It’s amazing what you can find in your memory stick. I’d written the article below earlier in the week and completely forgotten about it. I’m going to be busy soon enough and won’t have that much time for posting so I might as well clear the decks, so to speak.
I hate conspiracy theories. They have a sickly, un-nourishing quality, a bit like eating the cold leftovers of someone elseâ€™s meal. The bits never quite add up; there are more questions than answers, they rely on things occurring coincidentally, all of which proves nothing while suggesting everything. In the end they are just too frustrating and open ended.
With the Litvinenko saga continuing to dominate the weekend papers (tons of coverage in Saturdayâ€™s Guardian, for example, trying to satisfy a vacuous need for dime store mystery and suspense) itâ€™s possible to forget that nothing very much can be said conclusively. But itâ€™s interesting that in the absence of fact thereâ€™s plenty that is known being ignored or sidelined.
Litvinenko, for example, while a stern critic of Putin, wasnâ€™t a very successful one. His charges didnâ€™t carry much weight and his books about Russia didnâ€™t sell. He even suggested that members of the Russian security services were behind 9/11.
Mario Scaramella, although often cited as an academic with connections to several universities, is in fact not an academic at all. At least he doesnâ€™t currently hold a post at any university, and is more closely associated with a committee to find out about KGB activities in Italy set up by Berlesconi.
The following quote is from an interesting article by Chris Floyd
â€œIt was weeks before the Mail on Sunday sussed out the fact that Scaramella was in fact “a self-professed expert in nuclear materials” - especially loose nukestuff floating around the ex-Soviet states - who also had strong connections with both Russian and Italian intelligence sources. The former tipped him off about attempts to smuggle nuclear materials out of Russia and the East to terrorist and criminal gangs; the latter allowed him to lead an armed police raid to snatch some smugglers he’d fingered. What’s more, Scaramella had also gone commercial with his nuclear services, founding a company that offered “environmental protection and security” against various biohazards - services that some panicky Londoners might have paid good money for as Polonium scares swept the capital after Litvinenko’s death. Scaramella also claimed academic associations with the universities of Stanford, Naples and Greenwich - none of which had any record of his working for them.â€
But the bouquet of conspiracy is starting to make me nauseous. The blogger, Niall Clark, writes in the Guardian today that the story could be just ammunition for Putinâ€™s opponents with the enthusiastic support of the Westâ€™s media.
â€œIn 2003, Bruce P Jackson, the director of the Project for a New American Century, wrote that Putin’s partial renationalisation of energy companies threatened the west’s “democratic objectives” - and claimed Putin had established a “de facto cold war administration”. Jackson’s prognosis was simple: a new “soft war” against the Kremlin, a call to arms that has been enthusiastically followed in both the US and Britain.â€
But rather than this been mentioned in hushed conspiratorial tones it blasted out as evidence that the US is up to its usual dark tricks and is acting to countermand Putinâ€™s administration in the absence of any significant opposition in Russia.
Clearly the jailing of Russian oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky, with a charge of tax fraud that would suggest he owed in tax three times more than he’d earned is an indication that the Russian judiciary are an adjunct of an increasingly authoritarian state.
But the charge that the US by trying to influence the media against Putin (the main charge of the bloggers) is once again all about the oil. The rising dependence of the West on energy companies that are now being effectively taken over by the Russian state suggests that Putin is cashing in his one chip that can provide him with a smidge of the global power the Soviet Union once enjoyed.
It is possible, however, that it is not as complicated as that, or rather that its not a new global cold war but a more nuanced local one. Russia as a nation is the victim of a level of corruption that is beyond the control of the Kremlin. Extra-judicial agents are now so powerful that they can act and have always acted beyond the law.
The scale of corruption means that the Mafia have the political and material power to get things the way they want them. Ex-pat oligarchs, such as Berezovsky, who may or may not be connected with the mafia and who were very close to Yeltzin during the dishing out stage of the White revolution (a period when more journalists were killed than under Putin) also have excellent motives to discredit Putin.
And that is as far as I got. Iâ€™m just wondering what I was going to do with the following fragmentary sentence that loitering without intent at the bottom of the page:
As the Litvenenko saga once again trundles along, filling our minds with dark conspiracies and suggestions that Putinâ€™s assassins are stalking any one who dares criticise himâ€¦
Hmmm, I seem to developing a rather gamey style…
In the meantime the investigation in to the poisoning of Litvenenko continues. According to the BBC the investigation is centring on Dmitry Kovtun, who meet Litvinenko in the London Hotel on the 1st of November. The hotel has shown signs of Polonium 210 contamination and Kovtun himself has fallen gravely ill.