Streetwise Professor

November 30, 2009

A Deficit of Trust

Filed under: Military,Politics,Russia — The Professor @ 9:36 pm

The derailment of the Nevsky Express is a terrible event, especially if it is proven that it was an act of terrorism.  Whatever the cause, it was made even more terrible by the inept response and lack of preparation for such a disaster.  My condolences to the victims and their families.

The government has indicated that the most likely culprits are Chechen separatists, and this is a reasonable conjecture.  But, as this article from WindowOnEurasia about the some commentary in the Russian press indicates, one also cannot reject out of hand more disturbing possibilities:

Tomorrow, December 1, is the 75th anniversary of the murder of Sergey Kirov, an action that Russian commentators continue to refer to as “the Stalinist version of [Hitler’s] Reichstag fire” because it opened the way to the purges and the great terror of the following years.

But what is even more disturbing now three-quarters of a century later is that, as one Moscow observer put it today, in Russia “the Reichstags burn and burn” because neither in the case of Kirov nor in that of so many other tragedies in that country has there been a full and honest reporting by the government or by authoritative people about what happened.

And because of the lack of such an honest accounting of events, Aleksandr Ryklin writes in today’s “Yezhednevny zhurnal,” thoughtful Russians would need to be presented with “convincing evidence” that the special services did not blow up the “Nevsky Express” this week in the service of the powers that be (

“For me personally,” Ryklin says, “the most terrible result of the tragedy with the ‘Nevsky Express’ (after the death of people, of course) is the absence of any hope in the foreseeable future to find out the TRUTH about what happened. Because I will never believe THEM. And not one sober and thoughtful person in Russia will ever believe them.”

As he continues, “hundreds of times we have caught THEM in a monstrous lie” – about Nord Ost, about Beslan, about the Kursk, to name but the first three that come to find. “THEY are cynical, unprincipled and pitiless,” and they assume that Russians will swallow “any version” of events they choose to dish out.

But tragically, given Russian history, “if we don’t get it from THEM, then what means do we have to find out the truth about what has taken place? Is there any political organization in Russia which would be bold enough to say: ‘We will create an independent experts commission which with time will present its conclusions to the court of public opinion’?”

“In 1999,” Ryklin recalls, [he] “could not image that the special services were involved in the blowing up of the apartment buildings in Moscow. And even after the case of the hexogen in Ryazan [where a television crew filmed what appeared to be a bomb planted by the authorities] did not shake his conviction. I then rejected that version with anger and disgust.”

“But the years have passed, and my naiveté,” Ryklin acknowledges, “gradually has dissipated … so that now one would have to apply definite efforts in order to convince me that the Russian special services did not blowup a peaceful train. And show me evidence of their non-involvement … Convincing evidence.”

That thoughts of Ryazan come to mind when reading of terrorism in Russia reflects the weight of history, stretching back well beyond Kirov.  A state built on suspicion feeds suspicion of it.  A state that operates in secrecy in things large and small creates the atmosphere in which such suspicion thrives.  No state can be fully trusted, but a state that is separate and above its citizens, and which is not subject to any real accountability, is especially untrustworthy.  And as Ryklin writes, from the distant past to the recent actions in the age of Putin, the trust deficit in Russia is a yawning one.

I am not saying that security service involvement is the most likely explanation.  I am not saying that it is likely period.  I am just saying that it is far more likely in Russia than just about anywhere else; that it is impossible to dismiss this possibility out of hand.

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  1. Every country has its truthers. When the official cause is malice, the public thinks incompetence. And vice versa.

    Comment by So? — December 1, 2009 @ 3:25 am

  2. “A state that operates in secrecy in things large and small creates the atmosphere in which such suspicion thrives. No state can be fully trusted, but a state that is separate and above its citizens, and which is not subject to any real accountability, is especially untrustworthy”

    The US govt. is rapidly gaining in this regard. Maybe Russia is just decades ahead of the curve?

    Comment by Mark G. — December 1, 2009 @ 2:17 pm

  3. Details about the Kremlin’s utterly incompetent preparation for and response to this disaster, repeating a very old and predictable pattern:

    Where is the outrage of the so-called Russian patriots known as “Russophiles” at this shameless abuse of the Russian people? They are silent because in fact they hate the people of Russia and work towards their destruction.

    Comment by La Russophobe — December 1, 2009 @ 6:38 pm

  4. Folks, can anyone answer a couple of questions?

    1. Given that a reliable technology to locate hidden “nukelar” weapons does not exist, can anyone guarantee that hundreds or even thousands of nuclear warheads are not hidden somewhere in the thick of, say, Ural Mountains until the right time comes?
    If so, may it be that the “right” time is coming after a big cut in nuclear weapons in the US and Russia?

    2. Russia is demanding to discuss improvements in international security.
    No country can attack another country, and no country has a right to solve problems by military means, and so on.

    Suppose now, Russia declared the North Pole exclusive Russian territory.
    According to the new accord, no country can attack Russia to drive it out of the North Pole.

    Russia has never been so shameless.
    Russians know that O’Bum is a bum, and they are in a hurry to close all the deals before the bum is thrown out of the office.
    Merry Christmas, stupid Americans ?

    Comment by Michael Vilkin — December 1, 2009 @ 9:24 pm

  5. There comes the Holocaust celebrator again.

    Anyhow, re-1 – I’ve wondered about that myself.

    I doubt it because nuclear weapons are useless by themselves, needing an array of advanced delivery systems and infrastructure to be of any use. That is much harder to hide than the weapons themselves.

    Comment by Sublime Oblivion — December 1, 2009 @ 9:35 pm

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