Competing to sell the rope

What’s a top Republican strategist doing giving aid and comfort to the KGB?
Why, making money, of course. You got a problem with it?

Vladimir Putin, having re-established tyranny in Russia, is doing his best to grab control of as many of the pieces of the former Soviet Union as he can. His agent in Ukraine is Viktor Yanukovich. You’ll recall that Yanukovich’s opponent in the presidential election was poisoned, almost certainly by agents of the KGB (or FSB, as it now calls itself); Russia has refused to cooperate in the investigation. Yanukovich, planning to claim election fraud after his likely defeat in the current parliamentary elections, has had his thugs pre-emptively occupy the streets of Kiev.

Paul Manafort, Republican campaign consultant (he worked for the GWB campaign in 2000, and his partner is now running what’s left of the McCain campaign) has been helping Yanukovich. Do you think any reporter is going to ask Manafort’s American clients what they think of his disloyalty to the cause of democracy and his attempt to achieve a defeat for American foreign policy and a victory for the KGB? Neither do I.

Update Looks as if it didn’t work; Yushenko and Tymoshenko (with, or despite, the help of Democratic pollster Stan Greenburg) seem to have eked out a bare majority in the parliament.

Second update A reader points out that the above is over-simple:

It seems to me that to call Yanukovich Putin’s agent is a bit unfair – my impression has always been that Yanukovich is the agent of various oligarchs in Eastern Ukraine, most prominently Rinat Akhmetov. While Yanukovich can be expected to be friendly with Putin, I’m not sure that he would exactly be in Putin’s pocket (I doubt that business interests in Eastern Ukraine want to be reabsorbed by Russia and have to share the wealth with Moscow). However, it is not really strange for people from Eastern Ukraine to want close relations with Russia – there are strong economic and cultural ties and many people have family in Russia. Moreover, it is not crazy for people in Russian speaking areas to resent official imposition of Ukrainian even in areas in which almost nobody speaks it (such as Crimea).

Fair enough. No doubt Yanukovich isn’t merely Putin’s agent, and no doubt Russian-speaking Ukrainians have legitimate beefs. (So, for that matter, did the Sudetendeutsch: history is more tragedy than melodrama).

But it seems to me that when the FSB poisoned Yanukovich’s opponent and he did nothing about it, and when the Russians continue to stonewall the investigation of that poisoning and Yanukovich says nothing about it, it’s not unfair to label him Putin’s candidate: not necessarily Putin’s favorite, but the one Putin wants to win.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com