Today's Blogs

Russian Fallout

Bloggers on the death of a former KGB operative.

Bloggers are lamenting the alleged fatal poisoning of a former Russian spy in London and deciphering what Dick Cheney said in his meeting with the Saudi king on Saturday.

Russian fallout: KGB-officer-turned-British-citizen Alexander Litvinenko died of radiation poisoning last Thursday in a London hospital. Prior to his death, he dictated his final statement to a friend: “You may succeed in silencing one man, but the howl of protest from around the world will reverberate, Mr. Putin, in your ears for the rest of your life,” he said. Many suspect that Russian spy operatives had a hand in his poisoning.

At his online outpost, Edward Lucas, the Economist’s Central and East Europe correspondent, reprints his article from the Saturday Times. “[T]he overwhelming likelihood is that Russia will get worse not better. The Economist recently cautioned that Russia was heading towards fascism: blustery, bossy and brutal. It will have particular Russian features too, chiefly extraordinary corruption, waste and incompetence. So what do we do? … Now Russia is rich and strong, while the West, and particularly the alliance between Europe and America, is demoralised and discredited. Russia no longer needs our money. Nor does it care much for our approval,” he opines.

While protesting that Litvinenko, like slain journalist Anna Politkovskaya, has become a “political football, if not a piñata,” Kremlinologist Sean at Sean’s Russia Blog parses the five theories on Litvinenko’s death examined by the Times of London, finding four of them plausible: “Did the Kremlin do it? I personally have no idea. But if they did then they are either incompetent or shortsighted. The murder has become international news, generating a PR maelstrom that will only hamper the Kremlin’s position and aspirations. Once again Putin has to deal with uncomfortable question after uncomfortable question lobbed by European media at this weekend’s Helsinki Conference. … So if the Kremlin did order the killing, then their stupidity is beyond measure.”

At the New Republic’s Plank, assistant editor Eve Fairbanks details her disgust with the media (and the Wall Street Journal, specifically) for giving more play to this event than the October murder of Politkovskaya. “Where was the high dudgeon from the West over … the recent killing of journalist Anna Politkovskaya, a much more prominent and beloved figure in her country than this ex-spy?”

Private investor Westhawk calls upon the West to fully investigate this potential crime. “If Mr. Putin or his associates indeed murdered Mr. Litvinenko, a British citizen, it would be a soaring declaration of his contempt for Western weakness,” he writes.

Many bloggers are wondering who benefits from Litvinenko’s death. Guestblogging at Thomas Paine’s Corner, British public servant John Andrews ponders this question: “Two thousand years ago the Roman lawyer Cicero made legal history when he based his defence of a client around the question ‘Qui bono?’—who benefits? How does Mr Putin benefit from the death of someone nobody’s ever heard of and who could be no possible threat to him in a manner and in a country guaranteed to point a finger at the Kremlin?”

Irish citizen Sullivan at Sullivan’s Eye questions the specific method used to end Litvinenko’s life. “There are far more reliable methods of ‘getting the job done’ than playing around with dangerous radioactive isotopes. Assuming that a nuclear reactor was required to produce the substance, that reactor could just as easily be in Los Alamos or Dimona as it could be in Sarov.” He goes on to berate the media for their treatment of Putin. “Much like the poisoning of Yushchenko, the demise of Litvinenko will be continually discussed and dissected in the media … However, no serious effort will be made to find the perpetrators or solve the crime, as it is far easier to continue to use the affair as a foreign policy stick with which to beat Putin, demonise the FSB and force Russia to once again open its doors to wholesale larceny.”

La Russophobe offers a comprehensive roundup of the reaction to Litvinenko’s death in the international press.

Read more about Litvinenko’s poisoning. Anne Applebaum wrote about Anna Politkovskaya here.

Cheney does Riyadh: Air Force Two accumulated some more miles on Saturday, when Vice President Dick Cheney flew to Saudi Arabia to meet with Saudi King Abdullah to air his concerns about violence in Iraq. The two men reportedly discussed the growing bloodshed in Iraq and the assassination of a Lebanese MP in Beirut.

Liberal bloggers are disgusted by Cheney’s brief jaunt to the Arabian Peninsula. The lefty at Bag News Notes analyzes Cheney and Abdullah’s body language from a press photo, and the liberal at America Blog questions the Administration’s timing in seeking this help: “Huh? They just thought of this idea three years later … I thought the Saudis were our BFFs. We’re just asking for help now?”

Self-styled “revolutionary” Tiger at Observanda is dumbstruck by the visit. “[W]hy is it the administration has consistently and constantly run to the Saudis for help? Ever since 9-11 Bush and Cheney have sought ole’ Abdullah’s ‘wise counsel.’ Wouldn’t deeper, more aggressive investigation into Saudi Arabia’s support of worldwide Jihad be in order? Is oil worth more than Israel’s friendship?” he asks.

Read more about Cheney’s time in Saudi Arabia.