Acknowledging the Deception

Meet Victor Kalashnikov: former KGB officer, scholar, analyst, and writer. He is married to historian and journalist Marina Kalashnikova, the subject of last week’s column. Before the Soviet Union collapsed Victor worked for the KGB in Vienna. After Gorbachev’s bizarre abdication in December 1991, Victor found himself drawn into the Presidential administration of Boris Yeltsin on orders of KGB General Yevgeny Primakov. There he became a research director in the Russian Public Policy Center. “So I turned my attention 180 degrees from Europe to Russia,” Victor explained. “I was quite enthusiastic to explore what was going on in Russia. The people in the Kremlin came across a lot of surprises and discoveries as to what Russia really was.”

And what is Russia?

With help from presidential advisor Sergei Stankevich, Victor managed to retire from the KGB. But the KGB wanted him back, just as they wanted Russia back. Whatever job Victor took, wherever he went, the KGB would appear. “They always arrived on the scene with offers and promises, wanting to exploit my contacts,” Victor explained. You see, the Cold War was still ongoing, and so was the work of Moscow’s spies. In 1997 the SVR (KGB) wanted Victor to bring spies into the German oil company he worked for. When he refused, the SVR promised he would “pay with his blood.” In 1999, after having coffee at the Russian Embassy in Brussels, Victor became very sick. Quite naturally, he suspected poison.

In 2000, one of Victor’s colleagues had been summoned by the secret police and told that the Kalashnikovs were on a “black list” due to their politically incorrect writings. People were being warned on all sides, including their dentist. Friends melted away. Co-workers avoided contact. Dental work could not be done. “What struck me, especially with the younger generation,” Victor noted, “is that they appear to be such conformists. No idealism, no values. They were just ready to cooperate with whomever they saw as their superiors. That’s why ultimately, nowadays, we unexpectedly found ourselves in the position of outsiders, dissidents, even enemies. That’s the way it developed.”

In 2004 Victor and his wife continued their controversial writing activities and found themselves accosted on the street by FSB (KGB) officers who warned them against entering foreign embassies and disrupted their attempts to meet with diplomats. At about this time the Kalashnikovs were fired from their newspaper jobs. From that point forward, Victor and Marina could not find work in the Russian media, academia or business. Eventually, they sought an outlet for their talents in Ukraine. But here again, the Kremlin gave them no rest, as Ukrainian officials warned that the Russian Interior Minister had included the Kalashnikovs on a list of “extremists” and that, as a consequence, their personal safety in Ukraine could not be guaranteed.

“Conformism is absolutely overwhelming here,” Kalashnikov lamented. “You should not distinguish between the Russian authorities and the Russian people. From the unemployed in the provinces, to the top of the hierarchy, conformism is huge. Also within the media, they are all willing to cooperate. It is a reality and it will develop that way, despite today’s economic troubles. It is a typically Russian phenomenon.”

If it sounds like Soviet times, you are not mistaken. The totalitarian system has now become more sophisticated and more streamlined. The West should not deceive itself. The Cold War never ended. The KGB remains in place. According to Kalashnikov, “It is not necessary to control the entire former Soviet area. We can project our influence. Even when we allow the Americans and NATO to have a presence there, we have the upper hand. I even suspect that what happened has produced a modernized strategic model.”

Gone are the imperial burdens. Russia can use its secret agent networks to blackmail executives, politicians and intellectuals. Journalists can be bought inexpensively, as it turns out. The disinformation campaigns of the 60s, 70s and 80s have laid the groundwork for a great deception. The West thinks they are dealing with a new entity in Russia. Yet they are still dealing with the house that Stalin built.

“My feeling is that the old personnel management system has been reinstalled from Soviet times,” said Kalashnikov, explaining how the secret police can deprive uncooperative citizens of a livelihood. “In the Soviet Union your personnel file followed you whenever you changed from one job to another. Your employer sees any black marks set down by previous employers, and my former employer [the KGB] was eager to make life as difficult as possible. They wanted to press us to the degree that we would admit our defeat and failure, reconsidering our behavior.”

In the West we were told that the Soviet system was finished. We were told that the Communist Party lost power, the KGB was reformed and democracy won the day.

Kalashnikov said: “There was not any moment, I can state with certainty, that the old system of KGB and nomenklatura admitted their failure or lost control. They just changed their form and appearance. It was a sort of generational change. Instead of generals in charge, we have lieutenant colonels. They behaved differently, but they are doing the same thing. There has never been any moment when they admitted historical defeat. There never was any serious step toward de-communization – never, never. The Yakovlev Commission was conceived to imitate de-communization procedures in Central Europe.”

So it was a sham?

“Yes, it was a fake, an imitation,” Kalashnikov insisted. “From the very beginning the idea was, we’ll get back, we’ll modernize. And that’s how it happened. Of course, many Western observers were happy about the new faces and new styles and openness. But step by step, you yourself may remember that many American institutions here in Russia have been pushed out or brought under Russian control. So, formally, we have several Western bodies here allegedly doing democracy and consulting work, but in fact they have become an instrument of Kremlin policy to imitate and exploit for their own purposes.”

