Newspaper accounts of the arrest of Russian diplomat Pavel Borodin at Kennedy Airport last Wednesday focus on charges of corruption. They barely refer to the real issues - Washington's desire to a) punish Mr. Borodin for encouraging close ties between Russia and a Belarus led by the independent (of Washington) President Alexander Lukashenko and to b) embarrass and destabilize Russia. The idea is, if the Russian government does not distance itself from Borodin, the Western media can smear it as corrupt. If they do desert Mr. Borodin, or if his arrest is downplayed, this may discourage others from taking actions independent of Washington. This is American diplomacy: about as subtle as an axe.
But the American media doesn't deal with these real purposes of the arrest of Mr. Borodin. Instead the media either does not cover the story at all, or talks about corruption. This is a wonderful thing. Pres. Bush told Barbara Walters the other day ("20/20", Jan. 19th) that the world needs to "raid out corruption", and I agree. But why try to start this difficult "Raiding" process thousands of miles away? Wouldn't it make sense to pioneer "corruption raiding" right at home? In the Barbara Walters interview, didn't our new President say, in no uncertain terms, that people in uncivilized countries need to "build a democracy under our--under our image"? By "raiding corruption" right here, in the US of A, wouldn't we be showing these backward types how it is done?
For example, just before leaving office in 1992, Mr. Bush's own father granted the Barrick Gold Company (in Canada) the rights to a U.S. gold mine worth $10,000,000,000 (billion). Barrick's cost: $10,000 (thousand).
"So can you guess what happened next? Right: George I then joined Barrick's board of directors, where he pocketed big money for the next seven years. And he didn't mind singing for his supper either; Barrick frequently dispatched the ex-president to meet with the bloodthirsty dictators who were his "old friends," like Indonesia's Suharto and Zaire's Mobutu Sese Seko, to rig up juicy backdoor deals for his corporate masters.
"Perhaps not incidentally, Barrick poured $148,000 into George II's campaign this year. And Daddy's dirty work as a bagman and fixer for other corporate interests has also served l'il Georgie well. For example, George I went to bat for the Mirage Casino corporation when they wanted to muscle in on some Argentina territory; this year, Mirage kicked back $449,000 to GOP coffers. Daddy G also did some highly remunerative flack work for Chevron Oil with his old friends in Kuwait; in return, Chevron pumped $657,000 into the Republican tank in 2000." ('The St. Petersburg Times,' December 12, 2000)
Nevertheless Senior Bush was not arrested at the airport.
Three Things About the Arrest of Pavel Borodin
First , Mr. Borodin is a diplomat. Is the U.S. State Department familiar with this term?
dip·lo·mat [díppl màt ] (plural dip·lo·mats) noun
1. government representative abroad: a member or employee of a government who represents his or her country in dealings with other nations
2. tactful person: somebody who is tactful and good at dealing with people
Arresting Mr. Borodin (after inviting him to the Inauguration, no less) is not diplomatic and may be seen as a provocation by Russia and Belarus. For starters it violates diplomatic procedure, arguably international law as well. This is irrelevant of whether or not Mr. Borodin was carrying his diplomatic credentials when arrested. This arrest denies diplomacy and affirms the Law of the Bully. Did we need more affirmations?
Second, it is beyond credibility that Borodin's invitation to the Ball and his subsequent arrest were not coordinated actions. Mr. Fishkin, Borodin's lawyer, commented:
'"The arrest warrant is issued on January 10th, he receives an invitation to the inauguration on January 13th and a complaint is filed in New York for his arrest on January 17th'" ('NY Times', 1-19-2001)
Mr. Fishkin remarked to the 'NY Times' reporter that this appears to be a setup. It does indeed.
Third, Mr. Borodin is the Secretary of the Russian-Belarus Union. The Clinton administration has made clear its fury at Belarus, which has had the temerity to resist neoliberal policies. Moreover, its government has not bowed down to the usual Fifth Column "civil society" groups run by Madeline Albright out of well-furnished offices at the National Endowment for Democracy (sic!). The U.S. finds this both authoritarian and anti-democratic.
