On Wednesday, Interpol members will vote to elect one of two candidates: Kim Jong Yang a respected police officer from South Korea, or Alexander Prokopchuk, a Putin crony. This shouldn’t be a contest for any upstanding law enforcement organization. But considering active Russian lobbying of various means, it is highly possible that Interpol will select Prokopchuk.
If that happens, we might as well nominate ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi to lead the United Nations.
Okay, I’m joking. But Prokopchuk’s election would be the height of absurdity and a masterpiece of Russian black humor. Because Prokopchuk isn’t simply a dedicated Chekist – or Putin-ideologically driven intelligence operative – of long service. He has also spent the past seven years in various roles at Interpol, offering evidence as to why he deserves to be nowhere near the president’s office.
After all, Putin’s crony has spent the past seven years driving Russia’s abuse of Interpol’s red notice system. Red notices are the means by which Interpol members share intelligence on the movement of wanted criminals across international borders. But while mostly moral in purpose and practice, red notices are now being used by Russia to harass political opponents of Putin’s regime.
Bill Browder, a British critic of Putin, was recently detained in Spain earlier this year after a Russian-concocted red notice was posted against him. It is for this reason that a bipartisan group of U.S. senators on Monday described the prospect of a Prokopchuk presidency as “putting a fox in charge of the hen house.”
But Prokopchuk’s Interpol record actually suggests that the senators’ description is inadequate. In fact, the fox has already run riot in the hen house. And if he takes over, he’ll turn the hen house into a fox lair.
The issue with Russia’s conduct here isn’t just its persecution of Putin’s opponents. It’s also Russia’s use of Interpol structures to surveil foreign security agencies and enable their own intelligence activity globally. Considering recent incidents such as the Russian GRU’s attempted murder of Sergei Skripal in Britain, Russia’s malevolent activities must be taken seriously.
If Prokopchuk takes over as Interpol’s president, the US and its allies will have to fundamentally alter the nature and scale of our cooperation with that agency.