The Litvinenko Inquiry
January 30, 2015 7:36 AM   Subscribe

Alexander Litvinenko died on 23 November 2006 (previously). The inquiry into his death is currently underway in London following a detailed investigation by the Metropolitan Police into his poisoning with polonium. The Guardian summarises six key things we have learned so far. These include some pretty casual applications of proper handling procedures for nuclear material, news of a previous assassination attempt and some forthright words from Marina Litvinenko's barrister concerning Vladimir Putin's character that may have led to two unauthorised Russian military planes flying up the English Channel two days ago.

The inquiry has also heard from the coroner that Litvinenko's post-mortem may have been the "most dangerous ever conducted in the western world". Meanwhile, one of the suspects in his death is now a member of the Russian Duma and has been hired on to a Russian TV show about the incident.
posted by biffa (84 comments total) 25 users marked this as a favorite
 
Why are they doing an inquiry a decade later?
posted by smackfu at 7:47 AM on January 30, 2015 [1 favorite]


Ah, Russia. They don't want you to know they did it but they want you to KNOW they did it.
posted by Artw at 7:47 AM on January 30, 2015 [40 favorites]


Is "poloniumed" in the OED yet?
posted by michaelh at 7:48 AM on January 30, 2015 [1 favorite]


smackfu: that's a good question, there have been suggestions that this is all a part of the failing UK-Russia political relationship, Ukraine, etc.


Though would it be better not to investigate people being murdered in London with substances you can only get if you have access to a nuclear power station?
posted by biffa at 7:53 AM on January 30, 2015


What was so great about the Cold War that Russia wants to restart it? That "Us vs. Them" thing only goes so far.
posted by tommasz at 7:54 AM on January 30, 2015


In a newspaper article the other day (the Independent I guess?) they mentioned that the "UK government" -- so presumably the coalition as well as Labour before them -- had opposed the inquiry until the shooting down of MH17 in Ukraine.
posted by Drexen at 7:58 AM on January 30, 2015 [1 favorite]


Though would it be better not to investigate people being murdered in London with substances you can only get if you have access to a nuclear power station?

Well, I guess I figured the police did that back in 2006.
posted by smackfu at 7:59 AM on January 30, 2015


What was so great about the Cold War that Russia wants to restart it?

Unlimited power and wealth for the ruling class. The need to keep the population brainwashed and fearful of external foes so they don't rightfully murder the shit out of the ruling class.
posted by Behemoth at 8:00 AM on January 30, 2015 [26 favorites]


Adam Curtis on non-linear war.
posted by adept256 at 8:01 AM on January 30, 2015




Why are they doing an inquiry a decade later?

This is what disgusts me about all of this: if Russia hadn't suddenly fallen out of favour the government seems to have been quite happy to sweep Litvenenko's murder under the rug.
Better late than never?
posted by Flashman at 8:10 AM on January 30, 2015 [6 favorites]


I thought the Matter article "Bad Blood: How Radioactive Poison Became the Assassin’s Weapon of Choice" on this was interesting. Looking forward to seeing what comes of the inquiry - agreed that it's better late than never, whatever the impetus for it.
posted by gemmy at 8:19 AM on January 30, 2015 [2 favorites]


What was so great about the Cold War that Russia wants to restart it?

Their economy is in the shitter so it's a great distraction from that - see also the current gay rights freak out.
posted by Artw at 8:20 AM on January 30, 2015 [4 favorites]


I can't believe we live in a world where an intelligence officer fleeing his home country to become a secret informant for another country's intelligence agency can't be safe.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 8:21 AM on January 30, 2015 [7 favorites]


What was so great about the Cold War that Russia wants to restart it?

If you think that Russia is restarting it, you haven't been paying attention.
posted by fredludd at 8:32 AM on January 30, 2015 [5 favorites]


The courts had already overruled May on an inquiry. The main effect of the Recent Unpleasantness is that suddenly they were pushing on an open door.
posted by topynate at 8:39 AM on January 30, 2015 [2 favorites]


If you think that Russia is restarting it, you haven't been paying attention.

W. T. F.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 8:57 AM on January 30, 2015 [15 favorites]


Possibly related; the Dioxin poisoning of Viktor Yuschenko in 2004, a Ukrainian politician allied with the European Union over Russia. I don't think anyone's definitively pinned this poisoning on Russia, like the Litvinenko assassination, but there's a lot of people who think Russia was involved.
posted by Nelson at 8:59 AM on January 30, 2015 [5 favorites]


If you think that Russia is restarting it, you haven't been paying attention.

