The Case Against Putin

“There is no such thing as a former KGB man.” — Putin

“Once a terrorist, always a terrorist.” — Everyone else

Every superhero and every supervillain have an origin story. Understanding where someone came from can tell you a lot about where they are headed. Vladimir Putin has been a tyrannical terrorist for most of his adult life. He started his career in earnest as a Soviet Intelligence KGB officer, retiring after 15 years (1975–1990) as a Lieutenant Colonel and receiving a Bronze Medal in the German Democratic Republic (GDR), for faithful service to the National People’s Army. His major overseas assignment was in Dresden in East Germany (aka the GDR) from 1985 to 1990.

Putin worked with the notoriously repressive East German Stasi secret police to spy on their own people, recruit foreign assets, and support terrorist attacks in Western Germany and the West. While Putin and Russia have tried to “cover their tracks” on Putin’s involvement in supporting terrorist attacks and assassinations in Western Europe, a former member of the now defunct Red Army Faction has detailed Putin’s very plausible involvement:

Far from taking the backseat role often ascribed to him during his Dresden years, Putin would be among the leaders in these meetings, the former Red Army member claimed, with one of the Stasi generals taking orders from him. As the Red Army Faction sowed chaos across West Germany in a series of vicious bomb attacks, their activities became a key part of KGB attempts to disrupt and destabilize the West, the former member of the terror group claimed. And, as the end loomed for Soviet power and the GDR, it’s possible that they became a weapon to protect the interests of the KGB. For instance, the terrorist group orchestrated the killings of the chairman of Deutsche Bank in 1989 and the chief of the Siemens technology company in 1986, both of whom supported political positions or were engaged in activities that posed challenges to the Soviet regime.

When the Berlin Wall fell on November 9th, 1989, Putin could see that East Germany’s collapse was inevitable. When pro-democracy protestors made their way to Dresden and outside of the Stasi headquarters a month later, Putin and his KGB and Stasi colleagues barricaded themselves inside. Putin said, “We burned papers night and day. We destroyed everything — all our communications, our lists of contacts and our agents’ networks. I personally burned a huge amount of material. We burned so much stuff that the furnace burst.” Putin admits to personally erasing most of any records of his involvement in running terrorist operations out of Dresden against Western Europe. However, in 2017, right after Russia’s major interference in the 2016 US elections, Putin admitted to his past involvement in “illegal intelligence” and gave a wink and a nod to any and all Russian intelligence officers and agents working against democracies around the world.

While Putin was serving the Fatherland abroad, he missed out on the Soviet Union going through Perestroika — the market-like reformation of Communist USSR that many believe fomented its dissolution. When Putin returned to the Soviet Union, he was shocked to see how far his beloved USSR had fallen. An Atlantic article from 2013, titled How the 1980s Explain Vladimir Putin, summarizes Putin’s own thoughts:

Putin saw that the collapse of the GDR “was inevitable.” What he “really regretted,” when the Berlin Wall and everything else came crashing down, he said, was “that the Soviet Union had lost its position in Europe, although intellectually I understood that a position based on walls and water barriers cannot exist forever. But I wanted something different to rise in its place. And nothing different was proposed. That’s what hurt.” Putin was shocked that, as the Soviet bloc crumbled away in Eastern Europe, “they [the group around Gorbachev in Moscow] just threw everything away and left.” A decade after this experience, Putin would set about trying to put something different, more durable in place in Moscow, something that would reassert Russia’s lost position.

After serving in some smaller and more local political roles, in 1998 Putin was appointed head of the federal security service, the FSB, the main successor to the KGB. According to Radio Free Europe, in 1993, Russian President Boris Yeltsin had tried to weaken the FSB by removing the elite Vympel special-forces unit, but Putin, in just two months after becoming the new director in 1998 brought the Vympel unit back under the FSB. During that 5-year period, when these elite operators were out on the streets, they formed several private security firms and the notorious Izmailovo gang — one of the fiercest in the Russian Mafia. With Putin bringing Vympel back under FSB, it ensured a future where the most powerful criminal mafia in Russia and the Kremlin would be forever intertwined.

