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Friday, January 05, 2007

Bukovsky the Lion, Roaring

On Tuesday La Russophobe reported on the recent protests lodged against the BBC by, among others, the famous Soviet dissident Vladimir Bukovsky (pictured, above left, in his dissident days, he's now following years of Soviet-era hardship a dead ringer for Marlon Brando, see above right). Commenting in the Economist, La Russophobe's admired friend Edward Lucas has now suggested that Bukovsky's call for confrontation of the neo-Soviet regime is unrealistic. LR is not sure of the precise source of the remarks made by Mr. Bukovsky and has asked Edward for additional details. According to Edward, Bukovsky's view is that "the West should demand the repeal of a law enacted in Russia this year authorising the elimination of 'extremists' anywhere in the world. 'Extremism', notes Mr Bukovsky, has been redefined to include any 'libellous' statements about the Russian authorities. In principle, death-squads might be used against critics."

Edward asks what the West would do if, having made such a demand, Russia failed to comply. He writes: "
Diplomatic frosts (expulsions, recalling ambassadors) have little bite and don’t last. Mr Bukovsky also suggests that NATO invokes Article V (which guarantees the collective security of all members) on the grounds that the murder of Alexander Litvinenko, a British citizen, on British soil, by agents of foreign power, constitutes an act of aggression. Hmm. Hard to see the French, Greeks and other NATO Russia-lovers going along with that." Hard because of the insane French policy that we should "swallow hard and smother the Kremlin with kisses, in the hope that the frog will turn into a prince. Just show enough understanding and patience, and Russia will wobble its way to towards European normality."

Edward writes that Bukovsky has also advocated expelling Russia "from international organisations including the G8 and the Council of Europe. The Kremlin will huff and puff, he says, and perhaps flex its energy muscles a bit, but in the end it will back down." He claims this also won't work because "it is hard to see Western governments doing that in a hurry. First there is no conclusive proof that the Kremlin was responsible for the murder of Mr Litvinenko. Second, if you believe, as Mr Bukovsky does, that the Kremlin is as capable now of cold-blooded murder as it was when it pursued Trotsky, Bandera, Khokhlov and Markov, a law here or there is not going to make that much difference."

Edward's suggestion is to approach the problem "at working levels" -- behind the scenes in organizations like the European Bank and the UN Development Program, where Russia is making neo-Soviet moves against Georgia -- because
"Russia is, as so often, overplaying its hand, alienating its allies and consolidating its critics. International institutions are consensus-loving, conflict-shy outfits, and they can only cope with so much brinksmanship. Opinion within them is going to harden against Russia. Expect the dull landscapes of international bureaucracy to be lit up with some entertaining fireworks in the new year."

Edward may well be right in saying that the French would obstruct an effort to use the power of NATO to curb Russia's neo-Soviet advances. But if they would, isn't that something we should find out now, rather than later? If Germany, Britain and the United States favor taking action against Russia and France obstructs it, doesn't that make France more our enemy than our friend, and isn't it better to find out about that now, rather than later? If France is that much of a loose cannon, would it really be swayed by "conclusive evidence" that the Kremlin had ordered Litvinenko's killing? In fact, would anything other than a Kremlin hit on a French government official changer their attitude? As Cold War II begins, we should be able to tell our enemies from our friends.

What's more, isn't there something to be said for standing up for doing the right thing even if our effort fail? What is to prevent us from following the both Edward's and Bukovsky's recommendations simultaneously? True, even if we prevail and force Russia to repeal it's law on foreign attacks, that won't mean Russian attacks on the West will cease. It's obvious that Russians couldn't care less about the rule of law and are prepared to act illegally, or else they wouldn't have elected a proud KGB spy as their president. But forcing Russia's hand would have value even if the attacks actually escalated. It would prove that the West is willing to take decisive action to resist Russian neo-Soviet activities, sending a clear message to the Russians of the same kind that was sent in the era of containment and which brought down the USSR. Further, it would galavanize world attention and highlight the urgent nature of the situation we now face.

But more important than that, resolute public action would demostrate that we have learned something from our experience with Stalin and Hitler, when we moved too slowly and ended up dealing with a much larger mess than was necessary.

In the end, Vladimir Bukovsky knows the KGB regime from protracted personal experience. Maybe we should listen closely if he tells us how best to communicate with it in order to restrict its malignant advances.

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