A NEW COLD WAR?

by Milen Radev; photography by BTA

The murder of Alexander Litvinenko bears uncanny resemblances to the murder of Georgi Markov 28 years earlier. To an extent

Alexander Litvinenko

There are ingenious crimes in terms of scale or the perfect concealment of their perpetrators. Recently, we have witnessed a crime that is ingenious as a scheme.

Every day following the murder of Alexander Litvinenko brings new details to the symbolic message that the evil genius behind this plot is sending.

The former Russian secret service agent was a well-known figure among Russian emigres in the West. He was one of the most outspoken critics of the Kremlin. And he was not a marginal character without citizenship or protection. He had recently become a naturalised British subject and been assigned police protection as well as private guards as a person whose life was under threat.

With his elimination, brought about in a particularly agonising and sinister way, the mastermind behind the crime made it clear that none of its adversaries should feel safe. The choice of the murder weapon had been made in keeping with the best traditions of Cold War terrorism. When a traitor from inside the KGB has to be punished, his death alone is not enough; the members of his family must also die. Any political assassination must be turned into an example to scare others. Now there is news that Alexander Litvinenko's widow, his father, and even his son, have also tested positive for radioactive particles. The poison, polonium, affects not only the immediate target, but also his family and close friends, those who have stood by his deathbed. Though not lethal at present, the dose is enough to cause cancer in the future, experts claim. The wickedness of all this is mind-boggling.

The crime has a more far reaching message. Someone who exercised his basic human right of freedom of speech was assassinated in the midst of Western civilization. The similarities with the murder of Bulgarian dissident writer Georgi Markov 28 years ago are obvious (see here). However, there are important differences.

During the Cold War the frontlines were a lot better defined, and it was easy to at least guess where the deadly orders were being issued. Today, matters are much more complex.

Alexander Litvinenko

Walter Litvinenko, centre with orange scarf, the father of the dead former spy Alexander Litvinenko, accuses Russian President Vladimir Puin (below) of having killed his son

Litvinenko was killed using an as yet unknown deadly device. It is clear to any thinking member of Western society that a weapon of incredible potential has been unleashed for the first time. "We can use it anywhere and on a much larger scale, if necessary," is the message being sent. The aim is to make the West a hostage of its own fears, just in keeping with the notorious Gromyko doctrine. Nobody knows when and where a probably unsuspecting perpetrator, a victim himself, will blow some deadly cigarette smoke, or where and when some aerosol capable of fatally injuring thousands of people will be sprayed.

Burying our heads in the sand will be of no help to anyone. Sooner or later we will be faced with a situation of helplessness in the face of an adversary who aggressively lays down his terms. Recent history has given us enough examples of this. Edward Lucas from the Economist wrote that Alexander Litvinenko's murder marked the beginning of a new Cold War. Some are scared by this conclusion; others see it as wishful thinking. The West, the community to which Bulgaria now belongs, has but a single chance to preserve its democratic way of life established over the decades. This chance, however peculiar it may seem, is that Ed Lucas's prophecy comes true. Otherwise, our cultural and political values will continue to erode, imperceptibly, until they become a spineless, sclerosis stricken appendage to the ruthlessly advancing giant from the East.

Russian President Vladimir Putin

Russian President Vladimir Putin

Few Western politicians appear to realise the dramatic power of the threat. The process of confrontation inevitably leads to better identification of where the frontlines are. The issue is whether we shall find the will and determination to survive; a survival not only physical, but spiritual, political and cultural - if necessary, despite the Russian gas pipelines.

  • COMMENTING RULES

    Commenting on www.vagabond.bg

    Vagabond Media Ltd requires you to submit a valid email to comment on www.vagabond.bg to secure that you are not a bot or a spammer. Learn more on how the company manages your personal information on our Privacy Policy. By filling the comment form you declare that you will not use www.vagabond.bg for the purpose of violating the laws of the Republic of Bulgaria. When commenting on www.vagabond.bg please observe some simple rules. You must avoid sexually explicit language and racist, vulgar, religiously intolerant or obscene comments aiming to insult Vagabond Media Ltd, other companies, countries, nationalities, confessions or authors of postings and/or other comments. Do not post spam. Write in English. Unsolicited commercial messages, obscene postings and personal attacks will be removed without notice. The comments will be moderated and may take some time to appear on www.vagabond.bg.

Add new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.

Restricted HTML

  • Allowed HTML tags: <a href hreflang> <em> <strong> <cite> <blockquote cite> <code> <ul type> <ol start type> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd> <h2 id> <h3 id> <h4 id> <h5 id> <h6 id>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
  • Web page addresses and email addresses turn into links automatically.

Discover More

LIARS OR BEING LIED TO?
Тo understand the current predicament of the Changes Continued political party, one of whose leaders, Kiril Petkov, was prime minister in 2021-2022, one needs to consider the characteristically complicated background.

WITH BOTH EUROS IN THE PAST
In spite of the protestations of the ruling "fixture" between PP-DB (Changes Continued of Kiril Petkov and Asen Vasilev and Democratic Bulgaria of Gen Atanas Atanasov and Hristo Ivanov) and Boyko Borisov's GERB about the "top national pri

WHO IS AFRAID OF VASIL 'SKULL' BOZHKOV?
While Bulgarians left, right and centre are quibbling over the fate of a pile of stones crowned by some sculpted Red Army soldiers in central Sofia, the state prosecution service quietly terminated a case started by Vasil Bozhkov, one of this country's weal

RUMOURS OF GERB'S DEMISE TURN OUT TO BE PREMATURE
Polling agencies got it wrong again

CHURCH OF DISCONTENT
Colourful and gilt-domed, looking like a toy, the St Nicholas the Miracle-Worker church in central Sofia is known to Bulgarians simply as the Russian Church.

PP-DB'S FALSE STARTS
Notwithstanding the amendments to the Constitution proposed by Nikolay Denkov's "fixture" (the word he uses to describe the government), several bits of legislation put forward by the rulers and quickly voted into law have raised eyebrows and prompted a sig

UPS & DOWNS OF BULGARIAN ANTISEMITISM
А crudely-cut cartoon circulating on social media shows Former Foreign Minister Solomon Pasi, who is Jewish, being held by two Nazi-clad soldiers. The text (in Bulgarian) reads: "If you don't want Russian gas, we will give you some of ours."

IT'S THE HISTORY, STUPID!
In 2013, when the Inland Revenue agency started a probe into alleged wrongdoing by then President Rosen Plevneliev, he famously excused himself: I am not a Martian. Plevneliev had been a minister for Boyko Borisov.

BYE-BYE, IVAN GESHEV
Three years after the event, the massive street protests that blocked the traffic in Central Sofia in the course of months, in 2020, seem to have achieved their original aims.
END OF 'MAFIA STATE'?
If anyone believed that the CC-DB, or Changes Continued-Democratic Bulgaria alliance, who lost the April election and are now the second largest party in the Bulgarian National Assembly, were serious in their declared and oft-repeated pledges they wanted to

WILL THE DISGUSTED EMBRACE THE DISGUSTING?
Despite the massive and apparently rather expensive advertising campaign, which involved TV, print, outdoor and plenty of Facebook, the Changes Continued-Democratic Bulgaria (CC-DB) alliance lost the 2 April election.
LONG LIVE RED ARMY MONUMENT!
Whenever developed democracies hold a general election, at stake – usually – are pressing issues of the day. Oil, terrorism, immigration. Nuclear weapons. Abortion rights. Inflation. Climate change. The cost of living...