Cultural Revolutions

Puzzling Comments

Vladimir Putin startled observers in Russia and the United States with his June 18 claim that, following the September 11 terrorist attacks and before the U.S. invasion of Iraq, Russian intelligence had passed along information indicating that Iraq was planning terrorist attacks against American targets.  U.S. officials appeared puzzled by Putin’s comments, which prompted a flurry of speculation in Russian media about what purpose the Russian president had in making such a claim.

Putin’s remarks came at a press conference in Astana, Kazakhstan.  His claim was very similar to a statement from an anonymous Russian intelligence source reported by the Interfax news service the day before: Russian media speculated that the Interfax report had failed to produce the attention in the West anticipated by the Kremlin, prompting Putin’s comments.  Kommersant-Daily, for instance, reported that the Kremlin had staged the scene at Astana, arranging to have a participant in the press conference ask Putin a question about the just-released September 11 Commission’s report on the attacks.  This gave him the opportunity to make the startling claim that Russian intelligence had “more than once” received information regarding planned attacks by Saddam Hussein’s regime against American targets “on the territory of the United States and on military and civilian targets outside”...

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