Friday, June 18, 2004

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I'm not feeling the love from Russia

CNN International reports that the Russia Federation warned the United States about Iraqi plans for terrorism against the United States:

Russian President Vladimir Putin said his country warned the United States several times that Saddam Hussein's regime was planning terror attacks on the United States and its overseas interests....

"I can confirm that after the events of September 11, 2001, and up to the military operation in Iraq, Russian special services and Russian intelligence several times received ... information that official organs of Saddam's regime were preparing terrorist acts on the territory of the United States and beyond its borders, at U.S. military and civilian locations," Putin said.

The Russian leader did not elaborate on any details of the warnings of terror plots or mention whether they were tied to the al Qaeda terror network.

Putin, one of the strongest critics of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, also said Russia had no information that Saddam's regime had actually committed any terrorist acts.

The United States never cited Russian intelligence when it was making its case for the war and Putin said the information did not change his country's opposition to the war. (emphasis added)

I wouldn't want to speculate on the quality of Russian intelligence, but that last sentence provokes a question to President Putin -- why didn't the information change your mind about the war? You have intel saying that one sovereign state is planning to commit acts of aggression against another sovereign state in violation of the laws of war.

If that's not a justification for preventive action, what is?

posted by Dan on 06.18.04 at 01:32 PM


What confuses me is why we didn't cite the Russian information. Wouldn't this be evidence that our opponents in the UN were acting in bad faith? It makes me suspicious about whether such intelligence was actually provided.

Alternate theory: Putin's lying now to give Bush some needed cover, with payback expected in the second term.

posted by: SomeCallMeTim on 06.18.04 at 01:32 PM [permalink]

If that's not a justification for preventive action, what is?

Maybe he just doesn't believe in preventive action?

Or maybe he just wasn't acting in a principled fashion?

posted by: Al on 06.18.04 at 01:32 PM [permalink]

Exactly. Unless they had this information but choose to withhold it from the US in the run up to war; which would be despicable. But why release this information now and make your country look even more despicable? It would appear that the US didn't have this intelligence; otherwise the case for war would have been air-tight; since it would have been easy to convey this type of vital intelligence all the while protecting the sources. This revelation clearly raises more questions-- rather than acting as a rebuttal that buttress ex post justifications for the war. I'm not so sure the Bush administration should welcome this news kindly. For it only forces them to fill in the conceptual gaps.

posted by: Carleton on 06.18.04 at 01:32 PM [permalink]

My money says he's just trying to help out Bush.

posted by: Zach on 06.18.04 at 01:32 PM [permalink]

". . . why didn't the information change your mind about the war?"

Ba'athist Iraq's debt, maybe?

Russia holds an awful lot of paper from Iraq -- debts contracted during Hussain's tenure. What do you think Russia's odds of collecting those debts are with Saddam gone?

Their chances of collecting the dough was bad enough when Saddam was in. Would you buy those notes if the Russian Federation offered to sell them to you at a dime for every dollar of debt?

posted by: Mark L on 06.18.04 at 01:32 PM [permalink]

why didn't the information change your mind about the war? You have intel saying that one sovereign state is planning to commit acts of aggression against another sovereign state in violation of the laws of war.

If that's not a justification for preventive action, what is?

Possibly the 'acts of aggression' were planned to take place if/when the US attacked iraq. Putin's view would then be 'well we don't agree with the war but if you do, then beware of attacks'. And of course if the Iraqi attacks are planned in response to a US attack then the US 'case for war' is bolstered not at all.

posted by: kenny on 06.18.04 at 01:32 PM [permalink]

We had this same intel, or something similar. It was debunked for a reason is my guess.

posted by: Waffle on 06.18.04 at 01:32 PM [permalink]

My money says he's just trying to help out Bush.

The timing certainly seems rather fishy, especially when you combine it with Dubya's appearance with McCain today. I know if I were him, now would certainly be a good time to be calling in all the favors.

posted by: fling93 on 06.18.04 at 01:32 PM [permalink]

There were apparently (renegade?) Russian generals advising Saddam. A Russian convoy was bombed by the U.S. trying to leave Iraq, perhaps with important documents and they were perhaps setup by Iraq. Saddam was rumored to be in the Russian Embassy in Baghdad, then he was rumored to be in Moskva. Etc. etc.

In addition to the possibilities above, here's another: events happened as Putin described, but he thought there was a way to handle it other than through invasion.

And, here's another: Russia was playing both sides. They gave us the info expecting us to then invade.

posted by: The Lonewacko Blog on 06.18.04 at 01:32 PM [permalink]

If that's not a justification for preventive action, what is?

