It is becoming increasingly dangerous to be a critic of Vladimir Putin, the elected dictator of Russia. That is, as KGB thugs like Putin used to say during the Soviet era, “no accident, comrade.”
The most recent authority on the subject of Putin’s increasingly ominous behavior at home and abroad to have met an unpleasant fate is Paul Joyal. He is an internationally renowned expert on the former Soviet Union who had the temerity last week to accuse the Russian government on the NBC TV program “Dateline” of murdering Alexander Litvinenko.
Litvinenko was himself a former Soviet intelligence agent who worked with and then turned against Putin. He had blamed the Putin regime for killing another Putin critic, the courageous Russian journalist, Anna Politkovskaya, in Moscow last year. Litvinenko wound up dead in London from poisoning with an exotic, highly radioactive element called Polonium 210 widely believed to have come from Russia.
Of the Litvinenko murder, Joyal told “Dateline”: “A message has been communicated to anyone who wants to speak out against the Kremlin: ‘If you do, no matter who you are, where you are, we will find you, and we will silence you – in the most horrible way possible.’” His words appear to have been eerily prophetic.
On Thursday, two unidentified men attacked Joyal in the driveway of his home, in a way seemingly meant to send its own message: By shooting him once in the groin. Thanks to quick action by his wife, a nurse, he did not bleed to death on the spot and is recovering from his wound.
Joyal did not live in Moscow, or even some other foreign capital. His home is in Adelphi, Maryland, a quiet suburban community roughly 12 miles outside Washington, D.C.
The Kremlin’s apparent willingness brazenly now to strike at its foes wherever they may be is all too reminiscent of past, ruthless measures taken by Russian and Soviet rulers to crush internal and external dissent. Unfortunately, it is but one piece of the reprise Vladimir Putin seems to have in mind for his country.
For example, as he systematically consolidates absolute power in Russia, Putin is increasingly putting the squeeze on his country’s neighbors in what the Kremlin refers to as “the near abroad.” Also in his cross-hairs are nations as far away as Western Europe. Notably, he is using threats of disruptions in Russian energy supplies and, in some cases, actual cut-offs for strategic ends.
Frank Gaffney Jr. is the founder and president of the Center for Security Policy and author of War Footing: 10 Steps America Must Take to Prevail in the War for the Free World .
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