To what, Kremlin propaganda?
posted by Sys Rq at 9:03 AM on January 30, 2015 [18 favorites]


I just listened to the recent "Frontline" episode titled "Putin's Way," and it makes me think that virtually nothing is off-limits to that government when they feel they are threatened or that someone may impinge on their desires. Really chilling stuff -- and assassinating a former agent in another sovereign state doesn't sound like much of a reach for that crew.
posted by wenestvedt at 9:03 AM on January 30, 2015 [3 favorites]


Putin's ties to organized crimes are so blatant as to not really require "exposure". The question is so what can/do we do about it?
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 9:09 AM on January 30, 2015 [1 favorite]


If you think that Russia is restarting it, you haven't been paying attention.

If you think Russia hasn't been a willing partner in the restart then you also haven't been watching.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 9:10 AM on January 30, 2015 [3 favorites]


Wonder when the usual "Everything is America's fault" commenters in the press to somehow twist the blame on the US of A, will start. Reminded of this by a (English) work colleague, who observed that "The difference between a liberal and a conservative is that the liberal blames America for everything, while the conservative blames Obama for everything."

A Russian hated by the Russian president was murdered (that's the short word for assassination) by another Russian for Russian-political reasons. Waiting for the "POTUS ordered the CIA to do this and blame Putin" blowback in 3...2...
posted by Wordshore at 9:17 AM on January 30, 2015 [3 favorites]


'"The song supports the president and expresses my views as a citizen," she told Zvezda. "Our president is the only person who can help Ukraine."

She added that, apart from Russia, "no one in the world needs Ukraine."'

From the pro-Putin song article posted above by Golden Eternity. Spoken like a true abusive spouse. "The only one who can help you is me. No one else cares for you." Gross.
posted by feste at 9:23 AM on January 30, 2015 [3 favorites]


Why are they doing an inquiry a decade later?

This is what disgusts me about all of this: if Russia hadn't suddenly fallen out of favour the government seems to have been quite happy to sweep Litvenenko's murder under the rug.
Better late than never?
posted by Flashman at 8:10 AM on January 30 [3 favorites +] [!]



BBC Litvinenko timeline

Excerpts:
2006:

23 November
Mr Litvinenko dies in intensive care.

Scotland Yard says it is now investigating "an unexplained death".


2007:
22 May
Mr Lugovoi should be charged with the murder of Mr Litvinenko, the [British govt. 's] director of public prosecutions recommends.

Sir Ken Macdonald says that Mr Lugovoi, who denies involvement in the death, should face trial.
...

5 July
Russia officially refuses a UK extradition request for Mr Lugovoi.

The Russian Prosecutor General's Office says the constitution did not allow for the extradition of its citizens.

16 July
The government announces it is to expel four diplomats from the Russian embassy in London, after Moscow refused to extradite Mr Lugovoi.

Foreign Secretary David Miliband also says co-operation with Russia on a range of issues was under review.

19 July
Russia announces it is to expel four British embassy staff, mirroring the UK's decision to expel four staff from the Russian embassy in London.

The four are given 10 days to leave the country, and Moscow says it is also to review visa applications for UK officials.

Foreign ministry spokesman Mikhail Kamynin says co-operation in counter terrorism will no longer be possible.

posted by Bwithh at 9:24 AM on January 30, 2015 [2 favorites]


That timeline still jumps from July 2007 to June 2013. What was happening during that time?
posted by smackfu at 9:27 AM on January 30, 2015


Wonder when the usual "Everything is America's fault" commenters in the press to somehow twist the blame on the US of A, will start.

That's all RT ever does (see above), so there's that.
posted by Sys Rq at 9:28 AM on January 30, 2015


The threat of playing the cold war games with airspace intrusions is getting pretty unfunny. These Russian aircraft have their transponders turned off, and there was a near miss in Europe earlier this year.

I just read that article in Medium that made a pretty good case that Russian fingers were on the trigger on the accidental Malaysian shootdown over Ukraine. I don't want to see two airliners brought down by Russia in a year.

I agree that it was pretty bloody cynical to stall the fallout of the investigation for a few years, but I don't think this was every truly going to be swept under the rug regardless.

