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Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Vladimir Putin's got a Bad Case of the CLAP: Chronic Lying and Prevaricating

Writing in the Washington Times Daniel Gallington, a senior fellow at the Potomac institute for Policy Studies in Arlington, Va., documents Russia's pathological pattern of "chronic deceit." The article was translated into Russian and posted on the Echo of Moscow radio station's website.

I had to chuckle at the recent news reports of Russian President Vladimir Putin's "rudeness" to the U.S. secretaries of state and defense over our plans to install missile defense systems in Eastern Europe. It's almost like we had never before dealt with a rude Russian about missile defense. Mr. Putin will be rude about it again when he meets with President Bush early this month to discuss it — and will even accuse us of "anti-Russian" behavior. What baloney!

I ended the Cold War part of my national security career as a member of the U.S. Delegation to the Defense and Space Talks, the last comprehensive arms control negotiations with the former Soviet Union. I did this for 11 mind-numbing rounds of negotiations, from early 1985 until late 1988. And, I must confess, I was selected to do this work during this key period (after President Reagan's "star wars" speech, which caused the Soviets to ask us to resume the strategic arms talks they had walked out of in 1982) because I really enjoyed being rude to rude Soviets, and Secretary Caspar Weinberger liked that about me.

Despite some radical changes in Russia since the implosion of the Soviet Union, nothing much has changed from the old days of Khrushchev beating his shoe on the table at the United Nations. The ruthless people who have run Russia for the last 100 years — while maybe different politically — are fundamentally gangsters and thieves who use whatever politics they find convenient to enforce their rule.

Mr. Putin and his fellow and former KGB thugs are in charge of Russia now, and plan to stay in charge until someone knocks them off. This is highly unlikely to occur anytime soon because they are systematically killing off any possible opposition. This practice has changed very little since the communist days, during which Mr. Putin learned his "leadership" and political survivor skills. He is, basically, an old-style Soviet apparatchik wrapped in a populist package.

And Russians have embraced him as a "new populist" — however, they also like the fact that people around the world are beginning to fear them again. While we call this "resurgent nationalism" and "patriotism" in the West, it's pure and simple fascism — nothing else is close to accurately describing it.

What I'm saying here isn't blasphemous or even rude — give most any Russians enough to drink and they'll confirm it with even rougher language: A hard-line Soviet guy I remember from my years of dealing with them told me (after a lot of vodka): "Never believe us, we don't know how to tell the truth — it means nothing to us and so we never give it any value. We can't believe anything our government tells us — so why should we ever believe yours?"

So they're still rude and fundamentally dishonest. However, are they as dangerous now as when we were locked in the Cold War with them?

This is a very hard question — primarily because our so-called "estimates" of Soviet strengths and weaknesses were often wrong over a 50-year period — so getting the "truth" about the real threat from them was every bit as difficult as getting the "truth" out of a Russian. Why? Simple: Because our State Department encouraged conciliation with the Soviet Union, they needed also to maintain the fiction of the United States dealing with the Soviets as political and national security equivalents. Of course, this was never the case, so when the Soviet Union "crashed" in the late-1980s and early '90s we were really taken by surprise — in fact, we were stunned, and for a time could not explain what had happened.

Despite this, one thing remains constant in Russian "diplomacy" from the Cold War. They never want to see us with a capable missile defense for two basic reasons:

• First, because they had one for so long they know it's a good idea and they know if we get serious about it ours will work a lot better than theirs has. To translate this so it doesn't sound so self-serving, they say our missile defense reduces the effectiveness of their "nuclear deterrent" — this, however, doesn't pass the laugh test.

• Second, they know that closer-in missile defenses (what we call "boost phase") are more efficient and effective than "terminal defenses." So, they see the placement of radars in Eastern Europe as a prelude to our installing more capable boost phase intercept systems that could render their vast land-based ICBM systems ineffective, whether mobile or not.

Because this is so transparent, they've had to come up with more "diplomatic" reasons to oppose ABM systems in Eastern Europe. And, these reasons — it turns out — are the same phony ones they used in the mid-1980s when they were obsessed with stopping our Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) program:

They say (and Mr. Putin will say to Mr. Bush) that the deployment of 10 ABM interceptors in Poland with radars in the Czech Republic has an "anti-Russian" character. What does that mean? As I used to tell my Soviet counterpart (a crusty old Soviet army general) after he read me goofy things like this off little cards: "If you mean that it will it shoot down a Soviet ICBM aimed at us, then yes, it is 'anti-Soviet' and meant to be, just like your ICBMs are 'anti-U.S.' Now, what is your next concern?" Some things will never change.

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