Did Russia Help Saddam During the War? (Mark Kramer, April 2, 2006, Washington Post)
Reports in the Russian and Western press in March 2003 indicated that Gen. Vladislav Achalov, the former commander of Soviet airborne forces who supported the attempted coup in Moscow in August 1991, visited Baghdad shortly before the March 2003 invasion, accompanied by another retired Russian general. Photographs taken at the time confirm that the two generals were awarded medals by the Iraqi defense minister on behalf of Saddam Hussein. Achalov has since acknowledged that he traveled to Iraq at least 15 to 20 times in the years leading up to the war.
Press reports from March 2003 and afterward also indicated that other GRU officers were working with the Iraqi regime on a daily basis before and during the war, often through Abbas Khalaf, the former Iraqi ambassador to Moscow who sent numerous reports to Iraqi leaders citing GRU and diplomatic sources. In addition, a GRU “working group” known as Ramzaj, which posted daily assessments on a Russian military Web site, was widely described in the Russian press as aiding the Iraqi government. Although Ramzaj’s forecasts and some of its information proved to be wildly off the mark, the reports in major Russian dailies and respected trade publications lend strong credence to the assertions in the Iraqi documents that Titorenko and some Russian military intelligence officers aided the Iraqi efforts to withstand the U.S. invasion.
If Titorenko did provide illicit assistance, his motive may have been largely financial. When the Volcker commission issued its final report on fraud and corruption in the United Nations oil-for-food program last October, it listed the ambassador and his son as having received allocations of some 23.7 million barrels of oil worth well over $1 million in total.
The commission’s report listed numerous other Russian politicians and political entities, including Russian President Vladimir Putin’s then-chief of staff Alexander Voloshin, the speaker of the upper house of the Russian parliament, Yegor Stroyev, the Russian Communist Party, and the pro-Moscow government in Chechnya, as recipients of large oil allocations worth many millions.
However, it is unlikely that Titorenko’s apparent actions and the GRU cooperation were authorized at high levels. Russian opposition to the war — motivated mostly by the enormous profits Russian companies and elites had been reaping from the oil-for-food program — was much stronger than many U.S. experts had anticipated. But this opposition does not necessarily mean that Putin or then-Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov would have condoned transferring information that might cost American lives and would stand a high chance of eventually being detected.
We’ll never get all the facts straight, but it nicely demonstrates the utter insanity of the Democrats’ transnationalist argument that the UN should be allowed to determine when we go to war.