Since his days in Dresden as ‘middle KGB officer‘, Western scientists and businessmen potentially honey-trapping with prostitutes at the Bellevue Hotel, Putin has been a master of deception.
This is not to say that Mr. Putin was engaged in the above operations, but as Fiona Hill and Clifford Gaddy write in their book, Mr. Putin: Agent in the Kremlin“Not only is it likely that Putin engaged in some or all of these activities, it is virtually inconceivable that he did not.”
Upon his return to Russia after the collapse of the Soviet Union, he continued to exercise his Machiavellian streak in St. Petersburg where his role in the mayor’s office gave him the power to grab some of the wealth out of town for himself, his former KGB colleagues. , and criminal affiliates.
The oil-for-food program set up to reduce the depth of poverty in St. Petersburg in the early 1990s allowed the city to import desperately needed food in exchange for raw materials. Many of the hundreds of millions of dollars of contracts were awarded to foreign-based KGB front companies. Very little food was ever received in exchange for vast shipments of exported raw materials and minerals.
A contract overseen by Putin sold 13,997 kg of rare earth metals for two thousand times less than their market value to a company that had been created just two months before, which allowed him to make huge profits when they are sold on the world market. This state money that was washed through shell companies with Putin’s full knowledge resulted in a slush fund designed to enrich Putin and his KGB and criminal affiliates. Putin’s deception in stealing public funds led to his luxury holiday resort, the Ozero Dacha Cooperative built on the shores of Lake Komsomolskoye.
In the run-up to the 2000 presidential election after Boris Yeltsin resigned, Putin and his cronies sought to secure electoral victory by any means necessary in another case of sheer betrayal and this time brutality. When two explosions tore through apartment buildings in Moscow, killing 213 people, Putin was quick to blame Chechen terrorists despite a lack of evidence. When an FSB colonel, Mikhail Trepashkin, sought to investigate the bombings, he was tried and sentenced to four years in military prison after telling a reporter he recognized an eyewitness sketch of a suspect as an FSB agent.
Shortly after, another bomb containing hexogen was discovered in a basement in Ryazin, a town not far from Moscow, after residents reported suspicious activity. The FSB later said it was simply a security exercise with the sacks full of sugar, although it seems plausible the bombing was called off and the authorities scrambled to avoid the scandal. not be revealed.
Putin used the attacks as a premise to mount the Second Chechen War which galvanized him as a strong leader and led to his presidential success in 2000. Staging an attack under false pretences was a historic move by the KGB, used in Hungary in 1956, Czechoslovakia in 1968 and Afghanistan in 1979 to justify Soviet intervention. Moreover, Alexander Litvinenko, a former FSB agent, was so convinced that the state was the perpetrator of the bombings that he published the book Blowing up Russia: Terror from Within who detailed his accusations and likely contributed to his assassination in 2006. Journalists who attempted to investigate the bombings were also killed, including Artyom Borovik and Anna Politkovskaya.
Gas leaks in September from the Nord Stream 1 and 2 gas pipelines, facilities owned by Russian state gas company Gazprom, were widely seen as an act of sabotage. Against the backdrop of the pervasive malevolent behavior of the Russian ruling elite; including the siphoning off of state money to conceal funds for Putin and the Silovikis, and the likely murder of swathes of Russian citizens in KGB false flag operations for election purposes, it is not hard to imagine the self-sabotage of infrastructure financed by Russia for strategic purposes. Although it seems counterintuitive, no gas was being transported through either pipeline to Europe due to the supply shutdown and in the long run Europe will go weaned off gas Russian, which will make the North stream redundant infrastructure.
It was envisaged that the influence of Europe as the largest consumer/market for Russian gas could be used to bring Putin to the negotiating table. Blowing up the Nord Stream signifies Putin’s intention to see the war through to the end, as simply cutting off the supply suggests that with enough incentive could see the supply start up again. Domestically, sabotaging infrastructure consolidates Putin’s power and reduces the threat of a coup. Would-be plotters eager to restore the trade relations that have enriched sections of the Russian elite have seen their greatest incentive to eliminate Putin defeated. Without the infrastructure necessary to restore trade and functional trade relations, few economic gains can be made from the elimination of Putin.
Sweden and Finland recently applied to join NATO, with Denmark voting to participate in EU security policy meetings for the first time in 30 years. Detonating the Nord Stream charges in the Baltic Sea, so close to Danish territorial waters, shows Putin’s credible threat to peace in the Baltic and could temper the early membership of the Baltic and Nordic countries in NATO and the EU security policy group. Additionally, a day after the explosions, the new Baltic Gas Pipeline was opened, carrying gas from the Norwegian Shelf, through Denmark and into Poland. The Nord Stream sabotage could signal Putin’s intention to embrace infrastructure targeting as Europe races to avoid national recessions created by high energy prices.
It seems entirely possible, then, that an administration populated by ex-KGB servicemen who have diverted state money to private slush funds and potentially killed Russian citizens for election purposes is planning to sabotage its own infrastructure at strategic purposes.
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