Russia is implicated in a big way in the Atlantic Council’s “Bang On! The U.S. Takes A Look At ISIS.” Russia, the Center writes, is an obvious suspect in the recent explosions at Brussels’ Zaventem airport and subway station. “Leading investigators have offered several plausible scenarios and we believe that Russia is not only responsible for these horrific attacks, but rather has more involvement than many think.”
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PS I will be right here after the (part-time) stop at the London Fashion Festival (this post may have a feature after the fab show).
Re: the Atlantic Council, the best feature at the Atlantic Council is Atlantic Traveler’s vertical of provocative travel articles. Remember last year’s Roads to Nijmegen? I, for one, find the Atlantic Council too hawkish on Russia; our former editor, David Lasky, pointed out to me that the Atlantic Council, though organized as a lobby, even it is a bit too European in its nationalism. And it is too thin on populist polemic. Still, I am very pleased with the casual hunker-down toward Russia that the Atlantic Council has launched.
The Atlantic Council’s goal, the very prominent symbol of it, is to provide “a bridge of strength and shared purpose” to guide America and Europe through the current tumultuous period. Simply put, in a challenging world, Americans need the EU to respond better to the Putin challenge. The Council argues that Europe’s insistence on unity is a mistaken strategic stance. Transcendent’s Paris and Brussels HQs (conveniently open to a European Common Foreign and Security Policy meeting of EU foreign ministers taking place this week) drive the point home.
So far, so good. Americans might be more receptive to this thrust toward transatlantic cooperation if Washington has a firmer grasp of the conflict inside Russia. That is where Washington has been weak. The most egregious example of a failure to grasp the Russian challenge so far, from my point of view, was the reckless blunder by the Clinton White House in 1996. In October that year, a nineteen-year-old student at a Dutch university called Paul Kruger bought a loose pistol in Moscow. Thereafter, he used the firearm to shoot and wound fifteen people at several designated targets, including two journalists (there were also few Russians in the early figures in the list, perhaps at the insistence of the Russians themselves, so there was a rising risk of a vicious reprisal), thirty-eight schoolchildren, three British diplomats, and finally President Boris Yeltsin, who stood in a line waiting to buy the now infamous military relic.
The product for which Mr. Kruger was most happy to buy was, not surprisingly, the much-loathed AK-47 assault rifle. That killing machine currently takes its place beside the bald eagle as the American choice for unofficial patriotdom.
But although the economic origins of the Russian Nationalist Movement, which Paul Kruger later belonged to, are thoroughly documented in the Netherlands, by 1990 the organization had itself been established as part of a similar movement from Poland, and had both become targets of both the Kremlin and the Polish authorities.
The problem was not too casual Russian imperialism, or even the guiding sentiments of a nationalistic ideology. The problem was simply that Mr. Kruger, who had very deliberately become a “foreigner” in 1991, had become a political liability. The failure of Russia to accept him as a much-needed counterweight to Russia’s elites would become just one of many foundational characteristics that would distinguish “Russia’s unique culture” from “Western civilization.”