Why should we in the West and Europe be the slightest bit concerned about the assassination February 27, 2015 of opposition leader Boris Nemtsov in the shadow of the Kremlin? Precisely because Nemtsov was one of the few Russians who dared to voice his opposition and expose Russia’s involvement in the war in Ukraine. Amazingly, Vladimir Putin and those who believe his narrative now blame the USA as the prime instigator of the Ukraine conflict.
Many of us find this laughable. Especially those who agree with Senator John McCain, who expressed shame at our hesitancy to come to the aid of our beleaguered Ukrainian friends. Even so, every hesitant step we take only feeds Putin’s narrative, regardless of the facts, and of course that plays beautifully into his poker hand.
It is all too easy these days to imagine that the Russian President represents and/or controls the thoughts of common Russian citizens. No, that is not entirely the case! Nemtsov and the 70,000 Russians who attended his memorial march were proof. That day they carried signs: “Those bullets were fired at us!” and “Propaganda Kills!”. These are people of conscience who deserve our respect and prayers.
Nevertheless, we should be cautious not to allow our presumptions about Russia and it’s leaders to become the source of our conclusions about Nemtsov’s murder. Therefore, I offer here a summary of facts as reported by Brian Whitmore in his Power Vertical blog, “Chaos or Terror”, and also his well-reasoned conclusions:
What are the undisputed facts? First, as an opposition leader, Nemtsov was under constant surveillance by Russian security services. Second, he was killed in one of the most heavily policed and monitored parts of Moscow. Third, the shooting was stunningly professional, highly efficient, and the assassins got away clean.
It is hard to escape the conclusion that the security services or elements connected to them were involved in the killing. Amateurs without inside connections could not have done this.
Is this Terror or Chaos?
Two possibilities then remain: the killing was sanctioned (terror) or someone inside the Kremlin regime was going rogue (chaos). If sanctioned, then why? Terror. To send fear into the opposition: anyone can get hit anywhere at any time. A warning to the opposition: Watch your step and measure your words!
If the killing was by rogue elements, then there is chaos in the Kremlin. Putin is losing his monopoly on the organized use of violence. This kind of chaos in the security services in the long run could be even more destructive than deliberate terror.
Terror and chaos are not what any thoughtful person in the West wants to see as ruling in Russia. Let our prayers therefore be toward the end that people of conscience will gain the upper hand and that cooler heads prevail. Otherwise, as in past world wars, we will once again see our sons and daughters drawn into an uncontrollable, descending spiral of war. God forbid! That is why we should watch and pray for Russia and its citizens.