Streetwise Professor

December 16, 2006

Remember the Trust

Filed under: Russia — The Professor @ 11:13 pm

As I wrote earlier, trying to figure out whodunit in the Litvinenko affair is a futile exercise. There are two main theories: (a) that Litvinenko’s murder was a security force operation (perhaps with state sanction), and (b) that it was somehow related to a nuclear smuggling operation directed against Russia.

I would merely note that these are not mutually exclusive alternatives. In the murky world of espionage, opposition groups can be infiltrated by, and manipulated by, the intelligence operations of the state they are acting against. Indeed, in some cases, these groups can be the creation of the intelligence forces.

A classic Russian example is the The Trust , a Soviet secret police (OGPU/ОГПУ) operation that established a fake anti-Bolshevik operation to smoke out and eliminate opponents of the regime.

I have no clue one way or the other whether a similar organization is involved in the Litvinenko affair. In my opinion, this case will never be solved. Even if the actual perpetrator is identified, his/her motives and connections will never be established definitively.

I only bring up The Trust to illustrate that in this amoral and murky milieu, the apparent puppeteer may be in fact somebody else’s puppet. Obsessive theorizing is ultimately purposeless, as these theories are not testable. The main thing here is not the identity of the actual poisoner, but the light it sheds on the poisonous politics of Putin’s Russia.

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