Speaking of who is responsible for re-starting the cold war, we are in an interesting moment in which most of Europe has been slashing defence spending for over a decade, having reached new lows in capabilities, while Russia appears to have upped its by close to a third this year (despite the obvious fall in revenues with the oil price drop).

And the US has obviously been interested in reducing its European commitment while pivoting towards the Pacific.

I don't think its fair to see this strictly as some Capitalist Plot, despite the obvious Bush era provocations in encouraging Georgia in its foolhardy thoughts of true independence from Moscow. The Russian mindset would always see the Ukraine and Georgia as its zone of influence to control, and let's just hope that it doesn't see Poland and the Baltics that way as well despite history.
posted by C.A.S. at 9:31 AM on January 30, 2015 [2 favorites]


I was in Notting Hill the other day, walking in front of some obvious Russian mob boss in his sixties, with a glum-faced young body guard, spitting out one side of a phone conversation in Russian I could hear a block away. I would not have wanted to be on the other side of that phone call, but a friend pointed out its when they stop calling you that you should be worried. They do not mess around.

The Kremlin-led war on journalists, lawyers, and any opposition does continue to breach boundaries in worrying ways and this case was only one example of it.
posted by C.A.S. at 9:38 AM on January 30, 2015 [7 favorites]


That's all RT ever does (see above), so there's that.

Well RT is literally an organ of the Russian Government designed to exclusively produce agitprop, so.. yeah.
posted by FatherDagon at 9:39 AM on January 30, 2015 [2 favorites]


If you think that Russia is restarting it, you haven't been paying attention to RT, ITAR-TASS, LifeNews, Oliver Stone and Democracy Now!
posted by Golden Eternity at 9:46 AM on January 30, 2015 [1 favorite]


What was so great about the Cold War that Russia wants to restart it?

Cold?

They just got a civil war going right next door, and are arming unflagged militias to fight it.
Not in Nicaragua or Angola, somewhere far away. But right next door.

This is insane.
posted by ocschwar at 9:56 AM on January 30, 2015 [6 favorites]


fredludd:

If you think that Russia is restarting it, you haven't been paying attention.
It's true.

Ukraine started it when they invaded the eastern half of their own country.

THIS AGGRESSION AGAINST RUSSIA WILL NOT GO UNNOTICED!
posted by IAmBroom at 10:07 AM on January 30, 2015 [18 favorites]


biffa: Though would it be better not to investigate people being murdered in London with substances you can only get if you have access to a nuclear power station?
I've tried, and I can't make sense of this comment. Because Litvinenko was murdered with radioactive substances, London shouldn't investigate? It's not like there's glowing plutonium sprinkled liberally all over paperwork and photographs. Nor is his corpse radioactive enough to harm any non-cannibal that comes in brief contact.
posted by IAmBroom at 10:14 AM on January 30, 2015


That timeline still jumps from July 2007 to June 2013. What was happening during that time?

Oil was expensive and Russian oligarchs spent a lot of money in the UK.
posted by a lungful of dragon at 10:14 AM on January 30, 2015 [6 favorites]


They just got a civil war going right next door, and are arming unflagged militias to fight it.
Not in Nicaragua or Angola, somewhere far away. But right next door.


It's their thing that they do. Heck, they just hosted the Olympics right on the border with a region in which they sponsored genocide throughout the 1990s.
posted by Sys Rq at 10:15 AM on January 30, 2015 [1 favorite]


Nelson: I don't think anyone's definitively pinned this poisoning on Russia, like the Litvinenko assassination, but there's a lot of people who think Russia was involved.
Most of the world is 99% certain on this one. We don't have a photocopy of Putin's signed order yet, but barring that, yeah, Russia did it and it's pretty obvious.
posted by IAmBroom at 10:18 AM on January 30, 2015 [1 favorite]


Both the US and the Putin government benefit from antagonism.

A reasonable person could well ask, 25 years after the end of the Cold War: why does NATO still exist? Why is western European foreign policy closely coordinated/led by the US? After the second Iraq war it looked very much like European and American policy was going to diverge, which would have been a bigger disaster for US strategic objectives than what happened in Iraq. Renewed threats from Russia are a very good stick for keeping the NATO powers together, even at the cost of war and chaos in Eastern Europe.

On the other side, conflicts with the US and Western Europe very much keep domestic challenges to Putin in check, much as they would in any country. Putin is not Stalin II, he can be replaced and the penalties for losing in post-Soviet Russian politics are high.

