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Tag: Putin

Will Cochrane kills and cooks

Wednesday, 18 September, 2013 0 Comments

“Will waited. The sailor looked around, but not back at Will. Beside the man was the Lubyanka building. It was the current headquarters of the Border Guard Service, and it also contained one directorate of the FSB. But during the era of the Soviet Union it had been a notorious prison for political dissidents and spies.”

Sentinel That’s a snippet from Sentinel by Matthew Dunn and the “Will” there is the novel’s protagonist, Will Cochrane of Her Majesty’s Secret Service, or MI6. In these days of ascendant Putanism, the West needs heroes to take the fight into the heart of darkness and if that means going mano-a-mano with the enemy on Smolenskaya Naberezhnaya in the middle of Moscow, our spycatcher is up for it:

“Will sprang to his feet and jumped onto the hood of the second Range Rover, ignoring the target, who was still in the vehicle. He ran over its roof, jumped onto the Audi, and dived right over it towards the FSB man, who was now in the rear of the car and had leveled his gun at Roger. Crashing midair into the man, Will wrapped his arms around the Russian’s upper body and limbs, pinning his arms tight against his sides before they hit the ground. He kept squeezing him tight.”

Unlike James Bond, who spends a lot of time squeezing tight members of the opposite sex, Will Cochrane is a rather monkish secret agent. Instead of flirting, he longs for love and that Bondsian double entendre with Pussy Galore is definitely not his cup of tea. Whereas 007 despises domestic duties, our Will is ever so useful in the kitchen:

“Expertly, he peeled and diced shallots and tossed them into the pan with olive oil and butter. Then he deboned and portioned the chicken, pan-fried it with crushed garlic, pepper, and finely chopped herbs, splashed red wine into the pan, and allowed the alcohol to burn off before tasting the liquid and adding some salt and sugar.”

This is far superior to the bacon and scrambled eggs that Bond manages to cook. Still, 007 fans will know that he did eat a doner kebab in From Russia with Love. With Will Cochrane, Matthew Dunn has created a spy with potential, but he needs to make him less nerdy and more witty if he’s going to win over a greater public. The eight-page glossary at the end of Sentinel is useful for those who need to know that the AEK-919K Kashtan submachine gun fires 9mm rounds, but it does reflect the weight of terminology that the reader has to cope with.

Then there’s the confusion of prime minister and president, which could be a consequence of Putinism as the Russian leader has held both offices. But more about that here next week.


The Andropov Apprentice

Tuesday, 17 September, 2013 0 Comments

Yesterday, here, we mentioned Radek Sikorski, Poland’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, who claims he was the first to suggest that Moscow should assume responsibility for Syria’s chemical weapons stocks. It’s worth noting that Sikorski is married to the American journalist Anne Applebaum, a long-time observer of Vladimir Putin and his philosophy of power. In February last year, Applebaum gave a talk at the London School of Economics titled Putinism: The Ideology in which she detailed the autocrat’s suffocating dogma:

“Applebaum identifies the central tenet of Putinism as the carefully managed elections that ensure there are no accidental winners because there are no accidental candidates. Putin very carefully maintains the appearance of democracy — building up a campaign atmosphere during elections despite doing little actual campaigning and allowing fringe opposition parties to exist — but Russian voters are at no stage allowed to genuinely intervene in the democratic process.”

Anne Applebaum has spent many years developing her theory of Putinism. On 10 April 2000, the Weekly Standard published an article by her titled Secret Agent Man in which she revealed that Vladimir Putin tried to join Yuri Andropov’s KGB “at the tender age of 15”. Yuri Andropov Eventually, Putin fulfilled his dream of Soviet espionage and when he came to power in the Russian Federation that succeeded the USSR he enacted a tribute ceremony that was truly revelatory. “He chose the site with care: the Lubyanka, once the headquarters of the KGB and its most notorious jail prisoners once exercised on its roof, and were tortured in its cellars — and now the home of the FSB, Russia’s internal security services,” wrote Applebaum. “He also took heed of the date: December 20, a day still known and still celebrated by some, as ‘Chekists Day,’ the anniversary (this was the 82nd) of the founding of the Cheka, Lenin’s secret police. In that place and on that day, both so redolent of the bloodiest pages of Russian history, Vladimir Putin solemnly unveiled a plaque in memory of Yuri Andropov.”

Andropov’s apprentice is flying high now, but his repressive agency, the FSB, is not having it so easy. You see, Will Cochrane stands in its way. Never heard of Will Cochrane? He’s the “Spycatcher” and we’ll meet him here tomorrow.


Romney got it right on Putin and Obama

Friday, 13 September, 2013 0 Comments

Mr Putin on the smile “Two decades after the end of the cold war, Mitt Romney still considers Russia to be America’s ‘No. 1 geopolitical foe.’ His comments display either a shocking lack of knowledge about international affairs or just craven politics. Either way, they are reckless and unworthy of a major presidential contender.” So thundered the New York Times on 28 March last year. The cause of its outrage was a piece that the Republican presidential candidate had written for Foreign Policy magazine titled Bowing to the Kremlin. Romney’s summation of Obama’s Russia strategy was devastating:

“Unfortunately, what they are getting is a sad replay of Jimmy Carter’s bungling at a moment when the United States needs the backbone and courage of a Ronald Reagan. In his dealings with the Kremlin, as in his dealings with the rest of the world, President Obama has demonstrated breathtaking weakness — and given the word ‘flexibility’ a new and ominous meaning.”

