Don't Mention the (Cold) War


Russian ships docking in Cuba and Venezuela, the rekindling of an alliance with Sandinista leader Daniel Ortega, the beating and arrest of dissidents in Moscow, military conflicts with its former colonies, the mysterious deaths of Kremlin critics. All sounds rather familiar, no? And while it still doesn't quite rise to the level of a "new Cold War," the parallels are, at this point, unavoidable. (Incidentally, I wrote a piece last year rather misleadingly titled "The Cold War's Return," though I did—and do—argue that there is a concerted effort on the part of the Putin/Medvedev regime to turn back the clock on Russia's relations with the United States, I don't think that the Cold War has "returned" just yet.)

And now the Duma is considering legislation that, according to Reuters, "broadens the interpretation of treason and espionage to include the vague definition of 'acts against the constitutional order.'" "Russian liberals," the wire service writes, "have appealed to President Dmitry Medvedev to veto a set of new laws they say could lead to purges reminiscent of the Stalin era." The Times of London points out that "The measure also threatens to revive the Soviet-era habit of placing under suspicion anyone who has contact with foreigners. It gives warning that people could be guilty of treason for 'rendering financial or material and technical or consultative support to … a foreign organization.'"

Now member of Parliament and ex-KGB agent Andrei Lugovoy, who British intelligence accuses of murdering dissident Alexander Litvinenko with polonium-210 (the very Markovian case is neatly outlined in Alan Cowell's recent book The Terminal Spy), has told a Spanish newspaper that "If someone has caused the Russian state serious damage, they should be exterminated." They might have dropped all that nonsense about Stakhanovite workers controlling the means of production, about the dictatorship of the proletariat, but the Chekist spirit persists in today's Russia.

Also, a bunch of very, very good stuff on the situation in Russia over at reason Contributing Editor Cathy Young's blog.