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Putin's swamp

Shadow state. Murder, Mayhem, and Russia's Remaking of the West
Forfatter: Luke Harding
Forlag: HarperCollins, (UK)
RUSSIA / It is a type of crime that has merged with political misrule to a level where democracies are threatened in their foundations.

"Do you know what Trump is doing? He washes Putin's ass. He does too little Vladi that little Vladi can not do himself: piss on European unity, piss on human rights, piss on NATO. Assures us that Crimea and Ukraine belong to the Holy Russian Empire. "
John le Carré, from Agent running in the field (2019)

There is not much, one might think, that separates a spy thriller significantly from life otherwise, apart from a few actual details. As the thriller genre, professional espionage has followed the general modernization of society. Spies no longer hide in dark alleys with a high coat collar. They wear jeans and a backpack, speak a foreign language fluently and get on buses and trains when they are out to kill. Like Anatoly Chepiga and Alexander Mishkin, when they went to the small English town of Salisbury to eliminate former double agent Sergei Skripal. The mission came from GRU [now GU, editor's note], the most powerful and secretive of Russia's intelligence agencies. The FSB, the KGB's successor, handles domestic affairs, while the GRU works internationally, with a universal destruction mandate.


However, modernization and cyber warfare, trolling and "phishing" tricks can not prevent the occasional failure. Admittedly, Tsjepiga and Mishkin succeeded in poisoning Skripal and his daughter by using the now famous neurotoxin novitsjok. They walked to the front door of the house where the victim lived, and sprayed the door handle with poison from a perfume bottle. Just that no one died completely this time (either). Moreover, the killer duo were so unlucky to be effectively investigated, then so unwise, that they demonstrated their media helplessness in an interview on Russian television – where they described their two-day "tourist trip" to the "magnificent" city of Salisbury, with its beautiful church spire. The purpose of the TV appearance was to demonstrate the agents` innocence. Instead, they were ridiculed, and 153 Russian diplomats were expelled from the EU.

Analogous crimes

Such analogous crimes now take place in a digital environment, with open source Innovation. The identity of Skripal's assassins was revealed not least through Bellingcat, an online investigation team. It uses the internet effectively to gather information about crime on a global basis and has, among other things, contributed to the investigation of Alexei Navalny's poisoning.

It was as if Putin had put in a judo grip and used the opponent's weight against him.

It is a type of crime that has merged with political misrule to a level where democracies are threatened in their foundations. IN Shadow state. Murder, Mayhem and Russia's remaking of the Westthe author Luke Harding, known among other things for the books The Snowdon Filesog collusion, launches a frontal attack on Putin's Russia and on all his allies in Europe and the United States. Through meticulous investigations, he reveals how Russian spies helped Trump into the White House, how they supported Brexit, and how Kremlin policy aims to corrupt, threaten and destroy.

The reader follows the events closely. Harding was a correspondent for The Guardian in Moscow for four years, until he was deported. The book's main points revolve around Putin's criminal power apparatus, actions in Ukraine, blackening of Hillary Clinton through manipulative cyber attacks, his involvement in the attempts to weaken Joe Biden ahead of the 2020 presidential election, and the Mueller report.

What does Putin have on Trump?

Why did Putin support Trump? The author's answer: because he realized early on that Trump was a perfect asset; a Putin ace, a political illiterate at the top of the pyramid of power in the hated West that he could push around in favor of his own shadow state. The big question, which to this day remains unanswered: What exactly does Putin have on Trump? The former president does not hesitate to step on others when it suits him, but Putin has treated him like the princess on a pea.

Tsjepiga And Mishkin, Concerning The Skripal Affair

Rumors have abounded. About compromising incidents in Moscow, bribes, meetings that Trump wants it to never take place. Some of the rumors found their way to the courtroom, through a lawyer, a Mr. Cohen, in the service of the 45th President of the United States. Silently, the FBI had revealed Cohen's attempt to hide the boss's dirty affairs. The man then walked through the valley of humiliation, all the way to prison. Trump called the lawyer and encouraged him to "be strong" and persevere. Instead, Cohen fell apart. He pleaded guilty to following Trump's instructions – using election campaign resources and paying prostitutes hush-money. He also admitted to lying to Congress about Trump's hotel project in Moscow. He had stolen tax money worth more than $ 1,3million. On behalf of a man he in court called "racist, a swindler and a cheater."

Harding takes us to Helsinki in 2018, where we get a vivid picture of just how scared Trump was of Putin. This is their first meeting, agenda unknown. Press present. That same morning, Trump had tweeted that the bad relations with Russia were due to "American stupidity" – with reference to the Mueller report. Then the two presidents disappeared. For over two hours. Total secrecy. No one could make notes. When they reappeared, an observer remarked: "Trump seemed drained of energy, downcast, almost confused, jacket waiving in the wind. He stared restlessly down at the floor. It was as if Putin had put in a judo grip and used his opponent's weight against him. " Finally, Trump is put to a decisive test, asked for a comment regarding Russia's involvement in the US election campaign in 2016. Trump: "I have President Putin here. He just said it was not Russia. I want to say the following: I see no reason why it was them."

Naivety without innocence

Luke Hardings

Luke Harding's message extends beyond describing matters we know in part, albeit not in a similar wealth of detail. He also does not try to absolve American Democrats of their own weaknesses or underestimate British voters' responsibility for Brexit. Instead, he puts Western societies in front of the mirror. There we see a continuous swamp of ineptitude, greed and corruption among decision makers of many kinds – politicians, diplomats, lawyers, business people. We also see a naivety without innocence.

"Vladis" merit list is long: poisoning of Skripal and Navalny. We have also not forgotten Alexander Litvinenko, who died after being exposed to the radioactive substance polonium-210. He was then investigating the murder of Putin-critical journalist Anna Politkovskaya. Further: espionage 2016 in favor of Trump; a murder in a park in Berlin; the invasion of neighbors and the theft of Crimea.

This swamp is systemic and has promoted despots everywhere. It does not dry up automatically when the people at the top are gone. But we do have tools to drain with. We just have to use them.

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Ranveig Eckhoff
Eckhoff is a regular reviewer for Ny Tid.

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