Here are the words of a former KGB official, telling the truth from his home in Moscow, barred from employment for his honesty – blacklisted by his former colleagues because he did not want to participate in the greatest deception of our time. “There was no real accountability for the past,” Kalashnikov explained. “It was a big deception. People changed their appearance and behavior, but the real meaning of the system remained the same – in substance. It was quite visible to me. The West was just happy that we let go of the names of Communism and Soviet and so on. We changed our vocabulary. Instead of Politburo and Central Committee we have a president and a presidential administration. Instead of KGB, we have FSB. I insist that the interpretation of late Soviet history should be changed profoundly. The KGB maintained huge networks of domestic spies. Hundreds of thousands of people were deployed at the right time, influencing the democracy movement. That system has been extended by Putin. If you look at Russia from the outside you cannot discern who is manipulating the whole thing. Hundreds of thousands of assets are employed in politics and business. There is a hidden agenda and hidden structures. Even the Germans have not gotten rid of their hidden structures having to do with the Communist era. With all the German efforts and technology they still cannot solve the problem of hidden Communist structures. They are still being manipulated. Now take Russia, which was free to reconstruct its [totalitarian] structures under a different guise.”

And what are the strategic implications?

“They would be huge,” said Kalashnikov. “You know, one thing people should understand. There is a definite line of continuity in Moscow’s military policies from Stalin’s time. Moscow has consistently followed the same line of policy. What is misleading for many people is that the material military presence is not there anymore. We don’t need so many tanks. The question is what sort of design, what sort of strategy you have in place. All of that Moscow has in terms of potentials. We see that the Russian presence is being reinstalled in some places – Latin America, Africa and the Middle East.” The important thing is manipulation and influence instead of direct control.

In terms of modern strategy Russia’s reduced size brings advantages. Now Russia is not responsible for feeding Azerbaijan or providing cheap energy to the Baltic States or Ukraine. The KGB’s weapons of influence and manipulation, including organized crime and drug trafficking, can be used to influence and manipulate without maintaining expensive armies. And so, the Russians have learned how to streamline their dominance. Make the Americans think that Washington has the upper hand. But look around today and see what is happening to the American economy, to the U.S. dollar, and to the U.S. nuclear deterrent. There is a visible weakening in all three areas.

Victor Kalashnikov is a brave man. He has refused to falsify reality for the sake of career opportunity or even personal safety. He is telling us the way things are the largest country in the world. You can ignore him if you like, but ignore him at your own peril.

Jeffrey Nyquist is the President of the Strategic Crisis Center and Distinguished Senior Fellow in Political Science at the Inter-American Institute for Philosophy, Government, and Social Thought.

This article was originally published on Financial Sense on July 24, 2009. The opinions published here are those of the writer and are not necessarily endorsed by the Institute.

Right Wing Bolshevism—Part 2

Last September, in the Web magazine, Nina Kouprianova wrote an intriguing article titled Who’s Afraid of Russia Today? As an “alternative right” spokeswoman, Ms. Kouprianova thinks Russia’s 24/7 English-language news channel (Russia Today) provides encouragement for “the burgeoning Patriot movement” here in America. And what encouragement, indeed! In fact, the Southern Poverty Law Center is going after the Russian channel on account of its support for Right Wing extremists.

Given the Leftist taint of the Southern Poverty Law Center, what are we to think? Has Russia Today been unfairly maligned? According to an explanatory article on the SPLC Website, “the Kremlin-financed television channel has devoted considerable airtime not only to coverage that makes Russia look good, but to coverage that makes the United States look bad.” Of course, nobody should be surprised at this, given the Kremlin’s longstanding rivalry with the United States. What is interesting, however, is the new approach of Moscow’s anti-American rhetoric – from the Right. According to the SPLC Website, “Over the past year and a half, Russia Today has reported with boosterish zeal on conspiracy theories popular in the resurgent ‘Patriot’ movement…. Its slickly packaged stories suggest that a legitimate debate is under way in the United States about who perpetrated the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, and about President Obama’s eligibility for high office.”

It appears that Moscow’s TV channel is suggesting (however indirectly) that the U.S. Government was behind the 9/11 attacks; – and would also like to see a constitutional crisis over President Obama’s birth certificate. The Kremlin has long sought to demoralize and cripple their “main enemy” by every means at its disposal. Saying bad things about the capitalist system is Moscow’s stock and trade. For those who understand the game, it is hardly necessary to point out that the entire 9/11 Truther movement, in point of fact, is a tapestry of useful idiots and agents of influence whose activities may be characterized by that eminent pioneer of Right Wing Bolshevism, Lyndon LaRouche, who began his career as a member of the Socialist Worker’s Party teaching dialectical materialism at New York City’s Free School, and later founded a Right Wing Marxist Party (the United States Labor Party). His frequent meetings with Soviet representatives over the years did not end with the Soviet Union. He has continued to meet with Russian “representatives,” with occasional trips to Moscow.

