On many evenings during my sea-going days, I used to listen to the broadcasts of Radio Moscow, mainly because of the ludicrous claims regularly made on that truly biased station, but because of the present-day headlines, I was reminded of the ultimate story about those broadcasts; it went something along the lines of::-
Moscow Announcer (in tones of jubilation) "Our champion Olympic runner, Ivan Ivanovitch, has broken many world records yesterday! He has smashed the 100 metre record, the 220 metres and the 440 metre records, the 1500 and ten thousand metre records, the marathon time also fell to our unbeaten world Communist running star," the announcer’s voice then modulated and he went on, "however, all his efforts were in vain, he was captured and brought back to Moscow!"
The preceeding story might have little in common with the tragic, murderous end to the life of the Russian exiled former KGB Colonel, Alexander Litvinenko, who died this week, but it should serve to demonstrate how the Soviet Empire was viewed in the days before the presumed end of the Cold War. The super-efficient secret police, the feared K.G.B., were paramount, their very nod was either a passport to a comfortable flat or home, a university education and a prized job; or a one-way ticket to either a dreary life in an unheated dump, with no chance of a job and no chance at the better things in life, or a Gulag in Siberia if you were really lucky, and didn’t get shot! The efficiency of the K.G.B. was in stark contrast to just about everything else within the borders of the Soviet Empire, where the production and distribution of staples such as bread was pathetic, and the lives of the masses was uniformly bleak.
Things have changed dramatically since the days of the Communists and their bullying of the weaker peoples around them; the vassal states have gained a nominal independence, Gorbachev has been and gone, but the days of the big, bad Russian bullying Bear have not gone away, they’ve just changed their clothing! From a blood-stained suit of ill-fitting cloth, they’ve progressed to Saville Row suiting, and hand-made shoes; from the T-72 tank and the AK-47 rifle (the terrorist’s friend) to the Company Accountant and the Balance Sheet! The clothing may have altered, but the menace is still there, in spades! Russia has now the advantage of most of Europe being almost totally dependent upon it’s natural gas deposits, so just remember that it would be better to get along with the people who have their hands upon the valves! At least Britain has found the time to make provision for the import of gas from other areas, because if Putin gets stroppy, either the price doubles, or the taps might get turned off abruptly, and we depend upon natural gas for a hell of a lot of our industry, as well as domestic heating!
If you disagree with Putin, try living on a deserted island, because he’ll send his smooth F.S.B killers out, just as his brother officers of the K.G.B. were sent out in the ‘good old days’! The weapons may have altered, from an umbrella spike tipped with a RICIN pellet, to a radio-active pellet of POLONIUM 210 which seems to have been fed to the ill-fated dissident Russian. Polonium 210, by the way, has very few uses; the primary purpose being to help trigger a thermo-nuclear explosion, so you can understand why there’s not a lot around!