Politics & Policy

Russian Complicity

The unchanging nature of Moscow.

Suppose secret American files showed that the United States had been helping the Chechens fight for national independence, that American military and intelligence services had been cooperating with the Chechens for years. Suppose it turned out that the U.S. had been supplying Chechnya with Stingers and guided antitank missiles.

And suppose that other classified American documents which fell into the hands of the Kremlin showed that America and Kazakhstan had signed an agreement to share intelligence about Russian President Putin and that America would share nuclear technology with other onetime Soviet countries. Imagine the outcry in Moscow and the sulphurous indignation in the French press and the yowls from the Quai d’Orsay.

The above scenario is, of course, fictitious. But substitute the word Russia for the U.S. and substitute Iraq for Chechen and Kazakhstan and President Bush for Putin and you get the picture. It was fully depicted in a Wall Street Journal expose April 15 by Pavel Felgenhauer, a Moscow-based independent defense analyst, which was titled “The Russian Connection.” The London Daily Telegraph had a similar exposé about Russia’s secret intelligence and military ties with Iraq before and during the second Gulf war.

What it shows is that if Russia is no longer a totalitarian dictatorship it has yet to become a genuine democracy. Those who are worrying that Iraq hasn’t become a democracy all in one week ought to turn their attention to Russia, which after more than a decade has yet to become a full-fledged democracy. Russian elites, from the Kremlin to Dzerzhinsky Square (where the KGB still rules under a new name), regard the U.S. as the glavni vrag, Russia’s main enemy. Russia did everything it could with an allied Iraq to defeat the Coalition campaign.

I think that President Bush is aware of the unchanging ethos of post-Soviet Russia. I think we can safely assume that the warnings to Syria by the White House, Secretary of State Powell, and Defense Secretary Rumsfeld are really camouflaged warnings to the Kremlin not to harbor fleeing Iraqi Saddamites and to stop pretending to be a friend. Putin, the ex-KGB colonel, has shown that Russia would rather do business with a blood-spattered dictator than support a war for freedom of the persecuted Iraqi people.

Arnold Beichman, a Hoover Institution research fellow, is a columnist for the Washington Times.

Members of the National Review editorial and operational teams are included under the umbrella “NR Staff.”

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