Moscow propagandists and Kremlin supporters in the West are having a field day with the disgraced former US Marine and self-proclaimed Russophile’ travel problem on the way to St. Petersburg.

Convicted pedophile Scott Ritter is not your average, run-of-the-mill Putin apologist. His criminal background and troubling fetishes aside, the self-proclaimed “blue-blooded American patriot” masquerades as a voice of reason on a virtuous quest to course-correct the deeply strained bilateral relationship between Moscow and Washington. What landed Ritter in hot water, however, was disingenuously passing off his recent visits to Russia as bridge-building pilgrimages when they were nothing more than social-climbing escapades during which he ended up rubbing shoulders with and being glad-handed by untold senior government figures.

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Whereas his whistle-stop book tour last summer admittedly aroused little, if any, suspicion, returning there in January for a “winter sojourn” with no clear-cut agenda set off alarm bells in the Pentagon. Not only did the 62-year-old Russophile frequent occupied Ukrainian territory under the auspices of the GRU, but he also paid a courtesy call on homicidal Chechen tyrant Ramzan Kadyrov. While in Grozny, Ritter addressed a 25,000-strong crowd of bearded Kadyrov loyalists and fanned the flames of the Akhmat Batallion’s “bolshoi jihad” against the Collective West by insinuating that American and European ill-wishers foisted the Ukraine war upon them.

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Despite having repeatedly stressed that he does not plan to leave the United States, there are telltale signs of Ritter being groomed as an FSB asset and flirting with the idea of seeking asylum in Russia. After all, and for the sanctity of his family whose domestic reputation has been dragged through the mud over the last decade and a half, he would prefer it if his name were synonymous with being a national traitor as opposed to an online predator. Starting afresh off-grid in a jurisdiction whose regime he happens to be in ideological lockstep with is too attractive a proposition for someone with his emotional baggage to forgo.

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Stripping or temporarily withholding the citizenship of those who pose a clear and present danger to their homeland is, by no means, unusual. The White House was well within its right to pre-empt a potential Snowden 2.0 scenario from unfolding given Ritter’s previous career in espionage coupled with his subsequent seven-year stint as a UN Special Commission weapons inspector. Notwithstanding the massive hue and cry about purported first and fifth amendment  violations, this incident is a canary in the coal mine for the growing pool of war profiteers who have turned their backs on “Team America” and pledged allegiance to foreign adversaries.

Shortly after being sent home from New York’s JFK Airport, Ritter revealed his side of the story to the low-rent YouTubers whose upstart channels he is a regular fixture on and gaslit their audience into viewing his unexpected run-in with the border patrol agents through the prism of martyrdom and victimhood. He also played up the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF) he was set to attend in the capacity of a guest speaker as “Davos on steroids” while making his aircraft disembarkation seem like unwarranted heavy-handedness on the State Department’s part aimed at “sticking it to the Russians”.

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The fact that Ritter talked fellow SPIEF participant Judge Andrew Napolitano out of travelling to Russia mere hours before their scheduled departure suggests that he had some inkling of this “deliberate ambush” at the time. Nonetheless, the prospect of creating a media circus and garnering sympathy from the likes of Dmitry Peskov and Maria Zakharova almost certainly factored into his calculus when deciding to go ahead with the trip anyway. To their credit, United Russia’s chief mouthpieces did not take the bait and instead emerged rather tight-lipped on what they believed to be a matter beyond Moscow’s purview.

Peskov even acknowledged that applying mobility constraints on retired spies is par for the course in most countries. Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov claimed that it was not Russia’s place to comment on the affairs of a “non-citizen.” Make no mistake, scouting washed-up, out-of-favor ex-CIA officers to do its bidding is part and parcel of the Kremlin’s hybrid warfare campaign. Its upper echelons are fully aware of the extent to which Ritter has helped promulgate their cause in the West and reshape public discourse. Yet, their apathetic stance vis-à-vis his de facto overseas travel ban goes to show that he remains inconsequential in the grand scheme of things.

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Ritter’s motive behind cultivating a rabid fanfare around Vladimir Putin following the 2022 full-scale invasion is not to come across as an independent thinker or a disrupter, but to be so notoriously controversial and anti-establishment that the “sex offender” label still plaguing him is expunged from the memory of his naysayers. Despite being caught dead to rights exposing himself during an undercover sting operation fifteen years ago, he continues to be in denial about his wrongdoings and insists that the prison sentence he served from 2011 to 2014 for preying on minors was a miscarriage of justice.

For a society that prides itself on being pious and God-fearing, there is a glaring moral incongruity with regards to the Russian elite conveniently overlooking Ritter’s checkered past. The platform he has been afforded by state-funded news outlets such as RT and Sputnik for extensive commentary and analysis on the “special military operation” is indicative of how low the barriers to entry are for scandal-ridden Western journalists willing to function as Moscow’s hired guns. Disheartened by his in-person omission from SPIEF, the “expert pundit” now hopes to attend the upcoming BRICS Summit in Kazan this October, which is another cult-like echo chamber of “new world order” zealots from the Global South.

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Were he not denied boarding, Ritter had intended to reach St. Petersburg via Türkiye. The country’s flagship carrier Turkish Airlines has become something of a glorified concierge service for disaffected middle-class Russians flocking to prosperous Western economies, not least since it maintains direct flights to 36 destinations in Russia. With Poland, Lithuania and Latvia on their toes to buffer the EU’s Eastern flank against an influx of illegal aliens from Belarus, Brussels should be equally apprehensive about President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s hand in engineering an imminent refugee crisis. Istanbul, along with Minsk, are essentially the Mecca and Medina of pan-continental people smuggling activities.

Apart from providing cover for human traffickers, imposing lax visa requirements on Middle Easterners and running a dubious $400k citizenship-by-investment program that naturalized tens of thousands of Russian and Iranian property owners within a three-month time frame, Erdoğan’s ruling AK party has backed Palestine to the hilt amid the ongoing conflict in Gaza. Already on thin ice with the Beltway over his vehement opposition to the 2003 US-led military intervention in Iraq, Ritter too dove head-first into the pro-Hamas camp and went so far as to dub the Oct. 7 massacre that resulted in roughly 1,200 Israelis being butchered an “extraordinary achievement.”

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Given his penchant for cozying up to enemies of the free world and shamelessly monetizing his deep-seated abhorrence of everything the United States stands for, it is high time draconian action were taken by the current administration to bring Scott Ritter back down to earth. Although he gallivants around the globe under the guise of “waging peace”, nothing would please the erstwhile intelligence operative more than laying the blame of a Russian victory at the feet of President Joe Biden, who he has had an axe to grind with ever since his famous 1998 dressing down in Congress by the then senator over focusing on issues “above his pay grade.”

The views expressed are the author’s and not necessarily of Kyiv Post.

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