On March 20, Russian President Vladimir Putin denounced the U.S.-led "aggression" against Iraq as "unwarranted" and "unjustifiable." Three days later, Pravda said that an anonymous Russian "military expert" was predicting that the United States would fabricate finding Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov immediately started plying the idea abroad, and it has taken hold around the world ever since.
As a former Romanian spy chief who used to take orders from the Soviet KGB, it is perfectly obvious to me that Russia is behind the evanescence of Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction. After all, Russia helped Saddam get his hands on them in the first place. The Soviet Union and all its bloc states always had a standard operating procedure for deep sixing weapons of mass destruction — in Romanian it was codenamed "Sarindar, meaning "emergency exit." I implemented it in Libya. It was for ridding Third World despots of all trace of their chemical weapons if the Western imperialists ever got near them. We wanted to make sure they would never be traced back to us, and we also wanted to frustrate the West by not giving them anything they could make propaganda with.
All chemical weapons were to be immediately burned or buried deep at sea. Technological documentation, however, would be preserved in microfiche buried in waterproof containers for future reconstruction. Chemical weapons, especially those produced in Third World countries, which lack sophisticated production facilities, often do not retain lethal properties after a few months on the shelf and are routinely dumped anyway. And all chemical weapons plants had a civilian cover making detection difficult, regardless of the circumstances.
The plan included an elaborate propaganda routine. Anyone accusing Moammar Gadhafi of possessing chemical weapons would be ridiculed. Lies, all lies! Come to Libya and see! Our Western left-wing organizations, like the World Peace Council, existed for sole purpose of spreading the propaganda we gave them. These very same groups bray the exact same themes to this day. We always relied on their expertise at organizing large street demonstrations in Western Europe over America's "war-mongering" whenever we wanted to distract world attention from the crimes of the vicious regimes we sponsored.
Iraq, in my view, had its own "Sarindar" plan in effect direct from Moscow. It certainly had one in the past. Nicolae Ceausescu told me so, and he heard it from Leonid Brezhnev. KGB chairman Yury Andropov, and later, Gen. Yevgeny Primakov, told me so, too. In the late 1970s, Gen. Primakov ran Saddam's weapons programs. After that, as you may recall, he was promoted to head of the Soviet foreign intelligence service in 1990, to Russia's minister of foreign affairs in 1996, and in 1998, to prime minister. What you may not know is that Primakov hates Israel and has always championed Arab radicalism. He was a personal friend of Saddam's and has repeatedly visited Baghdad after 1991, quietly helping Saddam play his game of hide-and-seek.
The Soviet bloc not only sold Saddam its WMDs, but it showed them how to make them "disappear." Russia is still at it. Primakov was in Baghdad from December until a couple of days before the war, along with a team of Russian military experts led by two of Russia's topnotch "retired"generals: Vladislav Achalov, a former deputy defense minister, and Igor Maltsev, a former air defense chief of staff. They were all there receiving honorary medals from the Iraqi defense minister. They clearly were not there to give Saddam military advice for the upcoming war—Saddam's Katyusha launchers were of World War II vintage, and his T-72 tanks, BMP-1 fighting vehicles and MiG fighter planes were all obviously useless against America. "I did not fly to Baghdad to drink coffee," was what Gen. Achalov told the media afterward. They were there orchestrating Iraq's "Sarindar" plan.
The U.S. military in fact, has already found the only thing that would have been allowed to survive under the classic Soviet "Sarindar" plan to liquidate weapons arsenals in the event of defeat in war — the technological documents showing how to reproduce weapons stocks in just a few weeks.
Such a plan has undoubtedly been in place since August 1995 — when Saddam's son-in-law, Gen. Hussein Kamel, who ran Iraq's nuclear, chemical and biological programs for 10 years, defected to Jordan. That August, UNSCOM and International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors searched a chicken farm owned by Kamel's family and found more than one hundred metal trunks and boxes containing documentation dealing with all categories of weapons, including nuclear. Caught red-handed, Iraq at last admitted to its "extensive biological warfare program, including weaponization," issued a "Full, Final and Complete Disclosure Report" and turned over documents about the nerve agent VX and nuclear weapons.
