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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

The Finances of Disinformation

State television has been trumpeting the arrival in Russia of "the well-known Israeli human rights activist Yuly Nudelman," who is voluntarily helping the Prosecutor General's Office secure the extradition of Yukos co-owner Leonid Nevzlin from Israel.

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I have no doubt that Russia will do everything it can to secure the extradition of Nevzlin. You can't really justify the structure of the regime on claims that former Yukos CEO Mikhail Khodorkovsky wanted to replace Vladimir Putin atop the so-called power vertical and that Nevzlin wants to kill him, without demanding Israel hand Nevzlin over. I also have no doubt that the Israelis will not give him up.

Extradition is not the main issue, however. The real question is: Why Nudelman?

Nudelman is a qualified doctor who emigrated to Israel and who no longer practices medicine. His first book was about Israeli doctors being murderers in lab coats. His book did not produce a scandal. In fact, it made no impact at all.

Nudelman next tried to make a career in politics, but he fared little better than he had in medicine, so he wrote a book about a more successful politician of Russian descent -- Natan Sharansky. This time the book was noticed: An Israeli court found Nudelman guilty of libel and ordered him to pay a whopping fine of 1 million shekels ($224,000). There is no reason to suspect that Nudelman wrote the Sharansky book as a Russian agent. He wrote whatever he felt like. For example, he wrote that Sharansky was never in the camps.

Couldn't they find a better "volunteer" to make the case for extraditing Nevzlin than the author of "Sharansky Unmasked"?

Unfortunately, the choice of partners like Nudelman is the rule rather than the exception. According to The Wall Street Journal, the Kremlin-sponsored youth movement Nashi has hired homeless people in the United States to prove that average Americans side with the Kremlin in battling the Chechen terrorists.

Russia is also trying to overthrow Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili with the help of Igor Giorgadze, the former KGB boss in Georgia who was exposed as taking direct orders from Russia's special services in an attempt to blow up then-Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze in 1995. Giorgadze is no Nudelman, of course. He is a fearless and interesting man. As was, for example, Ramon Mercader, the Mexican who murdered Trotsky with an ice pick through the skull in 1940. But it would have been hard to get Mercader elected as president of Mexico.

In the 1970s, the KGB's favorite operation was to seek out a person with deviant behavior, or wait for one to pop up. A local paper would run an article about Charles Hyder, for example, the American astrophysicist who staged a 218-day hunger strike outside the White House in the mid-1980s to protest the arms race. KGB operatives on the ground would report back to Moscow that the foreign press was writing about Hyder's hunger strike. And that the U.S. regime seemed to be on the brink of collapse. In this way, the KGB went from being a mechanism for collecting information about foreign countries to an instrument for passing disinformation to the Soviet leadership. The higher-ups were pleased to learn that Hyder was on a hunger strike and that imperialism was breathing its last.

As we know, it wasn't imperialism that collapsed.

In some sense it could seem that Nudelman and Giorgadze are just the latest incarnations of Hyder. But in point of fact the object of the exercise has changed drastically. No one made any money on Hyder. At the heart of the current regime is an attempt to turn a profit on everything the state does, including deception of the leadership.

The more marginal the person you get involved with and the less hope there is that his actions will be successful, the easier it is to pocket the money and put failure down to enemy machinations.

Yulia Latynina hosts a political talk show on Ekho Moskvy radio.