From: Dmitry Mikheyev
Subject: Litvinenko - Personal view
Date: Wed, 29 Nov 2006
Dear Friend, here are my thoughts on the Litvinenko case, based on my personal experience.
Back in mid 1980s I was involved with the Jamestown Foundation of Washington DC that had patronized many defectors from the Soviet-bloc countries. At the time, I had been employed by the Voice of America and had been pursuing my own research project :Soviet VS American mentalities. As a failed defector and former political prisoner myself, I was patronized by the Jamestown Foundation and knew a number of defectors. Among them: a KGB major Stanislav Levchenko, MIG-25 pilot Viktor Belenko, the number two man at the United Nations Arkady Shevchenko, Polish ambassador to Britain Rurarz, former Czech intelligence officer Lawrence Martin-Bittman, and many others. I had a chance to interview several of them. My particular interest was the problems of defectors' adaptation to a radically different culture.
Back in the KGB camp, I had met and was puzzled by a number of cases when successful defectors to the West had returned to the USSR knowing too well that they would end up in the GULAG. Obviously, there was something in their mentality that was stronger than fear and ideology, and I was determined to find out what it was.
Defectors were the men of mission. Not only (did)we hate the KGB and the communist regimes, but we were the willing and active participants in the war of ideologies. All of us had led active life with speaking engagements, radio and TV interviews. The Jamestown Foundation itself operated openly, selling our stories and views. Naturally, we were mindful of possible retribution from the "long hand of Moscow", perhaps even paranoid. Yet, there was not a single proven case of attempt on anybody's life. For a powerful institution as the KGB, we were sitting ducks, yet for some reason it didn't bother to teach us a lesson or two to discourage the future Shevchenkos. The going explanation among us had been: The KGB had abandoned the practice of abducting and killing "the traitors" in the late 50s. One had to believe them, after all some of them were former agents themselves.
Now, the Litvinenko case. Is it possible that the FSB (the KGB successor) would reactivate the long abandoned practice? Hardly. Killing him for being a critic of Putin? Ridiculous, considering how many bitter and relatively well known critics are around. To revenge for the betrayal and disclosure of Moscow apartment bombings plot? But the story is totally implausible, and why wait for six years until he gets British citizenship? To sabotage his investigation of Politkovskaya's death? But it only started, what's the rush?
No matter how you look at the Litvinenko case, to me it doesn't look as an institutional affair at all.
Dmitry Mikheyev is lecturer on leadership and management at the Academy of National Economy, Moscow.