Wednesday, November 29, 2006

So they found polonium on planes ... what else?

Late word today was that Polonium-210, the rare element (remember, it's #84 on the periodic table) that killed Alexander Litvinenko, was found on two British Airways planes. This raises the spectre that it was in fact imported illicitly into the UK for the purposes of getting rid of those working against Vladimir Putin from abroad.

Not sure what to make of it, but the fact is that the bi-partisan Freedom House downgraded Russia to a "not free" country quite some time ago, in the same class as Zimbabwe and most Arab states. It just makes me wonder what the Russian Government is trying to prove by endangering the lives of civilians like that, let alone committing murder. It's not like they haven't been up to no good before. From 1962 to 1979, the Soviets beamed what became known the "Moscow Signal" at the US Embassy at levels of radiation far below what the Politburo deemed safe (which, it should be pointed out, was a standard that was also 10,000 times safer than the US safe level) but it was a deliberate attempt to spy on the US Ambassador. At least two, maybe three, who served in Moscow later died from cancer in an operation that might be more commonly known as Project Pandora.

And pretty much every Canadian knows who Igor Guzenko was. His bombshell revelation that the Soviets had been spying on the West for years, even before World War II, sparked the Cold War. Legend has it that the Canadians, worried about having the identity of his family leaked, ran his 1982 funeral down a major expressway so no one could catch them. Even now, spies are regularly rounded up although now the concern isn't so much government intelligence as it is technology transfers of our top corporations.

It's not like our hands are clean either, but at least we're trying to promote a sense of democracy and goodwill. Speaking truth to power is counter to everything Putin believes in. The jig may be up, and I'm wondering if the current detente will degenerate into a new round of sniping and high tensions. Given the situation in the Middle East, we actually need Russia on our side but alienating us won't do anyone any good.

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