One of the promises the US made to Gorbachev as part of the peaceful dissolution of the Soviet Union was that NATO would not expand into the former Eastern Bloc. The US very promptly went back on that promise. Americans like Lawrence Summers and Russians trained in the "Washington consensus" watched over as the assets of the Soviet Union were looted and Russian standard of living and life expectancy collapsed during the Yeltsin government.

It has been US policy from the end of the Soviet Union to insure that post-Soviet Russia would never become a counterbalance to US power in Europe. We have largely succeeded, but the cost of that piece of real-politik remains to be paid.
posted by ennui.bz at 10:22 AM on January 30, 2015


Ukraine started it when they invaded the eastern half of their own country.

Those crafty borscht-eating bastards.
posted by sobarel at 10:25 AM on January 30, 2015 [1 favorite]


Russia is just rescuing other people who might speak Russian from having their own country.
posted by Artw at 10:27 AM on January 30, 2015 [4 favorites]


A reasonable person could well ask, 25 years after the end of the Cold War: why does NATO still exist?

NATO was formed in 1949. It's a pact by which all member parties agree to defend each other from aggression by any external force. That external force came to be primarily the USSR, but it was never the exclusive antagonist, and NATO's raison d'être didn't cease to exist when the USSR did.
posted by Sys Rq at 10:31 AM on January 30, 2015 [5 favorites]


Litvinenko's death boggled me because this is pretty much exactly how the murder victim is killed in Martin Cruz Smith's Arkady Renko novel, Wolves Eat Dogs, which was published in 2004. The victim is a Russian plutocrat, he's killed with a radioactive isotope mixed with the salt in his salt shaker.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 10:36 AM on January 30, 2015


"Americans like Lawrence Summers and Russians trained in the "Washington consensus" watched over as the assets of the Soviet Union were looted and Russian standard of living and life expectancy collapsed during the Yeltsin government."

This implies a level of Western agency for Russian decline that is not justified. The Russian collapse had its own, internal momentum, interacting with global commodity prices. This despite the bad advice from Western onlookers.

"Both the US and the Putin government benefit from antagonism."

While there's a grain of truth in this particularly in the 50s-80s period, I don't think this applies as much now.

I think US interests lie in retrenching from European obligations, having Europe take more responsibility for its own defense, and the US realigning towards the Pacific, as was laid out specifically by Obama. I also think that the US is not interested or able to ramp up to Reagan-era defense spending levels.
posted by C.A.S. at 10:57 AM on January 30, 2015 [1 favorite]


It seems like these assassins were throwing a little polonium party in their hotel room. I wonder if theyre going to drop dead young themselves?
posted by edheil at 11:06 AM on January 30, 2015


I'm not quite understanding why decontamination of polonium off walls and other surfaces is so important. The alpha particles (as mentioned) are not externally dangerous. Are they guarding against accidental ingestion?
posted by caphector at 11:09 AM on January 30, 2015 [1 favorite]


I guess it's like lead paint.
posted by smackfu at 11:15 AM on January 30, 2015


NATO was formed in 1949. It's a pact by which all member parties agree to defend each other from aggression by any external force. That external force came to be primarily the USSR, but it was never the exclusive antagonist, and NATO's raison d'être didn't cease to exist when the USSR did.

What a strange thing to say. You mention 1949 as though that shows that NATO is not a creature of the Cold War, when in fact it shows the exact opposite. NATO was formed with a very specific "external force" in mind, at a time when military conflict with the Communist world was the overriding security concern. The threat didn't "come to be primarily the USSR," the USSR (and international Communism generally) were the threat it was aimed at all along. NATO policies were chosen specifically for their relevance to a possible war between "East" (USSR, GDR, etc.) and "West" (Western Europe and the United States), and troops under the joint NATO command prepared to fight exactly this war.

After the fall of the Berlin Wall, NATO and its security guarantee persisted, true, and NATO coordinated military operations for example in the former Yugoslavia that had no obvious connection to Cold War goals.

But given the history (including the promise to Gorbachev that it wouldn't happen), the Russians are not crazy to see NATO expansion into former Warsaw Pact countries as part of a policy of containment, of a piece with the original Cold War mission. I think they are at least partly right.

More broadly, the "winners" of the Cold War bungled the post-war period. For a few years, America basically ran Eastern Europe and had tremendous influence on Russia. This was the time to plant the seeds of economic and social integration so the battle lines couldn't form again. It didn't happen, and now we are reaping a harvest of mistrust and resentment that puts us all in danger.

