Is Russian dictator Vladimir Putin the world’s luckiest man in addition to being among the most evil? Just days before the bombing of the Boston Marathon by terrorists of Chechen extraction, Putin was seeking to justify his support for the homicidal Bashar Assad regime in Syria by claiming that Chechen terrorists were infiltrating Syria to depose Assad. Kremlin mouthpiece Russia Beyond the Headlines spoke of the risk of a “jihadist international” arising in Syria as a result.
The notion, of course, that a homicidal anti-American dictator shouldn’t be opposed simply because radical elements are among his opposition is absurd. If it were true, George III would not have deserved to lose control of the American colonies. But this argument about Syria is exactly the one Putin uses to smear his domestic opposition as well. (Last week, the leading member of that opposition, Alexey Navalny, was put on trial in Kirov on charges almost everyone concurs are politically motivated.)
Then, just as the world was turning a deaf ear to Putin and ratcheting up the pressure still further on Putin’s last remaining ally in the Middle East other than Iran, two Chechen terrorists launched a bloodthirsty attack in the country that leads the world in opposing Assad. Within moments of the Boston events, speculation was rife that Putin could use them to achieve a change in U.S. policy.
This isn’t the first time something like this has favored Putin’s agenda. Soon after he was made prime minister in the late 1990s, he began intensifying Russian military action in the breakaway Islamic region of Chechnya. In September 1999, just as world opinion condemned his atrocities there, two apartment buildings in Moscow were bombed — hundreds of innocents were murdered. By blaming Chechen rebels — who never took credit for the bombings — Putin was then able to launch a massive invasion of Chechnya and to depose its firebrand ruler. The world just applauded. When KGB defector Alexander Litvinenko publicized his research showing that Putin had ordered the bombings to whip up support for an invasion and to crush dissent, Litvinenko was murdered in London with exotic polonium radioactive poison.
Whether Putin was lucky or evil in September 1999 remains an open question, as does Litvinenko’s murder and Putin’s role in it.
And let’s not forget the birthday present. On Putin’s birthday in October 2006, Anna Politkovskaya was shot and killed in the lobby of her apartment building in Moscow. She was Russia’s top opposition journalist, and had written of Putin:
I have wondered a great deal why I have so got it in for [him]. What is it that makes me dislike him so much as to feel moved to write a book about him? I am not one of his political opponents or rivals, just a woman living in Russia. Quite simply, I am a 45-year-old Muscovite who observed the Soviet Union at its most disgraceful in the 1970s and ’80s. I really don’t want to find myself back there again.
Soon after she was killed, Putin branded her an enemy of Russia. Her killers have never been brought to justice. Neither have the apartment bombers.
The man Putin installed in Chechnya after his 1999 invasion was Ramzan Kadyrov. Just after the Boston bombing, Kadyrov lashed out against the U.S., accusing it of murdering one of the terrorists for political reasons and of being responsible for his cowardly act itself. He stated on Instagram:
Today, as reported by the media, while trying to arrest a Tsarnaev was killed. It would be logical if he was detained and investigated, found all the circumstances and the degree of his guilt. Apparently, the special services needed by all means to calm the result of society. Any attempt to make the connection between Chechnya and Tsarnaevs if they are guilty, [is] in vain. They grew up in the United States, their attitudes and beliefs were formed there. It is necessary to seek the roots of evil in America.
Kadyrov’s statement was false; one of the Boston attackers made an extended trip to Chechnya just before the attack occurred. Everything he ever knew about bomb-building he may have learned in Chechnya.
As bad as the Chechen separatist guerillas are, Kadyrov is worse. A scathing editorial in the Washington Post condemned Barack Obama for failing to include Kadyrov’s name on the Magnitsky list, which bans key Russian human rights offenders from U.S. soil. The Russian government has been repeatedly convicted for acts of state-sponsored terrorism in Chechnya by the European Court of Human Rights. Chechnya is also a world leader in human trafficking offenses, and the State Department routinely finds it to be one of the world’s worst human rights offenders. Most recently, the EHCR convicted Kadyrov’s police force of kidnapping and murder.
Words as venomous as Kadyrov used can hardly give Americans any comfort that he and Putin were innocent of involvement in the Boston bombing. Both were outraged over the implementation of the Magnitsky list, however watered down, by the Obama administration. In shocking fashion, Russia imposed its own retaliatory blacklist on Americans, focusing on those involved in the arrest and prosecution of terrorist and Russian national Victor Bout, whom Russia has stood behind from the moment of his arrest by international law enforcement officers. This support of Bout, of course, does not help hearts rest easy that Russia stands with the U.S.; nor does Russian support for Iran.
The fly in the ointment, where blaming Putin for the Boston bombing is concerned, is that it appears Putin’s administration warned Obama about the bombers in 2011. Of course, that could have been more dumb luck for Putin, just evidence that the Russian left hand does not know what the right is up to. It was certainly still more good fortune for Putin that despite the warning, the bombers weren’t intercepted and were allowed instead to perpetrate a deed that served Putin’s interests so perfectly and in such a timely manner.
Russia also has much reason to be concerned about its domestic terrorists: it is hosting the Winter Olympics next year right in their midst, in the southern Russian city of Sochi. It is simply inexplicable and inexcusable that the games were awarded to Sochi given the lawlessness and unchecked terrorism that pervades Russia, to say nothing of Russia’s aggression against Georgia, its poverty, its massive infrastructure problems, and the fact that Sochi has a warm climate. Americans should not risk their lives to make Putin’s regime look good, and to hide his ghastly record of human rights atrocities.
The attack in Boston can only remind the world of the failure of Putin’s policies in Chechnya. The more tightly he has squeezed the restive republic, the more problems have flared up in surrounding areas like Dagestan, where Russian government officials are regularly murdered. And none of this changes the reality of Putin’s hatred for the United States, which is palpable in Kadyrov’s venomous words about the bombers, and in the vitriolic treachery of American defector Tim Kirby, who churns out anti-American propaganda for Russian state television. In today’s Russia, citizens can be arrested simply for taking meetings with Americans, though such hatred is hardly surprising given that Putin is a career KGB spy.
When an opinion piece in the Boston Globe concluded that the marathon bombing shows that Russia and the U.S. “may face a shared threat,” it was dead right — they sure do. His name is Vladimir Putin, and like Leonid Brezhnev before him, he is even more dangerous to the people of Russia than to Americans, whom he despises because their values directly contradict his own.