And so it has come to pass. “I have always depended on the kindness of strangers,” says Blanche DuBois in A Streetcar Named Desire. President Obama now finds himself in a position where he must depend on the kindness of strangers, like Vladimir Putin. But that strategy didn’t work out very well for Blanche DuBois.


Obama and that Chamberlain feeling

Thursday, 12 September, 2013 1 Comment

Sir Henry “Chips” Channon was an American-born British Conservative politician, author and chronicler. Here’s his diary entry from 12 September 1938:

Chamberlain “Towards the end of the Banquet came the news, the great world-stirring news, that Neville [Chamberlain], on his own initiative, seeing war coming closer and closer, had telegrapher to Hitler that he wanted to see him, and asked him to name an immediate rendezvous. The German Government, surprised and flattered, had instantly accepted and so Neville, at the age of 69, for the first time in his life, gets into an aeroplane tomorrow morning and flies to Berchtesgaden! It is one of the finest, most inspiring acts of all history. The company rose to their feet electrified, as all the world must be, and drank his health. History must be ransacked to find a parallel.

Of course a way out will now be found. Neville by his imagination and practical good sense, has saved the world. I am staggered.”

A year later, the situation was very different. No way out had been found, the world had not been saved and the name of Neville Chamberlain became eternally synonymous with that dreadful term, appeasement.

“I believe it is peace for our time,” said the hapless Chamberlain upon his return from the despot’s Alpine eyrie, and one could not but feel a shiver of déjà vu while listening to the awful speech delivered by President Obama on Tuesday night. Here was a leader who casually drew a red line in the sand, and then found he had to do something about it. Faced with a humiliating defeat in Congress, he has now decided to let the Russians, steadfast allies of Assad, set the agenda on the international stage. And he admitted all this with an air of boredom. “It is hard to believe such a chill man has such warm feelings about the sad end of strangers far away,” wrote Peggy Noonan. “I think this has been one of his big unspoken problems in the selling of his Syria policy.” With her “sad end of strangers far away,” Noonan was deliberately echoing Chamberlain, who said: “How horrible, fantastic, incredible it is that we should be digging trenches and trying on gas-masks here because of a quarrel in a far away country between people of whom we know nothing.”

Knowing that the US president will grasp at any straw to avoid taking military action against Damascus, Vladimir Putin, now writing op-eds for the New York Times, is thrashing Obama in this global PR game. Having presented Obama with the meaningless option of weapons inspection, Russia has saved Syria from immediate attack and ensured that Assad can continue merrily upon his murderous way. It’s all very Chamberlain like.


Rotten Russia: Snowden in; Altunin out

Thursday, 29 August, 2013 0 Comments

In his devastating New Yorker takedown of the traitorous Edward Snowden on 10 June, Jeffrey Toobin wrote: “Snowden fled to Hong Kong when he knew publication of his leaks was imminent… As a result, all of Snowden’s secrets may wind up in the hands of the Chinese government — which has no commitment at all to free speech or the right to political dissent. And that makes Snowden a hero?” But worse was to come. Snowden went from one ghastly tyranny to another: Russia. And there he found asylum at the hands of the tender Vladimir Putin.

That’s the same Putin who was depicted this week by the Russian artist Konstantin Altunin wearing women’s undies and fondly arranging the hair of Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev. For this “crime”, the Russian authorities removed four of Altunin’s satirical depictions of Russian politicians from St Petersburg’s Museum of Power and shut down the exhibition. Konstantin Altunin has fled Russia and is said to be seeking asylum in France. Meanwhile, in a perverse gesture of solidarity with the quisling Snowden, a group of cretinous German academics, the Vereinigung Deutscher Wissenschaftler, has decided to award him its “Whistleblower 2013” prize and €3,000. The real hero in this rotten Russia-centred drama, however, is Konstantin Altunin.

Putin on the style


The horror of Putin’s realm

Friday, 19 July, 2013 1 Comment

While the American traitor Edward Snowden eagerly seeks political asylum in Russia, the real face of Vladimir Putin’s police state has been exposed by the show-trial of protest leader Alexei Navalny. Yesterday, thousands took to the streets following his conviction on embezzlement charges. Navalny — a vocal critic of Putin — had denied the charges, saying the trial was politically motivated.

Scuffles broke in Moscow, St Petersburg and other cities in protests that continued late into the evening. Reports said dozens were detained by police.

That most useful site, The Interpreter, which translates important articles from Russian, offers Navalny’s last and very emotional blog post before yesterday’s sentencing. In it, he appeals to every single person in the country, with the exception, perhaps, of Edward Snowden. From “Before the sentence…“, a snippet: “No one is in a position to resist stronger than you. It is your duty to the rest, if you realize it; it is the sort of thing that it is impossible to delegate to someone else. There is no one else, except you. If you are reading this, then you are in fact the resistance.”