Don't construe any of this as defending Putin, who is maybe the scariest badguy on the international scene right now. Russia seems to be a miserable place, too. But the role of US leadership, often acting under color of human rights and democracy, should not be dismissed.
posted by grobstein at 11:22 AM on January 30, 2015 [4 favorites]


This implies a level of Western agency for Russian decline that is not justified. The Russian collapse had its own, internal momentum, interacting with global commodity prices. This despite the bad advice from Western onlookers.

You missed my point which was that it has always been implicit in US policy that preventing Russia from becoming a power counterbalancing the US in Europe was a good thing. We were perfectly happy to watch disaster unfold there during the Yeltsin government and, frankly, we were directly involved in economic policy in Russia up to the default. Did we engineer the collapse? No, but we were happy to watch it happen because it served our interests.

Similarly, we are happy to watch war and chaos spread in the Ukraine because it serves our interests. Did we engineer the civil war in Ukraine. No, but we acted recklessly because we would win if Ukraine successfully defied Russia and we would win if Russia imposed it's will militarily in the Ukraine because it would ensure that the US will play a predominant role in Western Europe for another generation.

I think US interests lie in retrenching from European obligations, having Europe take more responsibility for its own defense, and the US realigning towards the Pacific, as was laid out specifically by Obama. I also think that the US is not interested or able to ramp up to Reagan-era defense spending levels.

Again, my point was that the first goal of American policy in Europe is to maintain the pre-eminent role of the US in NATO. Do you dispute this? We would be perfectly happy for the Europeans to buy more American weapons, but we absolutely do not want "Europe" pursuing an independent foreign policy. You can see how that played out in the Balkans and recently in Libya.
posted by ennui.bz at 11:24 AM on January 30, 2015 [1 favorite]


The threat didn't "come to be primarily the USSR," the USSR (and international Communism generally) were the threat it was aimed at all along.

So not just the USSR, then, is what we're both saying.
posted by Sys Rq at 11:43 AM on January 30, 2015


Similarly, we are happy to watch war and chaos spread in the Ukraine because it serves our interests.

Evidence? I don't think instability in Ukraine is an American goal. I think that the US was interested in the Ukrainian sovereignty negotiated at the end of the USSR to be meaningful. I just don't see the US wanting this festering open sore for any strategic reason at all. It makes no sense.

In the Balkans, there was no strategic difference between the US and Europe, only widespread ineffectiveness in the face of looming genocide until a more active intervention.

Libya, there was a difference (as in the Suez crisis), but in the end the US did not stop France and Britain from pursuing their own agenda.

I don't see the US actively undermining European leadership as much as hoping a version of it emerges
posted by C.A.S. at 11:47 AM on January 30, 2015 [1 favorite]


Caphector: and I expect inhalation. That can be nasty with alpha emitters.
posted by edd at 11:56 AM on January 30, 2015


I don't think instability in Ukraine is an American goal.

I don't either. What I said was that the US is willing to accept (and unafraid of) instability because it serves our interests.

In the Balkans, there was no strategic difference between the US and Europe...

Nope. The Balkan Wars were, in part, kicked off when Germany independently recognized Croatia.
posted by ennui.bz at 11:58 AM on January 30, 2015


Putin respects Merkel more than the U.S./Europe. There are rumors that the oil price is punishment for Russia annexing Crimea. When Oil is below $80.00 it costs Russia money every day.
posted by Pr0t35t3r at 12:20 PM on January 30, 2015


caphector: I'm not quite understanding why decontamination of polonium off walls and other surfaces is so important. The alpha particles (as mentioned) are not externally dangerous. Are they guarding against accidental ingestion?

Would you want to stay in the Polonium Room? I sure wouldn't. Every dust bunny could increase your chance of getting cancer years from now.


C.A.S.: I think US interests lie in retrenching from European obligations, having Europe take more responsibility for its own defense, and the US realigning towards the Pacific, as was laid out specifically by Obama.

Exactly. The Obama Administration has wanted to "pivot to Asia" for a while. Instability in Europe probably gives them migraines, and messes up the long term planning.
posted by Kevin Street at 12:52 PM on January 30, 2015


This was the time to plant the seeds of economic and social integration so the battle lines couldn't form again.

