Anne Applebaum forstår hva som skjer i Russland, og hvorfor Putin er ansvarlig. At mordene er et resultat av hans system. Amerikanske medier har viet Litvinenko-saken stor oppmerksomhet. Denne saken vil gjøre det klart for mange hva Russland har utviklet seg til. Men vil det gjøre inntrykk på Gahr Støre og Statoil, eller angrer de fortsatt på at de ikke ga russerne større innrømmelser på norsk sokkel?

And we have learned that the old KGB lives on in new guises.

Or rather — we have been reminded that the old KGB lives on in new guises, because in fact we have known this for some time. True, the old employees no longer belong to a single all-powerful institution. Some («the stupidest,» according to Oleg Gordievsky, the former double agent) have stayed with the agency, joining either the domestic service (FSB) or the foreign intelligence bureau (SVR). Others went into business, some joining the security entourages of new Russian millionaires, some becoming Russian millionaires in their own right. Still others, to put it bluntly, went into organized crime. And some — President Putin is the shining example here — went into politics.

Despite their widely varying fates, it has long been perfectly clear that many of these old comrades continue to work together in mutually profitable ways. As far back as 1999, for example, a group of Russian-born bankers was caught laundering money through a New York bank, probably using information obtained, one way or another, by Russian intelligence. Since then it has become clear that a number of Russia’s largest companies were launched with money from mysterious sources, and a number of former KGB officers have shown up at the helm of businesses and banks, too.

Of course this same mutually profitable relationship will also make it extremely difficult to find Litvinenko’s real killer. After all, this set of post-KGB relationships is nothing if not complex: There are conspiracies within conspiracies, agents of agents of agents, people who pretend to be acting on behalf of a particular oligarch or Chechen insurgent who are actually acting on behalf of someone quite different. It is possible that Litvinenko was murdered by «rogue secret policemen,» as the British press suspects. It is also possible that the «rogue secret policemen» were working for someone who worked for the Kremlin, or someone who worked for a Russian oligarch, or who worked for a Russian oligarch who worked for the Kremlin.

As the investigation progresses, I’m sure many more wonderfully shady characters will emerge, along with many theories about who was trying to discredit whom. But though it’s doubtful that he ever gave an actual order to an actual thug, Putin is certainly responsible for Litvinenko’s death in this deeper sense: He presides over this web of old intelligence operatives, indeed, sits at its center. And he approves of their methods.

One of his first acts as prime minister in 1999 was the unveiling of a plaque to Yuri Andropov, the former KGB boss best known for his harsh treatment of dissidents. Last year Russians built a statue to Andropov. No one should have been surprised that the former KGB’s harassment of modern «dissidents» grew harsher with every passing year — or that it culminated in this strange murder.

A Familiar Mystery