The practice of conducting abhorrent deeds via cryptic methods and often undiscoverable functionaries has become a hallmark of the Russian Federation’s policy. The true operative term here is plausible deniability, enhanced by disinformation campaigns, hoping to leave the West as an impotent nonparticipant, unable to thoroughly adjudge and react to Russian culpability. The world has become painfully aware of this stratagem.
Sergei Skripal, a longtime former Russian military intelligence (GRU) officer who acted as a double agent for the UK's intelligence services, was sentenced for high treason to 13 years in 2006. He eventually settled in the UK following a spy swap. Recently, he and his daughter were found in a catatonic state after being poisoned with a deadly Novichok agent in the cathedral city of Salisbury in southwest England. Russia denies responsibility for the poisoning, characterizing the allegations as “nonsense.” A chorus of international condemnation of the Kremlin ensued in the West, and throngs of Russian diplomatic agents were expelled from their posts.
During the Ukrainian crisis of 2014, “Polite People,” wearing unmarked green military uniforms surrounded military installations in Crimea and installed new regional governance structures. Russian leader Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin proclaimed they were “local self-defense units,” vigorously denying the involvement of the Russian Armed Forces. Less than a month elapsed and the Russian Federation had annexed the Crimea peninsula, and subsequently sham elections were held. On April 17, Mr. Putin publicly admitted for the first time that Spetsnaz was involved in the events in Crimea.
On April 10, 2010, a Polish Air Force Tupolev Tu-154 aircraft, carrying the highest-level Polish delegation, crashed in Smolensk, Russia, killing all 96 aboard, including President Lech Kaczyński, First Lady Maria Kaczyńska, military commanders, and civic leaders. The Russian Interstate Aviation Committee falsely alleged that the Polish pilots were forced to land at all costs under pressure from President Kaczyński and the supposedly inebriated Commander of the Air Force.
Russia has persistently refused to return the wreckage, black boxes, and other evidence. The special government commission investigating the crash — established by the new Polish administration in 2016 — has shown that the plane started disintegrating in the air as the result of explosions, a conclusion advanced by renowned British aviation investigator Frank Taylor. In response, the Russian leader declared “Do turn this page, grow up!”
The Kremlin has gainsaid its involvement in occurrences that ultimately are ferreted out to Mr. Putin. The international community must not allow Russia to escape culpability for its barbaric works. As the Polish special government commission publishes its report, the world must send the clearest message to the Russian Federation that it must return the aircraft wreckage, the black boxes, and other key pieces of evidence to Poland. The Kremlin’s plausible deniability shall be no more.
Edmund Janniger is the Director of the International Security Forum, an institution under the patronage of the Minister of National Defense of the Republic of Poland. His work at the Ministry of National Defense encompasses academic affairs and global engagement. Mr. Janniger holds the record as the youngest sub-cabinet official in Poland’s history. In the Parliamentary Office, Mr. Janniger has been the Deputy Chief of Staff to Minister Antoni Macierewicz and, during the 2015 elections, was the Deputy Campaign Manager for Law and Justice in the 10th District. Mr. Janniger has a proven track record directing complex political and policy-related matters. He holds an adjunct appointment at Marconi University, and was elected by the full Rutgers University Senate to three terms on its Executive Committee. Mr. Janniger splits his time between the Warsaw and New York metropolitan areas, has one young dog, and is an avid hiker. To read more of his reports — Click Here Now.
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