The arrest of Borodin is the most sensational attack the U.S. has made on the Russian-Belarus Union. It demonstrates the continuity of U.S. foreign policy from Clinton to Bush. Having installed its puppet regime in Yugoslavia, the U.S. Establishment is now escalating the attack on the states of the former Soviet Union. Coming shortly after the death of Laurent Kabila, President of the Congo, under circumstances that strongly suggest U.S. involvement, this indicates a general escalation of U.S. interventionism around the world.
A Message from Junior Bush
In case the Russian and Belarus leaders failed to get the message delivered via Borodin's arrest - that is to say, that they were being publicly insulted by a bully, with the implicit dare: "Whatcha gonna do about that, wimp?!" - in case they failed to get the message, George W. was interviewed Friday by Barbara Walters on the ABC TV show '20/20'. Junior Bush's apparent assignment was to rub Russia's face in the dirt. I say 'apparent assignment' because he himself did not seem to be sure about that or anything else in the interview but fortunately for the diplomacy of the Free World, Walters was privy to the Humiliate-Russia plan, so she helped him out. Held him up, one might say.
The exchange went as follows:
"WALTERS: How will your foreign policy be different from Bill Clinton's?
"President-elect BUSH: We're going to make it clearer to people that our nation is not going to be a--a nation of nation builders. We'll be humble in our approach. We can't have troops going into nations and say that we're going help you. We're going to--we're going to--you're going to build a democracy under our--under our image. But if you expect capital to come into your country, you must make reforms. You must make--raid out corruption. You must...
"WALTERS: Russia. You're talking about Russia?
"President-elect BUSH: Well, I'm talking about a lot of countries.
"WALTERS: Do you consider Russia a friend or a threat?
"President-elect BUSH: I don't know yet. I hope--I hope Russia is a friend. "
Note that when Walters cues Junior Bush, saying "Russia. You're talking about Russia?" (which means "RUSSIA! YOU'RE TALKING ABOUT RUSSIA! DAMMIT!!") George doesn't get it. So Walters prompts him further: "Do you consider Russia a friend or a threat?"
Note also that Junior Bush, in the very process of attempting to humiliate Russia (by having a corrupt, incoherent American deliver a stern warning against...corruption!) sticks in the incongruous line, "We'll be humble in our approach." Amazing coming from a fellow whose handlers have just busted at the airport a Russian diplomat whom they lured to said fellow's Inauguration.
This profession of humility reminds one of Mr. Bush's oft repeated phrase, "I am going to be president of all the people, not just those who voted for me." Apparently they teach Junior Bush these phrases, and he repeats them, amiably enough, though as often happens with phrases learned by rote, not necessarily at the correct times or with exactly the right wording.
Junior Bush's inability to get things straight when he speaks in public is apparently going to be sold to us during the next, painful, four years as Charming Stupidity; thus is virtue fashioned from necessity. The same sort of feat was performed with Slick Willie, whose tendency to rub on any available leg, and to lie, was sold to us as Puppy Dog Cuteness.
Stupidity is superior in many ways to Doggieness. For one thing, it elicits the sympathy of reporters throughout the Western media, who are forced to write nonsensical stupidity which insults their intelligence or else lose their jobs. For another, it provides an excuse for almost any occasion. When in doubt, more and more folks in the Bush entourage will tell us, "Like, you know, I mean, like, I dunno." To be stupid is the ultimate stonewall.
Team of Fools
Consider the case of Vincent Zenga, whom you may refer to as Vincent the Dumb. Vincent was an official member of Junior Bush's Inauguration Team. (Everything with Junior is a Team, for reasons that ought to be apparent…) It was he who supposedly invited Pavel Borodin to the Inaugural "candlelight dinner". That is, Vincent Zenga is supposedly the reason Pavel Borodin got off that plane at Kennedy airport and thus could be nabbed by our corruption-fighters.
