Igor Ivanov, Russia’s foreign minister, is usually calm, cool, and collected, but he looked nervous during his March 22 press conference. Ivanov, known among Kremlin siloviky (members of the defense/security apparatus) as something of a wimp, adopted an uncustomary frown and set about lambasting Washington’s recent “unfriendly acts,” especially the March 21 expulsion of six “diplomats” (with 40 more ordered to leave in the near future) and a likely meeting between U.S. State Department representatives and “so-called foreign minister” Akhmadov of Chechnya. Ivanov said that Moscow would make an “appropriate response” (Russian TV later reported that Moscow would expel U.S. embassy personnel) and warned that further “unfriendly acts” could “push mankind” back to “the era of the Cold War and confrontation.”
Moscow was already in a tizzy over Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld’s recent sharp criticism of Russian arms sales (apart from criticizing Russia’s role in arms “proliferation,” Rumsfeld remarked that Moscow would sell “anything to anybody,” implying that Russia could be included on Washington’s black list of “rogue states”) and the January 17 arrest of Pavel Borodin, a high-ranking official of the Russia-Belarus Union. President Bush’s commitment to a National Missile Defense (NMD) is also very much on Moscow’s mind. Furthermore, Russian elites are worried about the increasing tendency of Western states to deny them travel visas.
Russia has undoubtedly mounted an extensive espionage effort against the United States, as evidenced by their recruitment of “super agents” in both the CIA and the FBI. The spy war between the two countries has escalated lately (apart from the “super agents,” relations have been strained by the Edmund Pope case and the revelation that the CIA dug a tunnel under the Russian embassy in Washington for electronic snooping), though everyone knows that spying is a fact of life for powerful nations.
Russia’s recent overtures to Iran, which include “nuclear energy cooperation” and the sale of “defensive weapons,” have set Washington’s blood to boiling, as did Putin’s recent trip to North Korea and Moscow’s lobbying for the end of international sanctions against Iraq. Of course, Washington is playing a huge role in the international arms trade and continues to interfere in Russian internal affairs, especially in Chechnya. The Bush administration, thus far, has not lived up to the “isolationist” label that the Democrats pinned on it, much to the dismay of Moscow.
Borodin is a charter member of the Yeltsin “family,” the cabal of Kremlin insiders who helped make Russia what it is today: a bureaucratic/mafia regime with what may be the most degenerate “elite” of any great power (quite a charge, considering the moral attributes of American elites, who also played a role in developing the Russian oligarchy). Borodin is wanted by the Swiss in connection with a money-laundering scam involving kickbacks paid to the “family” by the Mabatex firm, which contracted with Borodin to refurbish the Kremlin. The scandal may also involve money-laundering through the Bank of New York, which in turn, is likely connected to the disappearance of millions in IMF “loans” to Russia. Under an extradition treaty with Switzerland, Washington was obligated to hold Borodin (who may have been lured to the United States, but that’s another story).
With these fun facts in mind, patriotic Americans and Russians should focus on their own concrete national interests before jumping on any anti-Russian or anti-American bandwagons. If the FBI has uncovered any evidence of spying by Russian “diplomats,” then they should kick them out. Moscow will undoubtedly respond. That’s the way the game is played. (Whether all this gamesmanship has actually done any good for either country is another question.)
Washington has no business interfering in the Chechen war. There is no American national interest at stake there. Yes, it is a nasty and brutal business, but so is every other war. Furthermore, who the “good guys” are in this fight depends on your perspective. (If the Americans think Chechens are warm and cuddly, they should view videotapes of the “holy warriors” decapitating captives.)
Washington’s blatant hypocrisy regarding arms “proliferation” is obvious to any thinking person. If the United States wants to be a “partner for peace” with Russia or any other state, then Washington should first remove the log from its own eye. The U.S. would have little to worry about from “rogue states” if Washington would simply mind its own business for a change. Iran, Iraq, and North Korea are not a direct threat to the security of the United States. The whole question of NMD can be worked out between Moscow and Washington. Aside from the question of whether NMD would actually benefit anyone but U.S. defense contractors, it is quite apparent that no system will be enough to nullify Russia’s retaliatory capability. Russia should focus on maintaining the missiles they have, a difficult task, given the state of their economy.
Borodin richly deserves to be in jail. Patriotic Russians would welcome such a development, if only for the satisfaction of knowing that such deformed and base creatures, who have robbed their country blind, sold Russian girls into white slavery, and murdered with impunity cannot visit their Miami beach houses or French villas.
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