PowerPoint given by Russian opposition leader blueprints US-backed violent overthrow of Russian government.
An interesting thing happened in Washington recently, and it had nothing to do with Beltway politics, Democrats vs. Republicans, or any of the other standard fare for the middle of the week in mid-January. Rather, a relatively small, little publicized event took place at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), a prominent liberal-leaning think tank in Washington.
The event, “Russia’s Opposition in a Time of War and Crisis,” featured prominent Russian liberal opposition parliamentarian (member of the Russian Duma) Ilya Ponomarev, a noted critic of Russian President Putin, providing a detailed presentation regarding the current political climate in Russia, and the potential for the ousting or overthrow of the Russian government. Yes, you heard that right. A Russian elected official came to the United States to give a talk about how best to effect regime change in his own country.
At this point, the question is not so much whether what Ponomarev did was improper. The much more pressing issue is whether or not, by making this presentation in Washington precisely at the moment of heightened tensions between the US and Russia, Ponomarev has committed treason. While this may seem a rather extreme characterization, it is in fact quite appropriate.
What Is Treason and Does It Apply?
If we define treason as “the offense of acting to overthrow one’s government or to kill or harm its sovereign,” then Ponomarev’s actions seem to tread very close to the threshold for treason. Moreover, the fact that such a presentation was delivered at CSIS – a think tank rife with “strategic planners” and proponents of the use of “soft power” to expand US hegemony – is instructive as it provides a window into both Ponomarev’s thinking and, perhaps more importantly, that of the political establishment in the US.