Confrontation With the West Becomes Personal for Putin—and Inescapable
by Pavel K. Baev
Last week’s (January 26) reporting in the Western media that the United States government was linking Russian President Vladimir Putin to corruption has rocked Russian domestic politics. Specifically, a recent BBC documentary carried remarks to this effect by Acting US Treasury Department Under Secretary Adam J. Szubin, who heads the Office of Intelligence and Analysis (Slon.ru, January 26). The real shock came, however, when the White House rather matter-of-factly confirmed Szubin’s stated opinion that the Russian president was personally involved in shady deals (Kommersant, January 29). Putin’s press secretary Dmitry Peskov called these allegations “unacceptable” as well as “outrageous and insulting” (RIA Novosti, January 29). While Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, in a telephone conversation with US State Secretary John Kerry, described the accusations as “fanciful and rude” and complained about a “deliberate escalation of tensions” coming from Washington (Newsru.com, January 29). The resonance of this scandal is bolstered by the fact that it exploded only a week after British judge Sir Robert M. Owen announced the conclusion of the United Kingdom’s investigation into the murder of Alexander Litvinenko, which established that Putin himself had “probably” ordered it (Ezhednevny Zhurnal, January 22).