There is a picture, easily accessible on the Web, of long-time LaRouche associate Webster Tarpley sitting next to Russian Gen. Leonid Ivashov during the 2005 Axis for Peace Conference in Brussels. Ivashov, who served as the Chief of Staff of the Russian armed forces on Sept. 11, 2001, stated at the conference: “The organizers of those [9/11] attacks were the political and business circles interested in destabilizing the world order and who had the means necessary to finance the operation.” The Russian general further argued, “We have to look for the reasons of the attacks in the coincidence of interests of big capital at global and transnational levels….”

Well of course, the evil capitalists were behind it all. Such are the talking points of every Bolshevik, at all times, without the need for direct instructions from on high. This “truth,” in one form or another, is constantly being packaged and passed along to the useful idiots, tools, and agents of influence who spread the infection throughout society. And make no mistake; the anti-capitalist infection has taken root, as anyone can see. Russia Today is no minor broadcast outlet. As the SPLC points out, “the Moscow-headquartered Russia Today has a large global audience tuning in via cable, satellite and the Internet. In North America, Europe and South Africa, some 200 million paying viewers – including a growing number in the United States – have access to the network.”

It is worth noting that Russia Today has produced segments with the notorious 9/11 Truther Alex Jones, who once said to Webster Tarpley (on air), “Our information is everywhere.” And that is how Kremlin disinformation works. It is not a function of quality, but quantity; and Jones has been the perfect mouth-piece. Inciting his radio listeners against finance capital in the language of a revolutionary agitator, Jones says “9/11 was an inside job” and that the United States has become a “deep tyranny.” A close observer of the Jones phenomenon, Cliff Kincaid (of USA Survival News), has said, “Jones has much more in common with the Left than the Right.” Kincaid noted that Jones is a fan and friend of Lyndon LaRouche, and furthermore: “Why is he on Russian television defending their foreign policy? Why has MSNBC called this man a member of the ‘New Right’?”

In the tangled web of today’s politics, where economic sabotage has its parallels in ideological sabotage, you must always look for the hidden connections and telltale signs that agents of influence are at work. The most sophisticated disinformation machine in the world has been the KGB and its successor organization (FSB/SVR). Nina Kouprianova, in her Alternative Right article, wants us to laugh at the idea of Russian agents of influence – as if the history of the last several decades never happened. Russia Today, she says, “is not much different than the BBC…. Furthermore, the idea that private ownership of massive media conglomerates somehow guarantees objectivity is simply utopian – to state the painfully obvious.”

But that’s not really the point, Ms. Kouprianova. The BBC is not the mouth-piece of a murderous dictator at the head of a police state. For that matter, a private media corporation like ABC or Fox News is not the state, however slanted their presentations may be. There is an important difference between a private corporation and the state. Private corporations cannot send millions to death camps, or build a system of collective farms on a foundation of genocide, or threaten half the world with nuclear annihilation. No, Ms. Kouprianova, as Friedrich Nietzsche once said, the state is “the coldest of all cold monsters. Coldly it lies, too; and this lie creeps from its mouth: ‘I, the state, am the people.'” But the state, more than anything, is not the people. If it has broken its bounds, usurping the private sphere, it is a destroyer of peoples. Whatever the state says, warned Nietzsche, “it lies – and whatever it has, it has stolen. ” There should be no room in the heart of the true Right (alternative or otherwise) for state control of any television  channels. The state should remove its paws from the economy and from the media; that is, if the people are to remain free.

Furthermore, American “patriots” should not serve as apologists for the Kremlin’s English-speaking propaganda tentacle. Those who attack America and its institutions, favoring the institutions of a foreign enemy, do not merely insult our intelligence but undermine the integrity of public discourse.  A random lie may be harmless when there is no guiding strategy behind it; but a coordinated campaign of lies, begun by secret agents, perpetuated by dupes, is no child’s play. The game threatens our national unity, our prosperity, the viability of our internal order. But then, how else would a foreign enemy provoke civil war in America?

Jeffrey Nyquist is the President of the Strategic Crisis Center and Distinguished Senior Fellow in Political Science at the Inter-American Institute for Philosophy, Government, and Social Thought.

This article was originally published on Financial Sense on April 8, 2011. The opinions published here are those of the writer and are not necessarily endorsed by the Institute.

Right Wing Bolshevism—Part 1

A few months ago the Website made a laudatory reference to a work by French author Giullaume Faye. Curious about Faye’s apocalyptic ideology, I bought and read his book, which is titled Archeofutursim: European Visions of the Post Catastrophic Age, published in Europe during the 1990s, and recently translated into English. The book proposes the creation of a new Eurasian empire in which the countries of Europe are demoted to mere provinces, and the new nationality will be that of white Europeans. As Faye told a gathering of Russians from the People’s National Party in 2005, “I believe that Russia must be the center of a great white confederation. It’s the same goal as your organization.”