Mr. Zenga is described in the 'NY Times' as:
"a lawyer from West Palm Beach, Fla., who has contributed sizable sums to the Republican National Committee and to Mr. Bush's 1998 campaign for governor. "
Have you noticed that everything with the Bush family involves lots of money? Is this corruption-fighting thing some kind of psychological projection?
Zenga denied any complicity in the arrest of Mr. Borodin. "Mr. Zenga said the invitation was sent by someone in the Moscow office of one of his companies, Star Capital, " said the 'Times.' (1-19)
Mystifying, Ain't It?
In a 'Washington Post' interview, Vincent the Dumb took the line that Borodin had been invited "inadvertently".
Huh? How do you invite someone 'inadvertently'? Here's the 'Washington Post' again:
"Zenga said he was mystified about how a letter went out over his signature inviting Borodin to several exclusive events and promising not only tickets, but also 'a car with driver' and a hotel room. The Jan. 13 letter, which advised Borodin to bring his own black-tie formal clothing, included tickets to a candlelight dinner for 2,000 attended by Bush last night, and promised tickets to an inaugural ball Saturday night.
'I have no idea how it happened' said Zenga of the invitation. 'We were surprised at it too.' "
Then, rather incongruously, Vincent added: "We [were un]aware of his legal problems." ('Washington Post', January 19, 2001)
If Borodin was invited by mistake, whatever that means, what is the relevance of Zenga having been ''unaware '' of Borodin's "legal problems"? Is Vincent trying to tell us that, had he known of the legal difficulties of this man whom he neither knew nor invited to the Ball, he would not have invited him? Did somebody at CIA screw up and give this guy two contradictory cover stories? Or is he just trying to emulate his Master?
Just by the by, how can everybody in an American company that does business in Russia be unaware of Borodin's "legal problems"? Those problems have been discussed at least 308 times on Western TV and newspapers over the past year. (I counted) And if you add the very important word "Belarus" to the search, you still find 119 stories. This does not include news reports or commentaries in the Russian language media.
How does a highly successful man with a telecommunications company in Russia manage to unwittingly invite a well-known Russian leader to the Inaugural ball without knowing he has been accused of corruption?
Here is a bit more information.
"A State Department official said Borodin entered the country on a multiple-entry, combined tourist and business visa issued in 1998 for a three-year period. He had applied for a diplomatic visa in Moscow on Tuesday night, prompting the U.S. Embassy there to send an urgent request for guidance to the State Department. But there was not enough time to respond before his departure, and so Borodin used his personal passport and left his diplomatic passport behind, the State Department official said. "('Washington Post', January 19, 2001)
Why did the U.S. Embassy have to send "an urgent request for guidance" to the State Department? Obviously because they read the newspapers and therefore knew there was a Swiss warrant out for Borodin's arrest and wanted to know what they were supposed to do: give him a diplomatic visa which would rule out arresting him at Kennedy Airport or not give him a visa and risk an international incident.
Nowadays urgent requests can be delivered and answered almost instantaneously. So the outgoing State Department officials certainly had time to consult with Bush's handlers. (Of course that's a bit of a moot point since it was of course Bush's handlers who arranged to send Borodin the invitation luring him to the U.S. in the first place. But then, they did that unwittingly. Right?)
Clearly if these exalted beings wished to avoid an insulting provocation (and an apparent violation of international law - the arrest of a diplomat invited to a State function, no less) they could have issued Borodin a standard, diplomatic visa. Or they could have refused while warning him that there was a warrant out for his arrest. That they did neither suggests they were hoping Borodin would use his non-diplomatic visa (they knew he had one because the U.S. Embassy had issued it to him.)
Liars often talk too much. Note that the 'New York Times' reports that "Officials in Washington said the United States was tipped off by someone in Russia that Mr. Borodin was on a plane to New York." Given that the Embassy had sent "an urgent request for guidance", why the baloney about being "tipped off by someone" that Borodin was coming?
Note also that the Federal Judge in Brooklyn ordered Borodin held for a week without bail. Why, if the United States were not trying to insult and provoke Russia, did US officials insist the man be thrown in jail at all ?
