The new Russian terror is a lesson in the value of freedom. It is also a lesson in the current weakness of the West.
No one believes that Ruslan Boshirov and Alexander Petrov, who have been identified by the British police as suspects in the poisoning of a former Russia spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter earlier this year, chose to visit Salisbury for a short cultural holiday in March. The two young Russian men working in the “fitness industry ” decided not to spend their cash on a boys’ weekend exploring the delights of Amsterdam or the attractions of Ibiza or Mykonos. Instead, they went for a couple of nights in a cheap hotel in the East London and a couple of trips to Salisbury to see, as they claimed in an exclusive interview with Russia’s RT, the world-famous cathedral and its unique clock.
Petrov and Bashirov claim it was a wild coincidence that the Skripals were poisoned and almost died that same weekend as the result of contact with an exotic Russian nerve agent known as Novichok, and that Dawn Sturgess did die in July in nearby Amesbury, victim of the same nerve agent that her partner found discarded in a perfume bottle.
Vladimir Putin and the two Russians smiled as they trotted out their version of events, giving the metaphorical finger to the rest of the world. They do not care, and indeed revel in the transparent fiction of the story. The message is clear: If you are an enemy of the state, the Russian special services will kill you — wherever you are. Moreover, they want you and everyone else to know, and they do not fear any consequences. Your only hope is the sloppy execution of their plans.
This is thuggery and gangsterism in their purest form. If you are a Russian, this is not news: Dozens, if not hundreds, of Russians who have crossed the interests of Vladimir Putin or his oligarchs have been shot, thrown out of windows or poisoned. The victims are not terrorists or people intent on slaughtering innocent people; if they were, there may be a case for action. They are Russians who disagree with Putin and his mafia regime, and had the courage to say so. Their options are either to shut up or die.
This is the return to the terror of Josef Stalin. We must pity the Russians that have to endure this regime, although a surprising number of them seem to like it and willingly vote for Putin. It is reminiscent of the millions that turned out to mourn Uncle Joe when he died. Russians may choose to live under this tyranny, but ultimately they have the opportunity to overthrow the government — they have done it before. But the rest of us should resist with all our strength any Russian domination of other countries and the export of its brand of authoritarian rule.
The new Russian terror is a lesson in the value of freedom. It is also a lesson in the current weakness of the West. The UK is a shadow of itself as it struggles with impending Brexit, and Putin is only too happy to exploit that by assassinating his own citizens on British soil while at the same time using the UK financial system to launder his friends’ dirty money.
The UK’s reaction so far can best be described as ineffective. The US has imposed more sweeping sanctions against Russia because of the honorable actions of Congress and the adults in the administration who have forced Donald Tump’s hand. Trump himself has yet to stop praising Putin and level some criticism in Russia’s direction. Putin. After Helsinki, The Washington Post reported that Trump described Putin as “strong, smart, and cunning,” and said he “relished” his interactions with him.
With a fan in the White House and a supine Britain, Putin has little to fear. The rest of the European Union is dependent on Russian gas and will not defy him either. The leaders of the West and the champions of freedom have failed us. These are dark times.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Fair Observer’s editorial policy.