachev to do the same, despite their mutual admiration.
This is all vintage
Le Carre. You could easily mistake 2007 for 1967 or better 1937. Though on his
deathbed Litvinenko purportedly accused Putin of ordering his murder, even his
widow Marina doesn't agree, though she does think it was planned in Moscow. It
could very well be that the KGB's successor, the FSB, is implicated in this
cloak-and-polonium affair, just as the CIA, KGB, Mossad and their ilk were and
are active in hundreds of assassinations of their enemies.
After 18 years as a
model KGB/FSB officer he seems to have cracked, beginning with a theatrical
press conference in November 1998, where he publicly accused his superiors of
ordering the assassination of oligarch Boris Berezovsky, "the Jew who'd
robbed half the country." Critics say the accusation was fabricated to
help Berezovsky blacken enemies in the FSB. Litvinenko was fired and later
joined Berezovsky in the UK, where he was granted political asylum and
citizenship. He soon published The FSB Blows up Russia (2001), which
claims agents from the FSB rather than Chechen terrorists coordinated the 1999
Russian apartment bombings that killed more than 300 people.
against Putin and the FSB continued to come thick and fast. In his next book, Gang
from Lubyanka (2002), he alleged that Putin was personally involved in
organised crime. With regard to the July 2005 bombings in London, Litvinenko
said that, "terrorist infection creeps worldwide from the cabinets of the
Lubyanka Square and the Kremlin" and accused Putin of being a paedophile,
comparing him to the notorious rapist and serial killer Andrei Chikatilo. In
October 2006, he publicly accused Putin of assassinating crusading journalist
Two weeks later, on
1 November 2006, Litvinenko suddenly fell ill and was hospitalised. Alex
Goldfarb, who had arranged Litvinenko's defection from Moscow in 2000 and is
now director of Berezovsky's International Foundation for Civil Liberties,
emerged as his official spokesman, using Berezovsky's PR agency, Bell
Pottinger. Through them, Litvinenko stated that he met three former KGB agents
on the day he fell ill, including Andrei Lugovoi.
three weeks later of lethal polonium-210 radiation poisoning. A senior official
said investigators had concluded the murder was "a 'state-sponsored'
assassination orchestrated by Russian security services." On 28 May 2007,
the British Foreign Office officially submitted a request to the government of
Russia for the extradition of Lugovoi. On 31 May, Lugovoi held a news
conference at which he accused MI6 of attempting to recruit him and blamed
either MI6, the Russian mafia, or fugitive Kremlin opponent Boris Berezovsky
for the killing, saying he is a "victim not a perpetrator of a radiation
attack." This claim was dismissed at the time by Western media and, of
course, MI6 as nonsense. Now it appears that the Russian version of events was
spot on. Sir John Scarlett, who is now the head of MI6 and was once based in
Moscow, was fingered as Litvinenko's recruiter, according the the Daily Mail.
Some of Litvinenko's
accusations have a ring of truth -- possible FSB assassination attempts on
Berezovsky, Politovskaya, and others. Others, while far-fetched, merit further
investigation -- FSB blowing up a Moscow apartment building and blaming
Chechens, and the Moscow theatre hostage-taking abetted by Chechens working for
the FSB. However, his claims of FSB training Al-Qaeda number two, Ayman
El-Zawahri, in Dagestan in the years before 9/11 or that the Kremlin had ordered
the Beslan massacre or that Putin is a paedophile suggest he was paranoid and
obsessed with stirring up personal animosity towards Putin, to the point of
invoking his own death.
Whatever the truth
about Litvinenko, he was clearly off the deep end by the end. A Russian student
friend at the University of Westminster, Julia Svetlichnaja, said she received
more than 100 e-mails from him in the months prior to his death, proposing that
she enter into a business deal with him and "make money." Despite his
MI6 stipend, he was low on money and his anti-Putin campaign was going nowhere.
He was courting death, whether from the FSB, his purported friends or his own
doing. And just as it was tragic that many well-meaning people -- East and West
-- were caught in the superpower meatgrinder in the Old Cold War, it is sad
today that many people, disgusted with the horrors taking place everyday, go
crazy and/or become victims of the harsh world of political intrigue.
It's very doubtful
that this tale will ever be unravelled -- perhaps the Western media account of
his death is true, though Lugovoi's assertion is looking pretty good these
days. Even if it was some rogue FSB agent, what difference does it really make?
Just as the Soviet Union played a positive role in world politics, a
counterveiling force to Western imperialism in its Hitlerian incarnation and
its softer US/European variants, Russia under Putin is playing a positive role
on the world stage today. All the Litvinenkos in the world, packaged by their
PR managers, can't change that fact. And there are Western assassinations every
bit as suspect -- David Kelly, the British scientist whose mysterious
"suicide" implicated the British government, and which was airbrushed
out of the picture by a very partisan government "investigation," for
one. Politics is a dirty business, and those who are threats to the powers that
be often suffer ill fates.
While we can cherish
British traditions of free speech and democracy, we must remember Britain is
also a crafty political animal, deeply implicated in US imperial plans, as the
"coincidences" above suggest. We can also cherish the haven free from
the imperialist mindset that the SU once provided, and that Russia provides to
some extent today. It is not a benign place -- it is the home of corruption,
violence, bureaucracy and, yes, political and Mafia-style assassinations, the
legacy of the SU and its collapse.
But it is also the
home of much greater freedom of thought than the West, now in the grip of
US-Israeli brainwashing. And its influence -- political and economic (it is
currently the biggest oil and gas producer in the world) -- is spreading
rapidly in a world tired of US-led serial wars and bullying. Putin's recent
trip to Teheran and warning that no country in the region would allow an
invasion of Iran to take place from its soil is only the most recent indication
of this remarkable resurgence of Russia under his leadership.
It is a shame that
Litvinenko died his gruesome death, but he was courting disaster, from his
flamboyant press conference onwards. His actions were not well thought out; he
was impulsive and emotional, to the point of converting to Islam in sympathy
with the Chechens as he lay dying. He is a reminder that the world of
international politics is one of intrigue and danger. He played the game and
lost. Just as Soviet dissidents had little real influence on events -- they
were more gadflies or weathervanes, so are the likes of Litvinenko today.
"coincidence": the day after the Russians announced they were
expelling four British diplomats, the media solemnly reported that fighter
planes from Britain and Norway scrambled Friday to keep watch on Russian Uf-95
bombers that were approaching the countries' air space, though a Norwegian
military official admitted this was actually routine. Yes, "the Russians
are coming!" Let's build some nice US bases in eastern Europe and, in the
meantime, scurry to take protection under Great Britain's generous skirts.
Eric Walberg is a Canadian journalist at Al-Ahram
Weekly in Cairo. You can reach him at his site www.geocities.com/walberg2002/.
Copyright © 1998-2007 Online Journal
Email Online Journal Editor