Staunton, February 20 – In the classic film about Watergate, All the President’s Men, Deep Throat warns that in unmasking a conspiracy, it is important not to go too fast but rather to build from the outer rings into the center. Otherwise, the conspirators will feel protected, and the possibility that anything will be done to those really responsible is diminished.
And while it is just as obvious now to those with eyes to see that Vladimir Putin has orchestrated the attack on Ukraine and Ukrainians as it was that Richard Nixon organized the break-in and cover-up, it is important to build the case against the Kremlin leader in the same way as it was built against the disgraced American president.
That is now happening.
Valentin Nalivaychenko, the head of the Ukrainian intelligence service, said last night that his officers had statements from those suspected of shooting Ukrainian demonstrators during the Maidan were being directed by Vladislav Surkov, Putin’s closest aide. (See here and here.)
In addition, Dmitry Muratov, the editor of Novaya Gazeta, said on Ekho Moskvy that his paper now has in its possession a document which confirmed that “the plan of war in Ukraine was developed in the administration of the president of Russia,” that is, by Putin’s entourage.
The “document shows, Muratov said, that this plan was developed in the Kremlin between February 4 and February 15 of last year, that is before Viktor Yanukovych fled from Kyiv. And it specifies that Russia must intervene in Ukraine lest it lose control of gas pipelines and a major market.
The Kremlin document specifies that Moscow should exploit “the centrifugal strivings of various regions” of Ukraine “with the goal of initiating in one form or another the unification of its eastern regions to Russia.” First among these, the document says, according to Muratov, should be Crimea and Kharkiv.
And the Kremlin plan also outlines Russia’s diplomatic strategy. Moscow must insist on talks to “resolve the crisis,” even though it will have been the source of the problem. Moscow must “demand federalization or even confederalization” of Ukraine to block pro-Western groups in that country.
Then, the document says, Crimea and other portions of southeastern Ukraine must then be integrated into the Moscow-dominated customs union and the last step must be their “unification” with Russia, because Russia, its diplomats will argue, “is the only guarantor of economic development and social stability.”
At the very least, these developments in the latest “case” should become the occasion for a dramatic expansion in the list of Russian officials who should be prevented from travelling to Western countries. But more than that, it should be the end of those who try to present Putin as an innocent as far as Ukraine is concerned.
As the Watergate case showed 40 years ago, Putin will still have his defenders much as Nixon did his. But the noose is tightening, and it is long past time to recognize that Putin is guilty as charged whatever his supporters say and that like Nixon he must be stopped before he does any more damage.