Faye’s book opposes the “ethnic masochism” of the ruling liberal ideology, which he says is exacerbated by hedonistic individualism. Faye blames individualism for “triggering a boom in anti-natural practices: divorces made automatic … rejection of the housewife model … the glorification of homosexuality [and a] … demographic fall caused by anti-natalism….” Faye predicts calamity, though he doesn’t say exactly what the calamity will be. Modernity is failing, he says, because it is “based on a dream-like view of human nature and fallacious anthropology.” An apparent believer in global warming and various environmental scares, Faye is even more attuned to the incompatibility between Afro-Asian Muslims and Europeans. He believes that a social explosion is coming, along with hard economic times. Liberalism is dead, says Faye, and the rationalism of the Enlightenment has no future whatsoever. “[T]he post-catastrophic world will have to reorganize social fabrics according to archaic principles — which is to say, human ones.”

What will this reorganization entail? There will be a return of authority, of family power and “the subordination of rights to duties.” He vaguely mentions the possibility of communitarian structures, “the power of hierarchy” and “the principle of punishment over prevention” along with “the rehabilitation of the aristocratic principle.” The European soul, he says, longs for the future, and also longs for a plan. This plan entails the overthrow of the liberal order. Why? “Because the egalitarian and humanitarian mindset of modern man … does not allow him to manage the explosive possibilities behind genetic engineering” which Faye would embrace. We are approaching the day when science will be able to make super-humans and sub-humans; and we must embrace these new creatures, Faye suggests, eradicating the “pseudo-ethical obstacles raised in opposition to genetic engineering, the creation of ‘modified’ human beings, and positive eugenics.”

Faye plays with such themes as a child might play with matches. He is an incendiary, setting fire to God’s creation to make way for man’s. Having no real sense of history, he nonetheless recognizes that modernity is an unsustainable chaos, and a retreat into old forms (with new technology) is inevitable. Having no sense of right or wrong, he nonetheless recognizes that old forms of moral authority must be re-established. “Archeofuturism,” he writes, “is a concept of order, a concept that upsets modern minds, which are shaped by the fallacious individualist ethics of emancipation and the rejection of discipline that has led to the swindle of ‘contemporary art,’ and wreaked havoc in the educational and socio-economic systems.” Faye is a revolutionary. He would favor Marx insofar as Marx was anti-bourgeois, but he realizes that Marxism is unworkable. Some other brand of anti-bourgeois ideology must therefore be cobbled together. And so, a new form of critical theory emerges.

Faye opposes “the weak spirit of humanitarianism, a sham ethic which raises ‘human dignity’ to the rank of ridiculous dogma. this, not to mention the hypocrisy of the many well-meaning souls who yesterday forgot to denounce Communist crimes and today have nothing to say about the embargo on Iraq [1998] and Cuba by the American superpower … [and] the oppression of the Palestinians.”

About religion he says that everyone is in agreement that modernity has overseen a process of de-spiritualization and the destruction of transcendental values. According to Faye, “The failed attempt at establishing secular religions, the empty disenchantment created by a civilization that bases its ultimate legitimacy on the value of exchange and the cult of money, and the self-destruction of Christianity have engendered a situation that cannot endure.” If we are not careful, he warns, Islam may become the religion of the future. This is dangerous because a triumphant Islam would destroy “the creativity and inventiveness of the European soul….” On the other hand, he laments, the Machiavellian plans of certain American strategists has led them to encourage the penetration and entrenchment of Islam in Europe in such a way as to induce paralysis.”

What does Faye propose as a religious alternative to Islam? “The archeofuturist answer might be as follows,” Faye explains: “a neo-medieval, quasi-polytheistic, superstitious and ritualized Christianity for the masses and a pagan agnosticism — a ‘religion of philosophers’ — for the elite.” As for the secular religion of “political correctness,” he finds it to be ethnically insincere, based on “intellectual snobbishness and social cowardice.” He calls it chic, soft, and a bourgeois form of Stalinism. To talk of a threat to Europe from Islam is to be barred from trendy restaurants, and loses its appeal in the eyes of beautiful girls. “Being politically correct is a matter not of ideology,” says Faye, “but of social acceptance.”

Faye believes today’s opposition to political correctness is also politically correct. Rebellion is neutralized, he says, “through sham rebellion.” Here the politically correct merely hide behind the mask of political incorrectness. As for freedom of speech, instead of outright censorship what we have is a media that relies on diversion, focusing on side issues and entertainment. The media careerist craves safety, and knows how to win an audience through trivia. “What we are dealing with here,” writes Faye, “is not simply the usual brutalization of the population via the increasingly sophisticated mass-media apparatus of … the spectacle — a veritable ‘audiovisual prozac’ — but rather a concealment of essential political problems….”