"In Brooklyn, one of Mr. Borodin's lawyers, Raymond A. Levites, asked Judge Viktor V. Pohorelsky of the United States District Court to allow Mr. Borodin to stay at the residence of the Russian consul general while his legal problems were sorted out. He said the Russian ambassador to the United States, Yuri V. Ushakov, had offered to ensure that Mr. Borodin made his court appearances. " (NY Times, Jan. 19, 2001)
Turning down this more than reasonable request is not only an insult to the Russian Ambassador (implying his word is no better than that of, let us say, an American President); it is also a further insult to Russia and Belarus. Note that as of this writing (Tuesday AM, wee hours) Mr. Borodin remains in jail, though as of Saturday, Mr. Bush became our leader.
Our leader? As my long-dead Yiddish grandma would have said, "Oy vey is mir." That literally translates, "Oh woe is me." But it means something like, "What a world."
Recently some factually challenged fan of the US-sponsored regime in Belgrade wrote a piece arguing that Baby Bush is going to give the world a whole new enlightened foreign policy. Sure he will. And I can get you this great deal on a really nice Bridge in Brooklyn.
Junior Bush may not be able to string two words together in coherent fashion but his handlers know how to get the job done. The world is their gold mine. - JI
Postscript: Lawyers Charge Excuse for Arresting Borodin is Simply a Lie
Since posting the above article we have posted the text of a Press Conference given by one of Mr. Borodin's Russian lawyers, Genrikh Pavlovich Padva, in Moscow on Jan. 26. As even the newspapers in the U.S. have made clear, the Swiss authorities claim to want Mr. Borodin only for questioning. At his Press Conference, Mr. Padva emphatically stated that Russian authorities offered to arrange a voluntary meeting between Mr. Borodin and the appropriate Swiss authorities but that the Swiss side refused, demanding instead the extreme step of extradition. Assuming you believe Mr. Pavda, and I do, the U.S./Swiss claim that the this extraordinary arrest was necessary because Mr. Borodin refused to meet with them voluntarily is a lie.
You may read the relevant parts of the Padva Press Conference at http://emperors-clothes.com/news/bor2.htm . There is also a second, shorter interview with another of Mr. Borodin's Russian lawyers. This brief interview was conducted before Mr. Borodin's second unsuccessful attempt, on Jan. 25, to be released to house arrest. (The Russian Ambassador himself showed up at the hearing and promised to produce Mr. Borodin if he was permitted to stay with the Ambassador instead of in jail. The Federal Judge's refusal cannot be seen as an outrageous but independent judicial action since obviously if the prosecution (i.e., the U.S. government) had agreed, the Judge would not have refused the request.)
Here is the interview, conducted in New York City with Eleonora Sergeyeva, a Moscow lawyer of Pavel Borodin:
"I now have an official letter from the Prosecutor-General's Office. They issued it in response to our request - a request from the lawyers. It says that Borodin has not been invited for questioning via the Russian Prosecutor-General's Office and that the Russian Prosecutor-General's Office proposed to the Swiss authorities that Borodin be questioned and was prepared to ensure that he came. It is therefore impossible to claim that Borodin is hiding or avoiding being questioned in Switzerland..." (Russia TV, Moscow, translated by BBC Monitoring for Former Soviet Union)
Elsewhere we have posted excerpts from a Moscow Press conference (1) held by Genrikh Pavlovich Padva, a lawyer for Pavel Borodin. Mr. Borodin, a Russian diplomat and Secretary of the Russian-Belarus Union, was arrested on January 17th at Kennedy Airport in New York after he stepped off a plane from Moscow. He was on his way to the Bush Inauguration, to which he had been invited. That is, Mr. Borodin was asked by the U.S. to come to the U.S. on what amounted to an official State visit, and when he came he was arrested. This was a deliberate provocation intended to humiliate Russia, separate it from the spirited government in Belarus, and further reduce it to a colony.
