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December 26, 2005
Have The Russians Started The Great Game Again?

The London Telegraph reports that MI-6 may have kidnapped Pakistani nationals in Greece after the London subway bombings this summer. Media reports have already forced the Greek intelligence services to recall agents from Kosovo, and the alleged victims have named a high-level British diplomat who may face the same fate:

Amid growing controversy, the magazine Proto Thema said at the weekend that those who took part in the alleged abductions included a man listed as a senior diplomat at the British embassy in Athens as well as several named Greek officials.

A Government "D" notice requests British newspapers not to name MI6 officers, even if they are identified abroad. However, the name given by Proto Thema matches that of a man identified as a British intelligence officer on the internet and in allegations made by the renegade MI6 officer Richard Tomlinson. ...

Seven of the 28 Pakistanis have testified before an investigating magistrate that unidentified Greek and British men forced their way into their homes in four Athens suburbs after the bombings.

They were allegedly blindfolded and driven to unknown destinations. They claimed to have been questioned about friends and relatives in Britain, and about the persons they had phoned.

The men later got dumped in the middle of Athens, blindfolded, after British and Greek intelligence apparently satisfied themselves that the Pakistanis had nothing to do with the bombings. The unnamed diplomat would be the second MI-6 operative unmasked in recent weeks as the various competing intelligence services in Europe have apparently engaged in a series of outings to embarrass each other and to force the evacuation of rivals from the Balkans. Although the Telegraph doesn't name the countries involved in these spy games, the only other power interested in the Balkans would probably be the Russians.

If the Russians have anything to do with this story getting out, one has to question what Vladimir Putin can be thinking. The Islamist threat in the Caucasus hasn't gone away, and yet he's been playing footsie with Iran and probably interfering with the West in the Balkans on behalf of the Serbs. The only "strategy" possible to discern in these activities is that Putin only demonstrates reliability towards opposition to the West, even at the risk of what looks like long-term Russian interests.

It seems strange, but then almost everything done by Putin over the past few years has been increasingly strange. He appears obsessed with returning Russia to the status enjoyed by the Soviet Union, but without learning any of the lessons of its collapse. Russia could unleash an economic wave by cleaning up its markets and providing adequate protection for free enterprise, but instead Putin has nationalized industries and undermined the stability of private property. In a moment in history when Russia could finally stand up and play a positive role in the unleashing of human potential, he has taken the nation back to its worst Tsarist impulses.

In the meantime, the British and the Greek intelligence services will have to deal with the embarrassment of the Pakistani kidnappings, and wonder what role their erstwhile Russian allies have played in this debacle.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at December 26, 2005 9:12 PM

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