Vladimir Putin
Credit: Remy Steinegger/Wikimedia Commons

Under the leadership of Josef Stalin, the Soviet Union’s internal security services were led by a People’s Commissar for Internal Affairs. Two of the most famous Commissars were Nikolai Yezhov and Lavrentiy Beria. Both committed appalling atrocities and both wept like babies when they fell out of favor and faced execution. These people were nothing like James Comey. They weren’t even like our most notorious and unscrupulous FBI Director, J. Edgar Hoover. We have no history of comparable purges and cruelty and we’ve never executed any of our top intelligence or security officers. Yezhov and Beria should have sought sanctuary in a foreign country when they still had the chance to flee, but you won’t find similar cases here to compare to theirs.

Vladimir Putin’s experience in the KGB during the Cold War informs how he sees the world today. It was the future head of the KGB, Ivan Serov, who shot Nikolai Yezhov “in the basement of a small NKVD station on Varsonofevskii Lane in Moscow.” While Stalin sent an assassin to Mexico City to bury an ice-axe in Leon Trotsky’s skull, Putin does the same to his political enemies whether they’re in London or Kiev.

That’s the context for reading this:

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday said his country is ready to offer James Comey asylum if the former FBI director should face political persecution.

“If Comey will be under the threat of political persecution, we are ready to accept him here,” Putin said, speaking at the president’s annual, televised question-and-answering session with the Russian people. “It sounds very strange when the head of the security services writes down a conversation with the commander-in-chief and then leaks it to the media through his friend.”

Yes, Putin is trolling Trump and America extremely hard with this level of disingenuous bullshit. But, at the same time, he knows what he would do to a security chief who secretly documented incriminating conversations with him and then leaked them “to the media through his friend.” He’d kill them without the slightest apprehension, hesitation or remorse.

He knows that Trump won’t do this, but that doesn’t mean that he doesn’t assume that Trump wants to. That’s why Putin chooses to troll us in this specific way. It’s based on his experience. It’s how he thinks.

Martin Longman

Martin Longman is the web editor for the Washington Monthly. See all his writing at ProgressPond.com