It's not like we didn't try. The International Space Station was essentially conjured out of thin air in the mid-90s as an olive branch to Russia. Russia kindly scrubbed the "Mir-2" stickers off of the core modules, and the US ended up footing almost the entire bill, which came at the direct (and painful) expense of several domestic science programs (which had a significantly greater scientific value than the ISS).

It's also unclear what more we could have done. From my perspective, US-Russia relations turned south very quickly after Putin was elected, and there wasn't much that we could do about it. He wasn't a rational leader that we could negotiate with, and slowly dismantled Russia's democracy so that he could stay in power.
posted by schmod at 1:26 PM on January 30, 2015 [7 favorites]


Did we engineer the civil war in Ukraine. No, but we acted recklessly

How did the US act "recklessly?" they've hardly done anything in Ukraine.

why does NATO still exist? Why is western European foreign policy closely coordinated/led by the US?

Because Russia still has several thousand nuclear weapons and more tanks than all European NATO countries combined? If Europe split away from the US, they would probably have many more nuc's of their own and larger militaries. I don't think that would be good for anybody; although it is probably necessary now.

Americans ... watched over as the assets of the Soviet Union were looted and Russian standard of living and life expectancy collapsed during the Yeltsin government.

What I said was that the US is willing to accept (and unafraid of) instability because it serves our interests.

This seems like the narcissistic view of the West or the US that many leftists have where the US is the primary causal factor in everything that happens and is basically in control of everything. I don't think the US sees instability in Europe as something it has the power to accept or reject. It is something that is happening, and the US is trying to do its best to prevent the worst possible outcome for Ukraine and Europe. Likewise, saying the US "watched over" as the KGB and the Kremlin destroyed Russia is implying the US had the power to stop this from happening, which I think is dubious. I'm sure everyone agrees the US did not handle Perestroika well, and should have done more to help Russia, but who knows how much it really could have done. The US has spent trillions of dollars in Afghanistan and Iraq and they are both worse off. This should demonstrate how little power the US actually has to reconstruct other countries.
posted by Golden Eternity at 1:27 PM on January 30, 2015 [9 favorites]


Also, I think Timothy Snyder makes a good argument that the European Union is necessary for the survival of European states (former colonies/empires and formerly colonized) which can't survive on their own. The European Union is a substitute for Empire. At least since Putin, Russia has been seeking the destruction of European integration, and the creation of its own empire.
posted by Golden Eternity at 1:29 PM on January 30, 2015




Wow. This is a good article:

PUTIN'S WORLD - In It To Win It (Walter Russell Mead)
posted by Golden Eternity at 3:06 PM on January 30, 2015 [2 favorites]


This comment isn't about the Litvinenko enquiry. This comment is about the Guardian. There is an article on the Guardian about Litvinenko and then halfway down the article it mentions Russian Tu-95's being intercepted by British Tornados.

Polonium poisonings are rare.

Interceptions of military aircraft in international airspace are remarkably common. Look it up.

The Guardian conflating rare things with common things for no good reason seems to be becoming more and more common.
posted by vicx at 4:16 PM on January 30, 2015


Radioactive materials aren't just good for poisoning people. Radioactivity is easy to track if you have the right satellite. You just sprinkle some on ... an entire village.
posted by vicx at 4:26 PM on January 30, 2015


Pretty sure nuclear capable Russian bombers off the coast of Bournemouth are not a common thing.
posted by Artw at 4:42 PM on January 30, 2015 [2 favorites]


Vicx: you can't track alpha emitters from space, for the same reason they're ineffective at causing harm unless their emitter gets inside you.
posted by edd at 5:36 PM on January 30, 2015 [2 favorites]


Interceptions of military aircraft in international airspace are remarkably common. Look it up.

Okay. I just looked it up. In literally every case I can find, it's Russian aircraft being intercepted.
posted by Sys Rq at 5:41 PM on January 30, 2015 [3 favorites]


One of the promises the US made to Gorbachev as part of the peaceful dissolution of the Soviet Union was that NATO would not expand into the former Eastern Bloc. The US very promptly went back on that promise.

I've heard of this promise before, but was it ever a formal agreement or just some meaningless diplomatic "assurance"? It doesn't seem possible that the USA could actually make such a commitment, since the admission of new nations into NATO is a process that involves all the other existing NATO nations, not just the USA. So I don't think it's a promise the USA was entitled to make. The other factor is that all the post-Berlin-Wall-falling "Winds of Change" goodwill took a serious hit when Russia backed the Serbs during the wars in the Balkans.
posted by L.P. Hatecraft at 8:04 PM on January 30, 2015


As someone living 100mi from the Russian border: if you think this is All About America, jut give it a rest. The American Narcissism is tiresome. No, it's not all about you and your very important empire.

