The people who brought Vladimir Putin from St. Petersburg to Moscow never cared about his credentials as a specialist in developing business. For them he was an expert in controlling business. All the time Putin worked in St. Petersburg, he played an official role as deputy mayor and chairman of the Committee [for Foreign Liaison], but, behind the scenes Mr. Putin operated in his most important identity — the Case Officer. In St. Petersburg, Vladimir Putin was an ‘operative.’ Businessmen were not partners but targets.Fiona Hill and Clifford Gaddy
Mr. Putin: Operative
in the Kremlin, p. 166
Most people, including journalists and political leaders have the wrong idea about the “fall of the Soviet Union” and the changes in Russia. They also have the wrong idea about China.
Between outright nonsense repeated on television, and the subtle misreading of experts, the threat from Russia, and from China, has largely escaped notice. These two countries have cultivated a deceptive image of themselves. They have masked their hostile intentions; and despite Moscow and Beijing’s bad behavior during the viral pandemic, we are still not learning.
In the quote above, Fiona Hill and Clifford Gaddy accurately describe Putin’s function and usefulness to Russia’s “post-Soviet” structures. They point to Putin’s ongoing secret police activities, suggesting that economic liberalization in Russia was under control of state security. Putin, as an officer of State Security, was one of the controllers.
Russia’s heralded transition to democracy and capitalism was fraudulent. It simply did not happen. We were misled by the false front of deputy mayors like Putin, and Russian big-shot “liberals” like Anatoliy Sobchak and Boris Yeltsin. The economy of the Soviet Union, which was largely a black market economy, was managed by the communists the same as before. Only the appearances changed.
In Karen Dawisha’s excellent book, Putin’s Kleptocracy, she quotes from a Spanish prosecutor’s report on Russian involvement in narcotics trafficking and money laundering during the Yeltsin years. Dawisha quotes the prosecutor as follows: “[In Russia] one cannot differentiate between the activities of the government and OC [organized crime] groups.” Furthermore, the KGB/FSB “control organized crime in Russia…. The FSB is ‘absorbing’ the Russia mafia” and — Dawisha adds, “using them for black operations on Russian territory.” (Loc 263-269, Kindle Ed.)
It would not be safe to assume that organized crime took over Russia after 1991. It would be more accurate to say that the KGB and the old party structures took over (or activated) the various Russian mafias — turning them into instruments of state. As Arkady Vaksberg pointed out in his 1991 book on the Russian mafia, the regional factions of the Communist Party Soviet Union generated indigenous mafia clans. These were useful to the communists for a variety of reasons.
By way of explanation, Vaksberg received a letter as the Soviet Union was “collapsing.” It was from a “devoted reader … in close proximity to the organs of power,” pseudonymously signing himself, V.N. Voloshin. According to Voloshin the liberalization of the Russian economy was set up to fail.
Our leaders are deliberately destabilizing the country…. everything is being done to provoke the people into crying, as one: ‘Let us have strong government back.’The Soviet Mafia, p. 266.
Voloshin further explained how criminals were recruited by the politicians: “We ‘hook’ these people by letting them off petty crimes … after which they conscientiously carry out our bidding.”
We [communists] operate as we always have, except that we have adopted a lower profile and changed our tactics. We have stopped taking protective measures … but just gather information … which will enable us … when the right moment comes. Everybody here curses the reforms and expects the fall of democracy, and it will happen sooner than you think. And the army is behind us too.Ibid, p. 266-67.
Voloshin added, “The only thing which might save us is a complete disbanding if the KGB….” Of course, getting rid of the KGB was never part of the plan. In fact, the KGB became more powerful than ever, being critical to the capitalist facade of Russia’s false liberalization. Here was a reform process that Polish scholar Wisla Suraska characterized as a “police-sponsored civil society” working toward “a police-sponsored revolution.” (How the Soviet Union Disappeared, p. 49.)
Without subjecting the reader to an avalanche of books and analysis, here is but a flavoring of intelligent writings on the process we idiotically heralded as “the collapse of communism,” or the “end of the Cold War.” As noted by one Soviet official, Georgi Arbatov, in December 1988, Gorbachev’s plan was to “take away the image of your enemy.” The substance of that enemy would remain, preparing for war as the West relaxed its vigilance.
