The so-called ‘Cold War’ ended with the nineth decade of the 20th century. Glasnost and Perestroika instigated by Mikhail Gorbachev in 1985 led the world to believe that a new openness was pervading the former Soviet Union, leading to a better relationship with the western world in both political and social terms. Ian Fleming would feel sadder today then when he wrote his Bond novels. Or would he?
The death of former KGB agent, Alexander Litvinenko, in London yesterday has opened a new box of surprises for the west. Litvinenko’s death was not a matter of happenstance or misadventure, as might have otherwise have been recorded had not nailed down the source of his mysterious illness. Litvinenko had indeed been poisoned but not with any common-or-garden substance. Doctors have now revealed that the highly toxic radioactive substance Polonium-210 had been discovered in Litvinenko’s urine.
Polonium is an extremely rare substance in nature, but is relatively easily produced in artificial nuclear reactions, such as nuclear reactors. It has very specific uses and very little is ever produced because of its highly specialised nature and limited usage. It is also highly toxic with a half-life of 138 days, and easily contained within standard receptacles. Considered 5000 times more toxic than Radium and 250,000,000,000 times as toxic, weight for weight, than hydrogen cyanide.
Clearly, whoever wanted Litvinenko dead was – not to make light of the issue – deadly serious. They were also backed, supplied, supported – however you care to describe it – by extremely powerful people at the highest levels in political influence. Being former KGB and an outspoken critic of the Putin regime over issues like Chechnya and the involvement, supposed, of the KGB’s successor the FSB in instigation of so-called terrorist attacks in Moscow which sparked the current Chechan conflict, it’s hardly surprising that someone would want to silence him. What is surprising is the fact that an agency either within or without the United Kingdom has used a radioactive substance to murder an individual deliberately. The international implications, if such allegations of foreign sanctioned involvement can be proven, are enormous.
Most likely, although it denies involvement, the FSB under instruction of the Putin regime has reached out across international borders to strike down yet another critic. It would seem that the days of a reclusive Russian empire are not that far removed from those of a distinctly chilly 1960’s and James Bond after all.