In fact, it has sort of become a joke around here, about how so many americans go out of their way to explain to each other, and to us, of course, how bad and terrible and guilty of All The Things the US (or Russia or your favourite "X is important for Americans") is.
posted by Pyrogenesis at 6:22 AM on January 31, 2015 [4 favorites]


Okay. I just looked it up. In literally every case I can find, it's Russian aircraft being intercepted.

AFAIK American Rivet Joints and other intel planes are commonly intercepted by the Russian Air Force and PLAAF, but you're not likely to see it in English language news unless something goes wrong (like the collision near China) or the US wants to complain about it.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 7:02 AM on January 31, 2015 [1 favorite]


@olliecarroll from interviewing Gubarev (GRU leader of DNR):
Pavel Gubarev says DNR camp in "good spirits" - "we're attacking on all fronts, closing in Debaltsevo" Aim 2 destroy fighting capacity

Gubarev now responsible for organising pro-Russian underground in east-leaning cities of Ukraine. "We've lots of ppl waiting, hidden"

Gubarev: "Don't like the idea of small separatisms, I'm working to reunite the whole Russian world. You can't stop what is natural"

Gubarev: "Ukrainian project artificial, Ukrainian nationalists really Russian, just delusional"
The Russian offensive appears to have started, and Putin is killing thousands. He'll probably kill tens of thousands by the time it's over, even if he doesn't go to Kyiv. And that's just Ukraine; he seems to have other goals: "we will do much more ... we'll resolve everything". At least they're only talking about "the Russian world."
posted by Golden Eternity at 7:42 AM on January 31, 2015 [2 favorites]


And Russia has also been backing anti-EU parties (usually on the right, though some say Syriza are beneficiaries of Putin's largesse); France's Front National is one example. I suspect that if the EU does fall apart or is diminished, it won't be long until Russia no longer has to suffer the humiliation of not having a land corridor to Kaliningrad.

It'd be interesting to see whether there have been any sudden flare-ups of Russian nationalist activity among the Baltic States' Russian-speaking populations (about 25% in Latvia, IIRC, and slightly smaller elsewhere). For now, the populations have been distrustful of Putin and quite happy with living in the EU where the rule of law means something and one is not at the mercy of larger and better-connected predators, though if a Russian move of these states becomes a likelihood, we'll probably see anti-EU/pro-Putin/“pan-Slavic” astroturf movements appear, seemingly out of nowhere and yet well-funded and impeccably organised. Perhaps the best thing the Baltic states can do is make a claim for a Russian-language cultural space with their own media, and carve out a pro-European Russophone identity that will put up some resistance to the Putin/Dugin ideology.
posted by acb at 8:06 AM on January 31, 2015


Before 2015 started, I seriously scaled back my hopes for the year to "If we get to December 31st 2015 without a nuclear war or a raging global pandemic, then that's going to be an okay year."
posted by Wordshore at 8:57 AM on January 31, 2015 [1 favorite]


As someone living 100mi from the Russian border: if you think this is All About America, jut give it a rest

As someone living 100mi from the American border: Has anybody here indicated that they think the Russo-British incidents in the post are all about America?

There are plenty of real things to whine about re: America and Americans (oh my god, so, so many) without having to make up fake ones.
posted by Sys Rq at 9:32 AM on January 31, 2015


I think Pyrogenisis is referring to the common theme here that Putin's aggression, of which this fpp is one example and the Russia-Ukraine war a more prescient one, is caused by American expansion of NATO and/or other US actions. Or that the US could have prevented the KGB/Putin from taking over the country.
posted by Golden Eternity at 10:09 AM on January 31, 2015 [1 favorite]


I think Pyrogenisis is referring to the common theme here that Putin's aggression, of which this fpp is one example and the Russia-Ukraine war a more prescient one, is caused by American expansion of NATO and/or other US actions.