Faye refers to consultation and negotiation as the “scourges of modern democracy.” He says that “Constantinople is under siege and we’re debating the gender of angels.” Though his meaning is given indirectly, he appears to suggest that the racism and bigotry of old was not entirely bad; that the class system was not entirely oppressive; that male dominance is a biological imperative. The old ways and institutions are coming back, he says, whether we want them or not. There is nothing overtly anti-Semitic in the book. There is nothing overtly racist, though it is racist. His argument is an appeal to the native European stock, warning that one day they are going to react against liberalism and egalitarianism and  Islamic. These are the forces destroying European civilization. And the ultimate blame, he says, must be put upon liberal economics and hedonistic individualism. It is the permissiveness engendered by market systems, he says, which have most undermined the authoritative structures of civilization. Once the ancient notion of aristocratic order was taken down to make way for bourgeois economic power and plutocracy, authority was bound to unravel and a rising tide of chaos became inevitable.

As for “conservative” politicians and right-wing governments, Faye says they “have always been soft. They fear confrontation and do not dare to implement the ideas and programs by which they came to power…. A Right-wing government would rather avoid displeasing those who voted against it rather than please its own electorate. Winning the favor of the Left is the delight of the Right.” Democracy, he says, is therefore headed for failure, and the emergence of a new aristocracy is a necessity. Everything is thoroughly rotten. Multiculturalism, he says, merely signifies multi-racism. Only now everyone is going to truly hate everyone else. Only the Americans still have imagination and epic vision. “Culturally, as well as politically and geopolitically, Americans are strong because we [Europeans] are weak, absent, stiff, and we lack dynamism and will. Let us stop moaning: America is only quite naturally occupying the space we have abandoned.”

This takes us to Faye’s shocking conclusion. He points westward to what he calls “the Imperial American Republic.” He says that America’s decline  “has already been ‘virally’ programmed for the first quarter of the twentieth century….” Then he points to the east, to the emergence of what he calls “Eurosiberia.” According to Faye, France should no longer be called France. This is not its true name, after all. France should resume the name it had under the Roman Empire, and henceforth become the Eurosiberian province of Gaul. To build an empire of our own, says Faye, will require the emergence of predators who are “on guard for a historical disaster to happen and make their prey emerge from the undergrowth in panic.” The predator, in this case, is Russia. The prey would be the petty bourgeois states of Europe.

“In human history,” says Faye, “the establishment of a Eurosiberian complex would represent a revolution greater than that of the short-lived Soviet Union or even the United States of America.” The reasons given to justify this empire, he admits, are of little importance. In his view a Greater Europe absolutely must emerge. He calls the nations of Europe a “disorderly grouping,” which is somewhat shocking insofar as nationalism is the authentic European heritage while the Roman Empire was the very embodiment of European decadence in the original. The example of imperial Rome’s progressive ossification, the strangulation of the economy by State decree, is clearly in evidence from Diocletian to its ultimate culmination in Theodosius, but is utterly forgotten by Faye (if he ever knew it).  And yet, Faye would celebrate his new imperial project, with Russia at its core, as “Leviathan and Behemoth rolled into one.” He then writes, “From the harbor of Brest to Port Arthur, from our frozen islands in the Arctic to the victorious sun of Crete, from the fields of the steppe and from the fjords to the maquis, a hundred nations free and united, regrouped to form an empire….” He fully and rightly credits Soviet dictator Mikhail Gorbachev with the idea.

Faye’s book was published in 2010 by Arktos Media Ltd., where Arktos is the Greek word for bear — the same bear that symbolizes the ruling party in Russia, and is connected with the name of a Russian publishing house named ARKTOGEYA, and the Website, where elements of Bolshevik and nationalist terminology are knitted together by the Russian geopolitical “philosopher” Alexander Dugin, who is somehow ideologically linked to Faye’s project (insofar as Dugin is also preaching the establishment of a Eurasian empire). The discerning investigator cannot help but see a connection between the various projects of Arktos Media and Arktogeya, between Faye’s publisher and Dugin’s. Why should we not discover, in due time, a common source of funding for these two curious men (as well as a common strategic direction)?

There is a peculiar tendency of alliance between the Red and the Brown, between the Communist and the National Socialist. This may be seen in Stalin’s support for Hitler in 1932, and in the Hitler-Stalin Pact of 1939, and more recently in the parliaments of certain “former” Communist countries. The Red-Brown alliance deserves our close attention. It’s new rhetoric, no longer stale or lacking insight, is more conducive to European unity than the rhetoric of Hitler, and more anti-capitalist than Stalin. The fall of America is here anticipated, and welcome. The rhetoric of Faye and Dugin suggests that Russia is their instrument; but we must ask ourselves whether they are the instruments of Russia.

In May 2005 Faye said the following to members of the People’s National Party in Russia: “I am often asked if I’m racist. If I am a Nazi. No. My concept is, I am against war. I don’t want to conquer Algeria. But if they attack us, they have to be destroyed…. So I completely agree with the teachings of Russia-ism. I believe that Russia must be the center of a great white confederation. It’s the same goal as your organization [the People’s National Party]. ” Commenting on this rhetoric, a Ukrainian researcher told me, “This is theater. They want to create a Nazi atmosphere without the Nazi stigma. They are exploiting the emotional idea that Hitler came close to liberating Russia from Bolshevism. This is why a lot of anti-Soviets have this unconscious sympathy toward Hitler. The stupid will be led by such emotions.”