We had no choice
Washington's explanation is as follows: FBI agents arrested Borodin to satisfy an arrest warrant issued by Switzerland. The Swiss police wanted (and still want) Borodin extradited to Switzerland so they can question him regarding kickbacks and subsequent money laundering that allegedly occurred when he was in charge of remodeling the Kremlin. (Note that the Swiss have not charged Borodin with any crime.)
So. The Swiss issue a warrant; Washington, which, like Justice itself, is blind, has to comply; international politics is not involved.
That's the story.
That is unbelievable.
Arresting a leader of another country, especially Russia, creates an international incident. This particular arrest, which has given the mass media the opportunity to talk endlessly about supposed Russian corruption, can only serve to smear Russia. If Washington wished to avoid an incident with such negative consequences, it had a host of remedies; it failed to employ them. This was not an oversight. It was not the result of confusion during the Clinton-Bush transition. Quite the contrary, the Clinton State Department and the Bush people worked together to guarantee Borodin's arrest.
Three days after Switzerland sent Washington a warrant for Borodin's arrest, the Bush administration invited Borodin to the Inauguration. The invitation came from one Vincent Zenga, a member of what Bush calls his 'Inauguration Team.' The notion that the invitation was issued by mistake (as Mr. Zenga now claims) is not credible. (2)
The State Department knew Mr. Borodin was coming. How can we be sure? Because Mr. Borodin requested a diplomatic visa from the U.S. Embassy in Moscow. According to the 'Washington Post' (Jan. 19th), this routine request led to "urgent" consultations between the U.S. Embassy in Moscow and the State Department. Why did the Embassy have to consult urgently with State? Because if the Embassy gave Mr. Borodin a diplomatic visa his diplomatic immunity would have been more apparent, and his arrest more questionable legally. More important, if Borodin had an official diplomatic visa and were nonetheless arrested, it would have played badly in the mass media. Ordinary people in Western countries would have wondered: how can they arrest a diplomat?
The State Department told the U.S. Embassy in Moscow to stall, neither to issue Borodin a diplomatic visa nor to urge him to stay home. Mr. Borodin didn't want to miss his plane, so he left Moscow, using a previously issued standard American visa.
An arrest complaint against Mr. Borodin was then filed in Brooklyn Federal Court. This was on the morning of Jan. 17th, while Mr. Borodin's plane was in the air. When he landed at Kennedy International, he was arrested.
A Russian official commented:
"The Americans didn't do during the first stage what they could have done in principle."... "In particular, they could have given a signal that Borodin shouldn't go to the United States. Finally, they didn't have to make a scene and flood the arrivals lounge with FBI agents, but could have put Borodin back on the plane he had arrived on and sent him back home." (Unnamed Russian official quoted by Interfax Russian News, January 29, 2001)
Alexander Fishkin, a N.Y. lawyer for Mr. Borodin, observed:
"The warrant for his arrest was issued in Switzerland on January 10. He was sent an invitation to inauguration festivities on January 13. Borodin himself told me he did not know until January 15 whether he would fly to America or not. It took him quite long to get all the approvals for his trip. In the morning of January 17 when he was still in the air an appeal was submitted to the Federal Court in Brooklyn for the issue of an American warrant for his arrest. The appeal stated the date and time of his arrival and even the number of his foreign passport. The request was immediately satisfied and in the evening the State Secretary was taken into custody," Fishkin said. " ('Interfax Russian News', January 23, 2001)
If any question remained that this was a deliberate attempt to humiliate Russia by accusing it of out-of-control corruption, President-elect Bush tried to make things clear. He was interviewed on '20/20' by Barbara Walters two days after the arrest. In that interview, with the assistance of Ms. Walters, Bush attempted to lecture Russia and other emerging colonies about the importance of "raiding out corruption." (3)
The Swiss Refuse to Accept a Voluntary Meeting
As we noted, the Swiss authorities say they issued the warrant because they needed to question Mr. Borodin regarding supposed money laundering. But according to Mr. Borodin's Russian lawyer, the Russian government previously offered to have Mr. Borodin meet voluntarily with Swiss officials. (4) The Swiss rejected a voluntary meeting. They insisted Borodin be extradited - that is, taken to Switzerland by force. The Swiss have admitted this is true:
[Swiss Prosecutor Bertossa said:] "Yes, an offer of that kind did indeed reach us. We analysed it closely and reached the conclusion that the Russian Government had no legal instruments for ensuring that voluntary appearance." (Izvestiya, Moscow, Jan. 26, 2001)
This is double-talk. What could the Swiss possibly have lost by agreeing to the Russian offer? If Mr. Borodin did not meet with them, they could simply have issued the warrant. Why turn down a Russian offer to have Borodin meet with them and then issue an arrest warrant to force Borodin to - meet with them?