It is shameful that we have been fooled by the Russians and their Chinese allies. Conservative pundits like Sean Hannity and Patrick Buchanan, who would not deign to read Hill and Gaddy, would squirm to hear of Putin’s deceptive gamesmanship. The truth would not only confuse such pundits, but draw them afield from their favorite narrative — namely, how Ronald Reagan won the Cold War.
To begin with an error at the beginning of your analysis, is to build an edifice of error, until the truth disappears from sight. And how do our lost conservatives go back? How do they retrace their steps? Who has the humility to walk back the last thirty years?
If you take all the specialized writings on the subject of China, on the subject of Russia, on the subject of nuclear war, you will find an undiscovered country. Today’s ruling opinions, built on foundations of error and misunderstanding, are larded with untruth. The first and greatest of these untruths? —
The Collapse of Communism
Conservatives have congratulated themselves, over and over, for defeating communism. But they have done no such thing. It is a classic case of conceit. To show how deluded this conceit is, recall the cancellation of the Rose Parade in Portland Oregon during 2017. It was cancelled because communists threatened violence against Republicans slated to participate. (https://www.google.com/amp/s/amp.theatlantic.com/amp/article/524334/)
Communists have always been a small group. But they have always exercised power and influence beyond what their actual numbers would suggest. Why? Because they possess a missionary zeal. Because they are ruthless. Because they are better organized, better at strategy, better at infiltrating, sabotaging, and taking control.
Stopping a rose parade in Oregon, the communists flexed their muscles in an important city. But elsewhere in North America, the communists have become masters of an entire country. Consider Evan McGuire’s 2018 piece in the American Spectator: “A Cold War Communist is Still Killing People in Nicaragua.” Oh yes. Reagan won the Cold War, but the Sandinistas are ruling Nicaragua as before. (https://spectator.org/daniel-ortega-a-cold-war-communist-is-still-killing-people-in-nicaragua/).
Consider what happened in Venezuela. According to Luis Henrique Ball, writing in the Pan American Post of 17 December 2017, the oil-rich prize of Latin America was converted into a communist stronghold through a strategy of socialist incrementalism. What made this possible? Our conservatives made it possible, because they were no longer concerned with the spread of Marxism-Leninism. Why? Because they were swindled to believe that communism collapsed.
It is a disastrous situation. The “domino theory” has been overtaken by “domino history,” where one country after another succumbs to communism. Sadly, the so-called “fall of the Soviet Union” did not herald the end of communist expansion, but opened a new phase — in which communism advanced from victory to victory, unrecognized and unhindered.
South Africa was the first great prize to be taken by the “defunct” communists after 1991. While the West celebrated an unearned victory over Leninism, the Leninists had a great laugh. The progress of communism in South Africa is a long story. In the 1950s the South African Communist Party ordered its members to join the African National Congress (ANC). As Richard Monroe pointed out in his Lessons of the 1950s, “Whatever the Communists did was done through the Congress movement…. Apart from one or two minor instances, nothing was done by the CP [Communist Party] which was in conflict with Congress policy.” (https://www.sahistory.org.za/archive/chapter-4-role-communist-party-anc-richard-monroe).
As history records, the National Party surrendered its monopoly of power to the African National Congress (ANC) in 1994. For the past 26 years South Africa has been a one-party state ruled by ANC communists who have followed the same gradualist strategy used by Hugo Chavez in Venezuela. Once again, a strategic country was conquered.
South Africa sits astride the Cape sea route used by Europe’s oil tankers returning from the Persian Gulf. South Africa is also the “mineral storehouse” of Africa. Control of this country by the communist bloc, during the Cold War, would have frightened Western strategists. In military/economic terms, the bloc now enjoys a metals monopoly — with crippling implications for American aerospace. But no alarm has been raised. The conservatives do not care who governs South Africa — as long as the flow of precious metals continues. The West will soon discover its error when the communist bloc’s economic offensive accelerates. Essentially, South Africa is now a communist bloc country ruled by the African Nation Congress — a false front behind which lurks the Russians and Chinese.
