russia the bogeyman

Posted on May 22, 2007

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If we’re not back in the days of the Cold War yet, we’re most probably heading there fast.

Russia under Vladimir Putin is on a war path with the West and its latest fight is with the UK, in Russia’s refusal to extradite Andrei Lugovoi, a former KGB officer charged by the UK of killing Alexander Litvinenko with the radioactive isotope polonium-210 last November.

Naturally, it would be hard for Russia to hand Lugovoi over, those who have pointed the finger at the Kremlin said, for fear of the British unraveling the mystery and identifying the perpetrators.

They said that Lugovoi would not have obtained the polonium without assistance from well-placed sources in the Russian administration. “Clearly it was a state-sponsored job. But who within the Russian state? . . . It must be someone very, very high up,” Alex Goldfarb, a spokesman for Litvinenko’s family told the Washington Post. “It is unrealistic to think Putin will surrender the perpetrator because he will tell the whole plot to the British.”

But the world at large, and the West in particular, ought to be getting alarmed at Russia’s increasingly aggressive, even thuggish behavior in its foreign policy, propelled by its need to defend and assert itself amid misplaced notions of nationalism and resurgence.

Silencing an exiled citizen who had mouthed-off against Russia is a mere footnote compared to recent Russian behavior against other nations, which has become more antagonistic.

Earlier this month, Russia unleashed its wrath against Estonia for removing a statue of a Soviet soldier from central Tallinn, in what is believed to be an orchestrated series of cyber attacks against Estonia’s government websites, banks, newspapers and companies. Russians have also staged violent protests against the Estonian embassy in Russia, even to the point of trying to attack the Estonian ambassador to Russia.

Putin himself had recently made progressively provocative pronouncements. Just this month, he criticized the US as being akin to Nazi Germany. Not too long ago, he had openly complained of its feeling of being encircled as the US looks towards placing missile sites near Russia’s border, in Poland and the Czech Republic.

Russia’s relations aren’t much better with the European Union. Last week’s summit between Russia and the EU ended on a sour note, with the EU boldly criticizing Russia’s restrictions on protesters for the summit while raising Russia’s human rights record.

Russia’s actions have even provoked a warning by the EU that Russia has to deal with the EU as a whole, a warning for Russia not to continue regarding former Soviet-sphere countries as its satellites and subjecting them to trade sanctions.

Putin is scheduled to meet the leaders of the G8 in a gathering next month. The leaders of those nations should use the occasion to continue standing up to Russia by working together to reject its bullying tactics.

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Posted in: europe, politics, russia, US