Home Australia EDWARD LUCAS: Is it time to help Ukraine assassinate Vladimir Putin?

EDWARD LUCAS: Is it time to help Ukraine assassinate Vladimir Putin?

by Elijah
0 comment
Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny died while being held in a prison about 40 kilometers north of the Arctic Circle, where he had been sentenced to 19 years in prison.

The shameful murder of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, which his widow Yulia believes was committed with the nerve agent Novichok, raises an immediate question.

What is the best way for the West to retaliate?

Foreign Secretary David Cameron warned the Kremlin that there will be “consequences”, adding: “We did not announce them in advance.”

Putin suspects that this is bluster and that the West will do virtually nothing. I’m afraid you’re right. He has watched us stand by as he devastated Chechnya, bullied Estonia, invaded Georgia, annexed Crimea, and propped up a fascist dictatorship in Syria.

Even when President Assad gassed his own people with the connivance of the Russians, we did nothing but wring our hands.

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny died while being held in a prison about 40 kilometers north of the Arctic Circle, where he had been sentenced to 19 years in prison.

1708415533 518 EDWARD LUCAS Is it time to help Ukraine assassinate Vladimir

“Many would say that Putin’s assassination of Navalny, the assassinations of other opponents and his warmongering have made him a legitimate target,” says Edward Lucas.

Yes, the West has supplied Ukraine with billions of dollars worth of weapons, material and training since the dictator’s full-scale invasion almost two years ago, but war fatigue is beginning to take hold. Greater Western support hangs in the balance, mostly thanks to partisan gridlock in Washington DC.

And yet, if the Kremlin gangster believes that we can do nothing to respond to this disgusting murder, he is deeply mistaken. On the one hand, if Navalny’s death means anything, it should be to galvanize support for Ukraine.

After all, no other credible force opposes the Russian dictator: only that brave and tenacious army fighting against overwhelming odds.

The Ukrainians have amazed the world with their tenacity, but, increasingly abandoned by the West, they are (it pains me to say) in danger of losing this war. To a large extent, that is our fault. They asked us, again and again, for weapons. We doubted and shuddered.

President Zelensky and his people urgently need Western artillery shells to repel the invaders, as well as long-range missiles to cripple the Kremlin’s war machine. We must supply them immediately.

But in addition to propping up Ukraine, we can do much more to directly hurt Putin, first of all in his pocket.

The time has come for the West to seize the Russian Central Bank’s frozen assets abroad – valued at $300 billion.

About two-thirds of this profit is held at Euroclear, a “deposit warehouse” based in Belgium. Russian state assets include cash and government bonds denominated in euros, dollars and other currencies.

Central bank assets are normally protected by international law. Confiscating them could make countries like China or Saudi Arabia panic and shift their assets from pounds, euros or dollars, threatening in turn to destabilize global finances.

However, legal niceties and economic issues should not be top priorities when dealing with rogue states. While the obstacles to adopting this course of action can be overwhelming, they can be overcome.

Third, it has become commonplace to say that Western sanctions are not working in Russia. Moscow’s elite do find it more difficult to travel abroad (although Russian voices can still be heard in the shopping malls of Dubai and on the beaches of Turkey).

But the Kremlin can still sell much of its vast mineral wealth, including coal, oil and gas, on the global market.

Until this trade is stopped, any sanctions will have no force.

Cutting off the tentacles of the Kremlin’s economic octopus will hurt Putin personally and stoke tensions within his inner circle. It would also provide a war fund for Ukraine’s fighting and eventual reconstruction.

Fourth, we should be much tougher on Putin’s international “enablers”: the bankers, lawyers, accountants, spies, scoundrels and crooks who undermine Western sanctions.

These include oil traders in the United Arab Emirates, speculators in offshore financial jurisdictions in the Caribbean, those who create shell companies and trusts that hide ownership, and middlemen who allow Russia to negotiate with other rogue states such as Venezuela. Myanmar and African dictatorships.

To their shame, many of these people are British and should face criminal sanctions for helping Putin.

Those from all countries should face visa bans when attempting to travel to other Western countries. US passport holders would find that they cannot visit Britain, and vice versa. Europe could also add sanctions.

Which brings me to one last possible course of action, perhaps the most extravagant. Many would say that Putin’s assassination of Navalny, the assassinations of other opponents and his warmongering have made him a legitimate target.

To put it plainly: Is it time to help Ukraine assassinate the Russian dictator?

kyiv’s drone strikes on Moscow buildings last year showed that President Zelensky is prepared to point out targets within the Russian government complex. It is reasonable to assume that if it is possible for a top team of assassins to eliminate their country’s torturer, they will try.

Many would expect our intelligence agencies to give them the support they need, arguing that the Russians have played a lethally tough game. Now they must play by their own rules.

Of course, Putin’s assassination would be fraught with difficulties. He is known for using doubles: ensuring that the true despot-in-chief was killed would be no easy task.

The most important thing is that Putin is just a man. Our real problem is Russian imperialism. That predates him and will outlive him. This is the real disaster, and one of us caused it.

On Sunday, former President Dmitry Medvedev, vice chairman of Russia’s security council, threatened nuclear retaliation against the United Kingdom, Germany and the United States if the Kremlin’s occupying army is expelled from eastern Ukraine.

“Attempts to restore Russia’s 1991 borders will lead to only one thing: a global war with Western countries using our entire strategic arsenal against kyiv, Berlin, London and Washington,” he ranted.

This apocalyptic threat is due to Western weakness, not only in relation to Ukraine, but also in three decades of greed and complacency as Russia moved from communism to gangsterism.

From the early 1990s until almost two years ago, I and others were patronized and belittled for warning that, although Russia was weak after the collapse of the Soviet Union, it was not friendly.

As a result, the West systematically underestimated military and other threats from Moscow and failed to prepare for a changing world. We now have aircraft carriers that are not seaworthy, warships that lack sufficient crews, fighter planes without pilots, and regiments without enough soldiers.

Our reserves of spare parts and ammunition are so limited that, a week or two after a war broke out, our frontline forces would be reduced to fixing bayonets.

The situation has striking parallels with that of 1938. But the difference shortly before the outbreak of the Second World War was that a Spitfire could be built from scratch in weeks. Acquiring today’s high-tech weapons can take years.

We must face a new world. The US security guarantee for Europe that began with D-Day and the Berlin airlift is dead. The grim truth is that we can no longer trust Americans to protect us, even before, as is likely, Trump returns to the White House.

Our European allies, meanwhile, are hopelessly divided between those who will fight at all costs, those who will not fight under any circumstances, and a confused middle that doesn’t know what it thinks.

This may be the time for Britain to take the reins of Europe and take our place at the center of the continent’s security.

We must do everything we can to address Putin directly, and not hesitate to do so.

Edward Lucas is the author of The New Cold War: Putin’s Threat to Russia and the West.

You may also like