It must be understood that methods now exist, in terms of psychological warfare, for leading the Right and the Left toward the same end. What we find today is two varieties of rhetoric, each tending to the same outcome, each connected to the same secretive system. Readers should check out the images and symbolism of the People’s National Party at According to Wikipedia, the People’s National Party was allegedly founded by Aleksandr Ivanov-Sukharevksy with help from two veterans of the Black Hundreds. Ivanov-Sukharevsky allied himself with Semyon Tokmakov, the leader of a skinhead group. Oddly, the two great heroes of the People’s National Party are Tsar Nicholas II and Adolf Hitler.

It might be said that a bizarre mixing-up of diverse personalities and causes is an outgrowth of an experimental approach to political adaptation, perhaps overseen by a particular country’s special services. However intriguing or brilliant the ideological formulations presented by writers like Faye, the character behind these formulations nonetheless cannot help revealing an unabashed lack of moral sensibility. This we also find in American ideologists who appear on the right, yet aim their blows at the Left’s favorite targets.  More on this next week.

Jeffrey Nyquist is the President of the Strategic Crisis Center and Distinguished Senior Fellow in Political Science at the Inter-American Institute for Philosophy, Government, and Social Thought.

This article was originally published on Financial Sense on January 4, 2011. The opinions published here are those of the writer and are not necessarily endorsed by the Institute.

The New Russian Threat Out of the Old Soviet Collapse

This week I continue my conversation with former KGB Lt. Col. Victor Kalashnikov, who was kind enough to outline the untold story of the Soviet Union’s collapse. Kalashnikov was a KGB analyst who worked in Austria during the events of 1989-1991. The fall of the Soviet Union, he says, was an event that has been widely misrepresented and misunderstood. “We are going to mark the 20th anniversary of that event this year,” he noted. “I happened to be a witness, and I will comment, from memory, what I experienced; how the authorities acted, and how they reacted. There is a widespread opinion that economic problems were the main cause of the USSR breakdown, that economic problems led to Gorbachev’s reforms. My counter-arguments are: (1) the USSR was a society run by people with particular interests and motives; (2) these people were perfectly happy with the economic arrangement of the Soviet Union.”

Kalashnikov pointed to the southern Russian city of Tagonrog, where his uncle Alexei was the head of the city’s KGB. “I have visited him and his family various times in the sixties and seventies,” said Kalashnikov. “My uncle, who was a KGB general, occupied the best flat in this nice southern city. He had two Volga cars, and one from the KGB with a driver, for traveling. I remember at the time how people brought huge quantities of delicacies into my uncle’s flat. He had a huge villa on the Black Sea shore. Moreoever, he together with his Party colleagues, had an airplane at their disposal, an old lend lease plane, so they could fly to Moscow for shopping. They also made European tours through the Mediterranean. Summarizing all that, my uncle had no economic problem in the old Soviet Union. Most sections of the Soviet nomenklatura [ruling class], lived an upper middle class average existence. Today many of them live much higher, of course. But in the 1980s they were not motivated to change anything radically at all. That is my point.”

While the ruling elite lived comfortably, the people of the Soviet Union lived miserably. According to Kalashnikov, “Marina and myself made very expensive trips through the USSR as researchers, together with other researchers and students from our university. In 1980 or 81 we visited the Urals. Let me tell you, frankly, I visited hundreds of industrial enterprises and farms, city governments and hotels, and villages, and there was practically no food in the stores because everything was distributed through a sophisticated system by the population. The shelves in the stores were empty. There was one type of canned beans, a few staples, and nothing else. Now, in summer time, the water was hardly drinkable at all. The smell was horrible. The living condition of the vast majority of people was absolutely miserable. The nomenklatura lived well, but up to 90 percent of the people lived in squalor. The housing for normal citizens was desperate to catastrophic. Yes, indeed, the Russian people were facing very severe problems, it is true. But so what? The economic situation of the people had no impact on the stability of the regime. Was there any danger of a revolt? Absolutely not. After Stalin’s terror, the rulers knew how to block dissent, how to put people in jail. They had the gulag [prison camp system]. There was, of course, no labor movement. It was absolutely quiet, and this was normal. There was a sort of joke told at the time: ‘What is the Polish Solidarity [union]? When there is no food in Sverdlovsk they go on strike in Gdansk.’ The situation was absolutely horrible in Russia, but they strike in Poland. This is the Russian sarcastic form of humor. To evaluate this development in point of view of general economic problems, if you look at social groups, we easily may discover that there was no political or social unrest from the population. In the Urals, for example, everything was okay. Gorbachev could have governed in the same way for another 20 years. So why did everything change? I do not believe the economic problems were the major cause of the Gorbachev changes.”

