- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Meet today’s Murder Inc. headquartered in the Kremlin.

Murder Inc. or Murder Incorporated, was the name of a New York organized crime group in the 1930s and 1940s that carried out hundreds of murders on behalf of the mob. The name “Murder Incorporated” was coined by a 1930s reporter for the old New York World Telegram. The law finally broke up New York’s Murder Inc. Unfortunately for Vladimir Putin’s victims, Murder Inc. is another name for law in Russia, such as it is.

With the death of Alexander V. Litvinenko, the former Russian KGB officer and Kremlin foe killed in England last week by radiation poisoning, and the earlier assassination in her Moscow apartment house lobby of Anna Politkovskaya, a prominent anti-Kremlin Russian journalist, it is safe to say a 21st century Murder Inc. headquartered in the Kremlin offices of President Putin has been established. Murder Inc. did not exist during the Gorbachev and Yeltsin eras.

There is ample precedent for extramural Kremlin criminality. Leon Trotsky, Josef Stalin’s uncompromising foe, was assassinated on Aug. 20, 1940, in his exile home in Mexico by a Kremlin agent. Walter Krivitsky, Stalin’s intelligence chief who broke with communism, supposedly committed suicide Feb. 10, 1941, in a Washington, D.C. hotel. In September 1937, Ignace Reiss, another KGB agent who broke with communism, was machine-gunned to his death in Lausanne, Switzerland.

Russia as Murder Inc. has one humongous advantage over the New York mob. Russia is a state in the same way Adolf Hitler’s Third Reich was a state, and therefore enjoyed all the protective advantages of sovereignty. It took a global war to stop Hitler. Mr. Putin, a onetime KGB agent, doesn’t face that risk since he has no desire to start World War IV. (I am using here Norman Podhoretz’s designation; World War III is what he calls the Cold War.) And nobody today is prepared to do anything about the death of a lowly onetime Russian apparatchik.

Mr. Putin’s Murder Inc. has two central ambitions: to weaken the United States as the global superpower and, second, to undermine America’s friends and allies. Since he has no ideological message to impart to Arabdom, and is no friend of Israel, he can move freely in the Middle East and strengthen Russia’s alliances with the Arab states and Iran, whose aspiration, according to its leader, is to wipe Israel off the map.

Mr. Litvinenko’s murder is a warning by the Kremlin’s Murder Inc. to Mr. Putin’s opponents outside Russia: You’ve no place to hide. And there’s nothing we can do about it.

Arnold Beichman, a research fellow at the Stanford University’s Hoover Institution, is a columnist for The Washington Times.

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