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.
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 ussued by mistake (as Mr.Zenga now claims) is not credible. 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 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.". 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 lawyer, the Russian government previously offered to have Mr.Borodin meet voluntary with Swiss officials. 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
Thanks to Pravda's correspondent in Sydney Henry L.Marcony