Sechin or No Sechin Ties to Viktor Bout?

Tom Balmforth sorts out some speculations on the Viktor Bout-Igor Sechin nexus on the Moscow News.  Whether or not these fellows worked closely together, it’s hard not to observe some professional overlap.

Many theories on Bout’s shady connections are pinned on a report by Stratfor, a conservative US intelligence think tank, which links Bout with extremely powerful Deputy Prime Minister Igor Sechin. Journalist Yulia Latynina in August also joined these dots, arguing that someone from the top of the Russian political elite – read Sechin – gave the go-ahead to arming terrorists neighbouring America, with much the same logic as the US employed when arming the Taliban against the Soviet Union.

Other commentators have become dismissive of “Hollywood” scenarios. “I think that the connection between Sechin and Bout is a myth,” said Mukhin, while adding that Bout’s extradition represents a “dangerous” moment for Russia’s secret services agents who became caught up in the illegal arms trade.

But will the Bout saga hurt Russian-US relations? Konovalov maintains that if Bout co-operates with the Americans because of the “considerable evidence” against him – enough to send him to prison for life – the impact on relations will come down the actual secrets. “It all depends on how Bout worked. Was it [for] Russian government institutions, or was it [for] separate corrupt, or less corrupt Russian bureaucrats? It’s one thing if it is official Russia, and another completely if it is corrupt civil servants.”