I have found Ambassador Jack Matlock to be an invaluable source of contrarian information on modern-day Russia, and have quoted him here a number of times.* Having served as Ronald Reagan’s Ambassador to Moscow, “When Jack Matlock speaks, people should listen.” Unfortunately few do because the major media rarely cover news which conflicts with the prevailing narrative that Putin is guilty until proven innocent, no matter what the crime. That kind of group think got us into both the Vietnam War and the Iraq War. It’s time we started questioning our assumptions before getting caught up, yet again, in what could become a drumbeat to war with a nation that possesses thousands of nuclear weapons. As part of that process of becoming more informed and more objective, I highly recommend Ambassador Matlock’s latest post “Is Nemtsov’s Murder a Replay of Kirov’s?“
Boris Nemtsov, of course, is the opposition politician who was gunned down in cold blood last Friday within sight of the Kremlin. Here are some key excerpts from Ambassador Matlock’s post:
Responding to the shock of the gang-style execution of Nemtsov in Moscow, Duma Deputy [and Putin critic] Ilya Ponomarev, speaking at Tufts University yesterday, said that it reminded him of the Kirov assassination [which Stalin had secretly ordered, and then used as an excuse to purge his own political opponents] …
Many persons at the Tufts symposium assumed, upon hearing the shocking news, that Putin himself ordered the assassination and did so as a stern warning to other would-be oppositionists. This was a natural reaction for anyone who assumes that Putin exercises the sort of total control of Russia that Stalin once did of the Soviet Union. It identifies a motivation that cannot be dismissed out of hand.
Still, there is something missing in that knee-jerk reaction. Isn’t it a goal of any authoritarian government to persuade the people it governs that it is in complete control? Does not much support of authoritarian governments come from the belief that they provide order and security? One of the reasons the Putin regime has sustained its popularity is that it brought order to the chaos of the 1990s. A contract killing of a prominent person within the shadow of the Kremlin does not comport with the image of a government in complete control.
I have received privately an analysis of the situation by an observer of the Russian scene who was in Moscow last week. I found the observations important and have been given permission to share them here.
See Ambassador Matlock’s full article for what his source said, but the first sentence summarizes his conclusion, “I do not think Putin was behind this.” He then goes on to explain why he believes that. Of course, he may be wrong and Putin may be guilty of this murder, but we need to consider all perspectives before jumping to conclusions.
For a nation that prides itself on “innocent until proven guilty,” we have done a particularly poor job with respect to perceived enemies, such as Vietnam in the 1960s, Iraq in 2003, and Russia in the last few years. If you agree that a more objective, less biased approach is needed to prevent needless wars, with their attendant needless nuclear risk, please share this article with others. Thank you.
* To find my other posts which mention Ambassador Matlock, type Matlock in the SEARCH box at the upper right.