Well, considering that's basically Putin's entire justification for doing the whole thing he claims not to be doing, it seems like it might be worth talking about, no?
posted by Sys Rq at 11:03 AM on January 31, 2015


Intercepted Russian bomber was carrying a nuclear missile over the Channel

That's not even a justification, really. Ukraine was not going into NATO, it was signing an economic agreement with the EU. If Russia and Mexico decided to form an economic union of some king, it wouldn't justify a US invasion. I don't know why anyone would believe his "justification" any more than his claim not to be doing what he's justifying.

I think Mead and Snyder have it right. It's pretty clear if you look at other things Putin's been doing and saying ever since he took power, that he wants to restore Russia as an imperial power and prevent European integration. He believes "Novorossiya" and other Russian speaking areas belong to Russia and has said the USSR should never have been disbanded. He believes Russian culture is superior to decadent and false European civilization. The problem is the countries he is after have chosen to be independent European nation states, not part of Russia or Russian colonies. Europeans are deciding for themselves how they want to be organized and what agreements to make. Putin is usurping those decisions with violence and oppression. It is not justified. The conflict is clearly being caused almost entirely by Russia, and has almost everything to do with Eastern and Western Europe and Russia, and not nearly as much to do with the US. Though, obviously it's not that simple considering NATO, and that the US has the world's biggest military.
posted by Golden Eternity at 6:30 PM on January 31, 2015 [7 favorites]


I didn't mean to suggest it was a legitimate justification.
posted by Sys Rq at 7:11 AM on February 1, 2015


@olacicho: "Headline on Russian state TV Vesti: 'Putin can destroy NATO with one phone call' (via @navalny)"
posted by Golden Eternity at 10:51 AM on February 1, 2015


Children’s theater in Russia will enact murder of Obama
At the end of the show, children will have the opportunity to participate in the burning of the Obama-puppet.

In addition to Obama’s theatrical murder, children will be greeted with Russian singing, pancakes and “manly” amusements.
posted by Golden Eternity at 11:09 AM on February 1, 2015 [1 favorite]




I was reading a bunch of stuff at the same time, in parallel, and then posted in anger to metafilter. I did not think everything through.

American narcissism is a thing and it distorts certain discussions. As is, this thread is not an example of one.

Sorry dudes, I was just fighting my own enemies when I posted the stuff above.
posted by Pyrogenesis at 1:14 PM on February 1, 2015 [3 favorites]


The myth of Russian humiliation
...Russia, unlike Central Europe, never sought to transform itself along European lines. Instead, former KGB officers with a clearly expressed allegiance to the Soviet system took over the state in league with organized crime, seeking to prevent the formation of democratic institutions at home and to undermine them abroad. For the past decade, this kleptocratic clique has also sought to re-create an empire, using everything from cyberattacks on Estonia to military invasions of Georgia and now Ukraine, in open violation of that 1994 agreement — exactly as the Central Europeans feared.
posted by Golden Eternity at 12:28 PM on February 12, 2015 [1 favorite]


A declaration of war by other means – Minsk II
For the EU, this declaration of war by other means will manifest very quickly.  It should brace itself for an aggressive, overt and covert assault on the EU DCFTA agreement with Ukraine, by the Kremlin.

The Kremlin will now be swift to try and unpick these economy transforming and European integrating agreements prior to it coming into force on 1st January 2016.  European political defeat lies in allowing an external 3rd party veto or amendment to a ratified bilateral agreement.  Any such precedent would be a disaster for the EU.
posted by Golden Eternity at 3:28 PM on February 12, 2015


The Libertarian Civil War Over Ukraine
“Unfortunately, Ron Paul is someone very respected in the West, but if you look very broadly when it comes to Ukraine and Eastern Europe, his rhetoric is pretty insulting to me as an Eastern European,” says Eglė Markevičiūtė, an international board member of SFL and former Chairwoman of the Lithuanian Liberal Youth. In response to SFL’s decision to host Paul this weekend, she started an initiative with two other young libertarians—Alexandra Ivanov, a student at Stockholm University whose father is Russian, and Irena Schneider, a Russian-American—entitled, “I am a classical liberal and I don’t support Ron Paul.”

Citing their experience “marching for liberty” in demonstrations against the reign of President Vladimir Putin in Moscow and St. Petersburg, the young women fault Paul—whom they call “an advocate of Russian aggression”—and his eponymous think tank for “regurgitating [Russian] propaganda” alleging that Ukraine’s Maidan revolution was a “fascist coup,” that the annexation of Crimea was legal, and that there are no Russian forces operating in Ukraine.
posted by Golden Eternity at 8:11 PM on February 12, 2015






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