Kalashnikov makes an excellent point. Furthermore, we know from the writings of Soviet Bloc defectors (like Jan Sejna and Anatoliy Golitsyn) that a change in the Communist system was contemplated long before the 1980s. This change was envisioned as part of a long-range strategy. The immediate occasion for reverting to this strategy, according to Kalashnikov, was Ronald Reagan. “Not only him personally,” explained Kalashnikov, “but his administration, his policy, his strategy and that of NATO. In the early and mid 80s I was in the Analytic Department of the KGB, and there was concern about military-political pressure from the West, from the Americans especially. There was competition in space, the oceans and in the military area. To assess all this properly, you have to look at events in the early 70s. What I mean is, of course, the war in Vietnam. Moscow drew a simple conclusion from that war. The conclusion of the Soviet General Staff was that the Americans could be defeated on the battlefield without recourse to nuclear arms. For that we only needed a Third World country, armed and trained by ourselves, and a good proletarian party with a strong leader. To gain such countries, the Soviet Union embarked on a worldwide expansion under the policy of détente [or разрядка]. The Soviets intervened in Africa, taking over Angola and Mozambique, and they involved themselves in Nicaragua. There was a successful global offensive, with some setbacks. This occurred at a time of general American weakness, due to the support we had from leftists and pacifists. I had access to General Staff reports from 1984, with operational military assessments. These included the effects of mass demonstrations on American military and rocket bases. The Soviets continued in this way until something changed quite unexpectedly for us.”

As Kalashnikov explained, President Ronald Reagan had begun putting military pressure on the Soviet Union during his first term. Reagan proposed the construction of anti-ballistic missile defenses for America (the Strategic Defense Initiative). He oversaw an increase in the size of the U.S. Army and Navy. There were qualitative and technological improvements to American forces as well. Were the Americans bluffing? Was the period of U.S. weakness at an end? Then, in 1986, Arab terrorists struck a discotheque in Germany. “This was carried out by Libyans with help from the East German Stasi,” said Kalashnikov. “Three people were killed, including American servicemen, and 200 wounded. Some days after that, American aircraft bombed Libya. It was a massive military response, which was serious. My superiors evaluated the situation carefully, and I was at several meetings. Just one attack on a disco, and the Americans sent in bombers. There would be no joking with Ronald Reagan or his people. This episode showed that the Soviet strategy of applying pressure on the West had reached its limit. We must now think things over. My bosses were upset and concerned about the American behavior. It was one of those crucial events, along with other indications of growing will on the Western side to contain the Soviet offensive, and to launch strategic counter-attacks wherever possible, with no serious compromises.”

Since the Soviet Union had begun pushing into Africa, into Afghanistan, and into Central America, the American’s felt obliged to firm up their defenses. From the Soviet strategic vantage-point, there was nothing further to be gotten from direct expansion. A reversion to another strategic model, long held in reserve, was to begin. The new strategy would employ diplomacy. “It’s about the idea of launching the common European house,” said Kalashnikov, “allowing the Germans to unify so that they would ask the Americans to go home, and they would pay off Moscow and transfer technologies to the USSR, etc. I know that the German unification was a scheme to produce a favorable outcome for the Kremlin, because pro-Soviet forces would come to power in Germany, mainly from the Left. We were confident of this. The main goal was to drive the Americans from Europe. If we succeeded, in that case, with destabilizing NATO, we would have more options from our fellow Europeans. In the first stage of this so-called German-Soviet condominium, the fate of Czechoslovakia and Poland was unimportant because the framework was ours. We were working with the Germans directly. It was all in the spirit of the Rapallo Treaty [1922], or the Ribbentrop-Molotov Pact. The slogan was, ‘The Americans out, the Soviets in, the Germans up.’  What happened next, however, was not expected. The unification of Germany was carried out very rapidly, in a few months. Nobody expected this. In the course of 1990 the Soviet armed forces, which were intended to occupy Western Europe, found themselves sitting on NATO territory. There was no option for keeping this force in Germany. So the Russians were placed in an impossible situation. The Soviet forces had to leave. The process of that massive retreat had a huge impact on the Soviet Union. The Soviet machine was a massive military industrial monster. So the withdrawal of Soviet armies from Europe meant that the system was largely destabilized. It meant that a ripple effect was felt throughout the Urals [i.e., military industry]. The entire enforcement apparatus went out of balance. The situation dictated an abrupt change of domestic policy. In August 91 conservative forces supposedly took over in a coup. Gorbachev arranged this himself because he felt cheated in Europe. At the same time they engaged Saddam Hussein to occupy Kuwait, and Saddam started to threaten Saudi Arabia. Bush senior was clever enough not to engage too deep in Iraq at that time, while Moscow became an indispensible partner for the West in the United Nations Security Council. Later, the 9/11 catastrophe was necessary to lure America’s military might into Afghanistan and Iraq. That made Washington even more dependent on Moscow, and that is the strategic situation of today. What happened in 1991, with the collapse of the USSR, was due to the escalation of a political crisis in Ukraine. This was a huge and important part of the Soviet Union, and the Ukrainians continued to offer resistance, leading to serious discontent and opposition. And I know from Ukrainian KGB people that they worried all the time that something was going on; and if they lost control, there would be serious trouble for Moscow itself. That’s why the Ukrainian KGB was even more cruel and stubborn than it was in Russia. In our conversations, when they came to Lubyanka to various meetings, we expressed our criticism of their harshness, and their various scandals. They would reply, ‘You have no idea how dangerous and difficult the situation is in Ukraine.’ So when the Soviet military and Soviet forces suffered the shock of withdrawal from Europe, the activists in Ukraine organized a revolt. The Ukrainians were ready for armed resistance. They also had units within the Soviet armed forces. We were warned of this, that it was serious and reality-based. The leadership in Kiev kept calling Moscow for help, for any kind of support. But Moscow was unable to help, because it was engaged with Germany and NATO. So it was absolutely impossible to mobilize units to suppress the Ukrainian resistance. That was the real problem. As Ukraine got its independence, the national democrats came to power there, and the Soviet Union was done. This was clear to everyone. Without Ukraine, the USSR was a fiction. The political influence of Ukraine spread in all directions. It spread to Russia, infected the Russian democrats. Ukraine became a major stumbling block for the Soviet elite.”

