by Gordon M. Hahn
From former spooks to libertarian-conservative talk show hosts to leftists and liberals various theories have been put forward as to why and how Russian President Vladimir Putin wants to ‘destroy Americans’ confidence in democracy’ and ‘sow chaos across American and the world.’ In short, Putin ultimately seeks to destroy faith in democracy and sow chaos in the United States and thereby weaken America and its ability to promote democracy abroad. The US will no longer be ‘that shining city on a hill’, as US late President Ronald Reagan eloquently put it. The same is said about Russia’s supposed support for ultra-nationalist groups, even though that ‘support’ is nothing more than a limited overlap of interests and views. Never mind that Russia has good relations with numerous democracies, including the world’s largest, India, as well as with Japan, South Korea, and others. It has bad relations only with NATO countries. A coincidence? You decide.
In order to support the ‘chaos theory,’ its proponents deploy another theory; one we might call the ‘breadcrumb theory.’ This theory has been brought to bear in the case to support the view that Putin ordered the murders of Alexander Litvinenko, Novaya gazeta journalist Anna Politkovskaya, even his own mentor and friend Anatolii Sobchak, the poisoning of the Skrypals, the supposed hack of the DNC computers. It has even been brought to bear to in explaining alleged ‘collusion’ of US President Donald Trump with Russia and the ‘Russiagate’ meeting between Trump aides and the Russian lawyer Nataliya Veselnitskaya meeting.
For example, a former CIA operative wrote in the New York Times recently: “No conclusive proof has yet emerged that the Kremlin arranged this meeting, and the Russians involved have asserted they were not working for the Putin government. Mr. Kushner himself told Senate investigators that there was no collusion between the Trump campaign and Moscow. But to me, the clearest evidence that this was a Russian influence operation is the trail of bread crumbs the Kremlin seemed to have deliberately left leading from Trump Tower to the Kremlin. This operation was meant to be discovered” (www.nytimes.com/2017/07/28/opinion/the-russians-were-involved-but-it-wasnt-about-collusion.html?smid=fb-share).
But if the idea is to sew chaos and disillusion by letting everyone know that the Kremlin was behind this or that move, this or that operation, why not just pinpoint Russia’s responsibility so other targets and any future transgressors can be quite sure they will not get by with impunity? Why not state that Litvinenko as a former security officer was a ‘traitor to the state’ and that all traitors of the Russian state are subject to execution? Why not state the same about Mr. Skrypal (we apologize for infecting his daughter)? Similarly, why not state that there were meetings between Kremlin agents and Trump aides and these had on their agenda ways to undermine the campaign of Democratic Party candidate Hillary Clinton? Reference could be made to the far more extensive US interference in the domestic politics of foreign states, including Russia’s own. That’s it. Russia defends herself against traitors, so all traitors beware, and we reserve the right to use the very same interference in the domestic politics of states that interfere in Russian politics.
Moreover, there is a fundamental illogic in the aforementioned CIA officer’s ‘analysis’. If there is “(n)o conclusive proof…the Kremlin arranged this meeting,” then how much do the bread crumbs lead to the Kremlin’s door?
Moreover still, the Washington consensus claimed that Russia started the 2008 Georgian-Ossetiya war by invading Georgia, but we now know that Georgia started the war by invading South Ossetiya, as the European Union acknowledged a year later. It told us that Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych order Berkut snipers to slaughter the Maidan demonstrators on 20 February 2014 and US ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt added that Russian ‘wet teams’ were also involved, but we now know that it was the neofascist wing of the Maidan demonstrators that shot at both demonstrators and police in the ‘snipers’ massacre.’ It is clear that Putin had no motive to kill his friend and mentor Sobchak whatsoever, as even Sobchak’s wife and daughter agree. We now know that Politkovskaya was killed by Chechens likely on the orders of renegade President of de facto autonomous Chechnya. The perpetrators were tried, convicted, and imprisoned. We now know that it is more likely that Litvinenko was trading in polonium with Chechen and/or jihadi terrorists and infected himself by mishandling the material. The Russians involved were protected by the Kremlin because the truth would have exposed the intelligence assets, however rogue they were.
The Skrypals may have been doing something similar and were certainly involved in something shady. The former GRU colonel was not an innocent emigre’ living a simple life in quiet Salisbury, as the British government has portrayed matters. He had very recent, and perhaps ongoing ties to the British, Czech, and Estonian intelligence services, and both Skrypals shut off the GPS on their phones just before the meeting in the park immediately after which they were found poisoned. The fact that British intelligence has hidden the Skrypals away from all media and family suggest that it has something to hide. Indeed, the bread crumbs do not seem to have done their job. It turns out the most important of them — that Novichok is only obtainable in Russia — has been proven to be palpably false. All the other bread crumbs’ veracity depend on the Novichok crumb’s pointing to the Kremlin, which it does not necessarily. Yet the British government rushed to claim that it does without doing the most fundamental investigation or basic research.
So neither the chaos theory nor the breadcrumb theory works. Perhaps we need a different theory? A false flag theory? A jump the gun and blame the Kremlin because it is convenient for NATO expansion policy to blame the Kremlin theory? The Kremlin may be the source of some pretty bad stuff, but blaming the Kremlin for everything without checking the facts is bad policy.
About the Author – Gordon M. Hahn, Ph.D., Expert Analyst at Corr Analytics, http://www.canalyt.com and a Senior Researcher at the Center for Terrorism and Intelligence Studies (CETIS), Akribis Group, San Jose, California, www.cetisresearch.org.
Dr. Hahn is the author of Ukraine Over the Edge: Russia, the West, and the ‘New Cold War (McFarland Publishers, 2017) and three previously and well-received books: Russia’s Revolution From Above: Reform, Transition and Revolution in the Fall of the Soviet Communist Regime, 1985-2000 (Transaction Publishers, 2002); Russia’s Islamic Threat (Yale University Press, 2007); and The Caucasus Emirate Mujahedin: Global Jihadism in Russia’s North Caucasus and Beyond (McFarland Publishers, 2014). He has published numerous think tank reports, academic articles, analyses, and commentaries in both English and Russian language media and has served as a consultant and provided expert testimony to the U.S. government.
Dr. Hahn also has taught at Boston, American, Stanford, San Jose State, and San Francisco State Universities and as a Fulbright Scholar at Saint Petersburg State University, Russia. He has been a senior associate and visiting fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and the Kennan Institute in Washington DC as well as the Hoover Institution at Stanford University.