In August 1999, Russian Federation President, Boris Yeltsin appointed his FSB leader, Putin, as prime minister (the 5th one in less than 2 years). Putin was relatively unknown on the national political stage in Russia. Immediately following his appointment, a series of apartment bombings across Russia killed hundreds of innocent civilians and injured thousands more. The attacks were blamed on Chechen rebels which positioned Putin as a potential presidential candidate that would be tough on dissidents and who would restore law and order to Russia. Overwhelming evidence from this period of time showed that Putin and the FSB, not Chechen rebels, had ordered and carried out these terrorist attacks against their own Russian citizens as a pretense to invade Chechnya and to get Putin elected President. And it worked.

President Putin carried out the Second Chechen War, under false pretenses, creating thousands and thousands of refugees, leveling the Chechen capital of Grozny, and killing more than 25,000 civilians. Does any of this sound familiar?

In 2006, six years into Putin’s presidency, the claims about Putin’s illegitimate rise to power and history of ordering terrorist attacks on his own people kept bubbling up and each time Putin would have the whistleblower killed. Former FSB agent, Alexander Litvinenko, had defected and sought asylum in the UK. Once there, he had publicly claimed that Putin and the FSB were responsible for the 1999 apartment bombings. Litvinenko was poisoned to death in London and an investigation by British intelligence found it was highly probable that Putin ordered the assassination.

The list of Putin led, Putin ordered, and Putin supported atrocities inside and outside of Russia is long. There is Georgia, Moldova, Syria, Crimea, Montenegro, Eastern Ukraine, and now all of Ukraine (and more). Putin’s proxies shot down Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 in 2014, killing all 298 innocent passengers. Numerous Russian journalists, pro-democracy protestors, and dissidents have disappeared or have been outright murdered under Putin’s 22 plus year reign of terror. In 2018, Russian Intelligence assassinated Sergei Skirpal and his daughter Yulia in Salisbury, England using illegal chemical weapons (the Novichok nerve agent). Sergei had been a double agent with British Intelligence. None of this includes all of the state sponsored and Putin ordered offensive cyberattacks and social media psyops campaigns against Western countries to influence our elections, weaken democracies, and turn Americans against Americans.

Even before Putin ordered the unprovoked invasion of the sovereign and democratic Ukraine, he had done enough already to be tried as a war criminal. It is time to push past the passive and appeasing responses the US and Europe have had to Putin in the past. Putin has earned himself a war crimes tribunal at the Hague and he has opened the doors for full Russian nuclear disarmament, removal of Russia from the UN Security Council, and a bill to pay billions in reparations to the people of Ukraine for all the unnecessary death and destruction of innocent people he has caused.

Putin has been conducting illegal wars, terrorist attacks, and assassinations for most of his adult life, including several as Russian Dictator (President) for the last 22 years. Perpetrating illegal wars makes Putin a war criminal. Supporting and ordering terrorist attacks makes him a terrorist. Ordering the murders of innocent people, makes him a murderer. Putin won’t stop until Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is dead and Putin has rebuilt the Russian empire. There have already been, in just the last few days, at least 3 assassination attempts by the Russian FSB to take out Zelensky. Perhaps the most symbolic event of Putin’s recent terrorism is his bombing of the Ukrainian holocaust memorial site of Babyn Yar that commemorates the hundreds of thousands of Jews, including many Soviets, the Nazis killed in the Ukraine during the German occupation. Putin has cemented his place in history right next to Adolf Hitler. I pray we stop Putin before he becomes even more infamous. I pray the good people of Russia stop him before it is too late.

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Nate Boaz

Nate Boaz

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Dad, dog lover, Marine veteran, Author, Ex-McKinsey Partner, Ex-Accenture SMD, Harvard MBA, USNA alum.