Reading Western media reaction to Putin’s decision yesterday not to retaliate in kind to Obama’s latest sanctions has been instructive, with the tone extending from the admiring, to the factual, and to the furious.
One comment however stood out as by far the most unpleasant, and it came (unsurprisingly to those who follow him) from Luke Harding in the Guardian
The statement wished Obama, Trump and the American people a happy new year. It further invited “all the children of American diplomats” to visit the Kremlin’s festive Christmas tree. Instead of playing the Grinch, Putin had taken on the role of Ded Moroz, Russia’s answer to Father Christmas. One Russian MP on Vesti TV said Obama was Bad Santa. It was also a subtle reminder, for those who were able to decode it, that the FSB – the KGB’s successor – has precise information about the children of US embassy personnel. Russia’s foreign ministry on Friday tartly denied reports that Moscow was to close the Anglo-American school, attended by diplomatic kids, and the offspring of bankers and oil workers.
(bold italics added)
The claim that the Russians planned to close the Anglo-American school was indeed furiously denied by the Russians after it circulated for a short time in the media.
Luke Harding nonetheless conflates this claim – which the Russians of course denied, and which almost certainly did not originate either with the senior officials of Russia’s Foreign Ministry or with the Kremlin – with President Putin’s invitation to the children of US diplomats to attend New Year and Christmas parties in the Kremlin, to construe a threat by the Russians to US diplomats through their children (“the FSB – the KGB’s successor – has precise information about the children of US embassy personnel”).
This threat is however so “subtle” that only those in the know – including of course Luke Harding himself – are “able to decode it”.
That this is utterly paranoid stuff, turning an invitation to a party into something sinister, should not need saying. What does Luke Harding think the FSB might do with the “precise information about the children of US embassy personnel” it supposedly has? That this sort of paranoia gets published in the Guardian unfortunately shows how mainstream it has become. I hope it won’t deter any US diplomats from keeping their children in Moscow, or from letting them go to the parties to which President Putin has invited them.