Or maybe the whole story is a load of crap.

posted by: bodhisattva on 06.18.04 at 01:32 PM [permalink]

Dan, by now, don't you think your default position ought to be caution and cynicism? How many times do you need to get bit in the ass? As other people have stated, the timing of this is super suspicious.

Moreover, we know next to nothing about what type of attacks. It's pretty clear, Saddam had lost it in the last few years and was funding anyone who could trick him. If these attacks were pie-in-the-sky then they are irrelevant. IF some scientist told saddam he could place a laser on teh moon to attack the US with, and Saddam gave him money --- this is not a threat, its a joke. Feasibility is critical.

Did you forget about the UAVs we were told about that could spread reach American soil and spray us with biological weapons? Do you remeber the pictures? The UAVs were built with Duct TAPE and cardboard, had a radius of 1 mile, and were used for the weather.

Cheney is again spouting the Al-Queda /Iraq / 9-11 connection. Put in context of what he has said in teh past, and how tricked 70-80% of Americans intol believing Iraq was responsible for 9/11 --- you'd think he'd know better. The last thing we need is more people exagerating things way out of proportion with very little evidence.

posted by: Jor on 06.18.04 at 01:32 PM [permalink]

Hmmm... OK, what would it have taken for Russia to have a different outlook to the war? For starters, they would have to have less of a monetary interest in Iraq. Between the weapons sales and all other UN defying contracts, there was a ton of money flowing Moscow's way from Baghdad. That's just for starters.

I'm still trying to figure out where Chechnya fits into this. As long as there wasn't an overwhelming outcry against Russia's heavyhandedness there (not that it would change their approach), there was no need for Putin to change his tune on the war. On one hand, he would say "We're fighting the same fight." On the other hand, he said we couldn't participate in the fight.

While I would like to see more behind Putin's comments, I'm not dismissing it out of hand either. Healthy skepticism is good at this poing on everything... good or bad.

posted by: Chrees on 06.18.04 at 01:32 PM [permalink]

What if the plan by Iraq was:
"Plan to attack US IF we decide to come after them."

Our military does tons of contingency plans. We even have plans to take on the Chinese. Nothing too surprising. There is really nothing concrete in this story, only Putin's words, and even those are internally inconsistent.

posted by: ch2 on 06.18.04 at 01:32 PM [permalink]

i also remember that Putin said just before the war started that Iraq had no WMDs.

I'm not sure whats going on here -- rather strange.

posted by: Jon Juzlak on 06.18.04 at 01:32 PM [permalink]

Putin never said Saddam had no WMD. No one said that (find a real quote). Each Chirac is on record saying he believed they were there.

The position of the Russians was that there was another way to accomplish it.

posted by: capt joe on 06.18.04 at 01:32 PM [permalink]

On the last:""No one said that . . . Saddam had no WMD"
Many doubted he did because the weapons were never specified as to what kind they were. But many others believed he had WMD because they believed in the word of the American government.

Another point on Putin: maybe Russian intelligence was as bad as the Brits'.

posted by: The Messenger on 06.18.04 at 01:32 PM [permalink]

Putin said (or was reported) as saying that Iraq had no WMD. I was not talking about Chirac at all, so I'm not sure why you want to bring Chirac in. Chirac said that IRaq probably had chemical WMDs at least. I remember Putin's statements on the run up to war because it struck me then as rather strange that he would go out on a limb like that when the truth was certain to come out in a few days when the war started.

OK, here's one quote --- not exactly saying that Iraq had no WMDs, but close enough -- let me look for more.

posted by: Jon Juzlak on 06.18.04 at 01:32 PM [permalink]

Okay, I found a link by Putin on Iraqi WMDs pre-war,3604,810627,00.html

Here's my speculation: Russian intelligence had some intelligence (of unclear reliability) indicating that Saddam might be planning attacks on the US. He might have passed them on to the uS in the direct wake of 9/11 before the push to US war began. The intelligence was probably not particularly credible, so never made it to many official statements by the administration. Given that we have most higher level IRaqi officials in custody without any further proof of this, it strikes me as highly unlikely that it was true.

Putin decided to do Bush a small political favor by distributing this news. No real quid pro-quo. The Post and other papers will probably dig out more details on this particular information soon if it turns out to be credible.

posted by: JOn Juzlak on 06.18.04 at 01:32 PM [permalink]

It's entirely possible that, if Putin's not completely lying, that the source for the information was... guess... Chalabi.

posted by: Jon H on 06.18.04 at 01:32 PM [permalink]

Just add GWB's 'soul bro' Putin to the Bush-Cheney-Rice flip-floppers.

posted by: The Messenger on 06.18.04 at 01:32 PM [permalink]

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