But all was not lost for the KGB or the Communist elite. Decades earlier, Soviet planners had looked ahead to a time when a reform of the Soviet system would be necessary. In a book published in 1984, KGB defector Anatoliy Golitsyn wrote about a secret Soviet plan to do away with Communist Party dominance. This, he said, would be a deception. The Communist Party would still exist underneath the surface. It would merely go underground, or break into various new parties that would control the Russian political process according to a script. In facing the crisis, Kalashnikov noted the Kremlin’s agility: “Moscow managed to regroup itself, to recuperate, by launching Islamist forces. In this way they kept Soviet legitimacy. This is extremely important to understand. In diplomatic terms, the Russian Federation is the Soviet Union of today. It has all the prerequisites, with the Security Council, central structures, etc. And it retains the status of nuclear superpower. Back in 1991 we were told, ‘Listen comrade, it is a defeat for us. But it is a temporary setback.’ The Soviet Union never accepted defeat in the Cold War, not for a minute. There was not even a temporary break in the policy from Gorbachev to Yeltsin to Putin. We have been reorganizing and will be back on track. You may remember the removal of the Dzerzhinsky monument from in front of KGB headquarters. Now let me describe the reaction in our ranks, in our residencies. When we saw what happened in Moscow, there was a general sigh of relief. We knew that someone had masterfully distracted the crowd in front of our headquarters to that poor Dzerzhinsky monument, so our premises remained untouched. That was a huge difference from what happened in East Berlin. We immediately realized that the leaders and organizers of that crowd were KGB assets, our agents. The fall of Dzerzhinsky’s statue was arranged by the KGB. It was ultimately a fake event.”

And what was the attitude of the KGB’s top leadership at the time? “In October of 91 I went to Moscow to meet with Gen. Victor Ivanenko, who was the person commanding the security of the KGB. He wanted to see me to discuss the situation of the money of the Communist Party and KGB. Austria, where I worked for the KGB, was central to the international business of the Soviet Communist Party. In Austria we had several banks under our control, and the general directors were KGB officers; that is, in capitalist Austria. The Russian presence in Austria was overwhelming. My point in telling about my visit with Gen. Ivanenko was that the KGB elite showed no nervousness or bad feelings about what happened. They were just rearranging their business according to a new situation. In Vienna itself, the Communist Party boss changed his suit and became a capitalist.”

The turn to capitalism in Russia was not an honest turn to freedom. The privatization of the Soviet Union merely signified the transfer of state property into the hands of the nomenklatura. According to Kalashnikov, “In plain words, they started a process of transferring national wealth, factories, resources, etc., for nothing, into the hands of the Soviet elite, and trusted persons. In Russia, the nomenklatura took everything for themselves. They were not preoccupied with limiting themselves with laws, norms, or institutions of any kind.”

This was the formula for controlled capitalism in Russia. In this manner, explained Kalashnikov, the Russian Communists used the process of “privatization” to make themselves into a business class that could make deals with the West. “The Russians,” he said, “needed to gain legal status for their companies in the West. So again, the Russians are putting the West in a dire strategic position, because of al Qaeda, because of a new dependence on Russian gas and oil, because sections of the Western business community are collaborating with Russia in commercial ventures; and this will allow Moscow to expand its military-political endeavors across the globe. Russia today has resources it could only dream of during the Cold War. They need not spy on British Petroleum, since they are helping British Petroleum. The same is true of the Western media, finance, etc., etc. The field of intelligence has changed, and different tactics are being used. So the nature of spying has changed. It is not less than before, but even more intense.”

This is how a new threat emerges from the old threat. To quote KGB Major Anatoliy Golitsyn, it is a case of  “new lies for old.”

Jeffrey Nyquist is the President of the Strategic Crisis Center and Distinguished Senior Fellow in Political Science at the Inter-American Institute for Philosophy, Government, and Social Thought.

This article was originally published on Financial Sense on January 28, 2011. The opinions published here are those of the writer and are not necessarily endorsed by the Institute.