Saddam then lured Gen. Kamel back, pretending to pardon his defection. Three days later, Kamel and over 40 relatives, including women and children, were murdered, in what the official Iraqi press described as a "spontaneous administration of tribal justice." After sending that message to his cowed, miserable people, Saddam then made a show of cooperation with UN inspection, since Kamel had just compromised all his programs, anyway. In November 1995, he issued a second "Full, Final and Complete Disclosure" as to his supposedly non-existent missile programs. That very same month, Jordan intercepted a large shipment of high-grade missile components destined for Iraq. UNSCOM soon fished similar missile components out of the Tigris River, again refuting Saddam's spluttering denials. In June 1996, Saddam slammed the door shut to UNSCOM's inspection of any "concealment mechanisms." On Aug. 5, 1998, halted cooperation with UNSCOM and the IAEA completely, and they withdrew on Dec. 16, 1998. Saddam had another four years to develop and hide his weapons of mass destruction without any annoying, prying eyes. U.N. Security Council resolutions 1115, (June 21, 1997), 1137 (Nov. 12, 1997), and 1194 (Sept. 9, 1998) were issued condemning Iraq—ineffectual words that had no effect. In 2002, under the pressure of a huge U.S. military buildup by a new U.S. administration, Saddam made yet another "Full, Final and Complete Disclosure," which was found to contain "false statements" and to constitute another "material breach" of U.N. and IAEA inspection and of paragraphs eight to 13 of resolution 687 (1991).
It was just a few days after this last "Disclosure," after a decade of intervening with the U.N. and the rest of the world on Iraq's behalf, that Gen. Primakov and his team of military experts landed in Baghdad — even though, with 200,000 U.S. troops at the border, war was imminent, and Moscow could no longer save Saddam Hussein. Gen. Primakov was undoubtedly cleaning up the loose ends of the "Sarindar" plan and assuring Saddam that Moscow would rebuild his weapons of mass destruction after the storm subsided for a good price.
Mr. Putin likes to take shots at America and wants to reassert Russia in world affairs. Why would he not take advantage of this opportunity? As minister of foreign affairs and prime minister, Gen. Primakov has authored the "multipolarity" strategy of counterbalancing American leadership by elevating Russia to great-power status in Eurasia. Between Feb. 9-12, Mr. Putin visited Germany and France to propose a three-power tactical alignment against the United States to advocate further inspections rather than war. On Feb. 21, the Russian Duma appealed to the German and French parliaments to join them on March 4-7 in Baghdad, for "preventing U.S. military aggression against Iraq." Crowds of European leftists, steeped for generations in left-wing propaganda straight out of Moscow, continue to find the line appealing.
Mr. Putin's tactics have worked. The United States won a brilliant military victory, demolishing a dictatorship without destroying the country, but it has begun losing the peace. While American troops unveiled the mass graves of Saddam's victims, anti-American forces in Western Europe and elsewhere, spewed out vitriolic attacks, accusing Washington of greed for oil and not of really caring about weapons of mass destruction, or exaggerating their risks, as if weapons of mass destruction were really nothing very much to worry about after all.
It is worth remembering that Andrei Sakharov, the father of the Soviet hydrogen bomb, chose to live in a Soviet gulag instead of continuing to develop the power of death. "I wanted to alert the world," Sakharov explained in 1968, "to the grave perils threatening the human race thermonuclear extinction, ecological catastrophe, famine." Even Igor Kurchatov, the KGB academician who headed the Soviet nuclear program from 1943 until his death in 1960, expressed deep qualms of conscience about helping to create weapons of mass destruction. "The rate of growth of atomic explosives is such," he warned in an article written together with several other Soviet nuclear scientists not long before he died, "that in just a few years the stockpile will be large enough to create conditions under which the existence of life on earth will be impossible."
The Cold War was fought over the reluctance to use weapons of mass destruction, yet now this logic is something only senior citizens seem to recall. Today, even lunatic regimes like that in North Korea not only possess weapons of mass destruction, but openly offer to sell them to anyone with cash, including terrorists and their state sponsors. Is anyone paying any attention? Being inured to proliferation, however, does not reduce its danger. On the contrary, it increases it.