Arresting Borodin could only increase international tensions. Why do it? Unless of course Switzerland and Washington wanted to increase international tensions.
What could Switzerland, that is Washington, have hoped to achieve by having a slew of FBI agents swoop down on a Russian diplomat on his way to an official U.S. State event?
For one thing, they wanted to intimidate the countries of the Former Soviet Union, and in particular they hoped to drive a wedge between Russia and Belarus, which is led by the independent (from Washington) President Alexander Lukashenko. Mr. Lukashenko is currently a focus of demonization. Originating in Washington, London and Berlin, this demonization has been taken up by the mass media and is being parroted by the usual parrots, including some birds on the Left. Lukashenko is authoritarian; he is crazy; and so on. Yes, Lukashenko is crazy enough to resist Washington's neoliberal economic policies, with the result that working people in Belarus are better off than working people in other parts of the Former Soviet Union.
Some may wonder why we are devoting space to this arrest. Isn't it a relatively minor incident? No, it is not a relatively minor incident. It is an important message, delivered by the United States Establishment to the politicians and ordinary people of the Former Soviet Union. The message is as follows: We are the rulers, you the ruled. Since you are incapable of functioning in an honest, democratic fashion, you must learn humility and let us control and guide you. However, those who resist may be arrested, or possibly shot.
How big-hearted of Washington and Switzerland to guide the backward Soviet people.
The Senior guide is, of course, Washington. It has experience and money. It presently guides millions of people directly or through proxies on every continent, for instance the KLA in Kosovo, the Djindjic government in Belgrade as well as similar governments in Albania, Bulgaria and so on, the Ugandan and Rwandan armies in Congo, the Colombian death squads as well as the regular Colombian Army, the grisly Islamist secessionists in the Former Soviet Union and similar types in Algeria, Indonesia, etc. It is true that virtually all these proxies are gangsters involved in drug trafficking and money laundering, but the U.S. is involved as well and therefore one cannot properly speak of corruption.
Switzerland is new to the business of Colonial Guidance; hence it is a Junior Guide. In the past it disdained such work, preferring to operate from on high, handling money matters for 'people' like the Nazis and investing profitably in war. But Washington has humbled Switzerland and made it part of the team. Perhaps Mr. Bush will call this the "Guidance Team", assigned to putting new colonies (like Russia) in their place. Since Switzerland is just a Junior Guide it is only natural that Switzerland be given Junior tasks, such as issuing arrest warrants that force Washington to arrest people whom Washington wishes to arrest.
The legal (or should we say, illegal) attack on Mr. Borodin will be accompanied by endless discussions in the Western mass media concerning Russian corruption. The goal of such discussions is to condition public opinion to view Russia with contempt, thus creating an atmosphere that facilitates new aggressions in the financial and military spheres, new attacks on the people of the former Soviet Union.
Why has Washington chosen this time to increase the attacks on Russia? Not because the U.S. Establishment has a new facade in Washington but rather because it has installed a reliable government in Belgrade. As always, the precondition for attacking Russia is defeating Yugoslavia.
But are the Serbs truly defeated? They have been underestimated before. Hitler underestimated them, much to his regret. For that matter, the Russians have been underestimated too.
Perhaps history is not over. Let's not give up on her, yet.
(Jared Israel, February 1, 2001)