Like Zimbabwe and Namibia, Angola and Congo, South Africa has gone communist. In each country we are deceived about the rulers, who pretend to be democrats. But they are not Democrats. Once again, our own conceit gets the better of us. These countries are on China’s side. They are on Russia’s side. And this is no minor matter.
The myth of “the collapse of communism” could be turned into a very fat book. But who would buy such a book? The preference of the market is clear. People crave lies. They want myths. The communists have fostered these myths. As Lenin said at the advent of his New Economic Policy in 1921, “Tell the capitalists what they want to hear.”
Nuclear war cannot happen
People love nonsense, especially about war and peace. It’s very soothing to imagine nobody will launch a nuclear war. It’s also naive. There are people in this world who enjoy killing, who enjoy wrecking things, and find a self-affirming joy in annihilation for the sake of annihilation.
The normal world — the civilized world — never really explored the abyss of communism (as a psychological phenomenon). They did not see that a spirit of destruction for destruction’s sake had appeared alongside Marxism. They failed to understand the fate in store when this spirit got hold of nuclear and biological weapons. They failed to understand that these weapons would be used — with reasonable explanations deployed in favor of usage. Here, the task of reason, deep down, would operate in accordance with a spirit of destruction.
Once the totalitarian powers got the bomb, a catastrophic war would only be a matter of time. It is only the optical illusion of the moment, when normal people project their own thinking onto totalitarian rulers, that we imagine a successful and perpetual regime of global restraint.
The illusion of perpetual peace is plutocratically endorsed, in theory and practice, by market hedonism. Here self-indulgence carries over to national policy — to the ever-poorer maintenance of our nuclear deterrent. We simply do not believe in nuclear war. We do not believe in bomb shelters or ballistic missile defense. There is something inherently mad, or dangerous, in thinking about it. But if we cannot think about it, how are we to defend against it? And that’s the point. We long ago stopped taking it seriously. But Russia and China continue to make bombs and missiles. Meanwhile, ours rot in their silos.
And so we tell ourselves that a nuclear war cannot be won. We believe that these weapons can “destroy the planet” many times over. We imagine there is a “balance of terror.” But these are stories you tell to children. The reality is very different. Readers are directed to consult Peter Vincent Pry’s book, Nuclear Wars: Exchanges and Outcomes — which is Volume II of his larger work, The Nuclear Balance. Readers should also consult William Lee’s The ABM Treat Charade, Sokolovskiy’s classic Soviet Military Strategy and Sidorenko’s The Offensive.
Or read up on Ted Bundy, the serial killer. He is a good model for this subject. He presents himself as a benign, friendly and rational human being. But he is actually murderous, malicious, and irrational. Put this type of person together with weapons of mass destruction and you have the perfect marriage. In this case, of course, the bridegroom has already found his bride.
It is, once again, the West’s conceit — and the conceit of all “normal” people — that such a marriage can never happen. And so, year by year, our vigilance attenuates. We have bought into the deceptive talk of the totalitarians. We want to believe them. In time they will nuke us. What will stop them?
America is invincible
A flattering myth is always believed — to the ruin of the believer. Life is full of hard lessons, hard knocks, and hard heads. Many people born after World War II act as though America were indestructible. This goes a long way to explaining their readiness for destructive policies, destructive behaviors, and destructive thinking.
When the survival of a society or country is taken for granted, and every kind of social experimentation is indulged on the back of this conceit, you can be sure that a massive pile of rubble is going to be the legacy.
Look at the “baby boomer” generation: they grew up in a country that beat the Nazis and Imperial Japan. It was so rich, so powerful, that nothing could harm it. So a great deal of harm was done. The fabric of the society was not treated with gentleness or respect. Everything was subjected to ruthless criticism. Motherhood, patriotism, spanking, honesty, sobriety, chastity, common sense, anti-communism. It became fashionable to mock or discount these items. The more they were associated with the past, the more they were mocked.
In the 1980s Ronald Reagan’s “morning in America” came to the fore, as if the Republic was not already staggering from internal wounds. The true situation was papered over, and insincerity was given wider latitude. This was the context in which we embraced Gorbachev and built China into a colossus. We did it with a Reagan Happy Face.
Invincible? No. Stupid and self-deceiving? Yes. Nothing here is intrinsic to invincibility. Everything conspires to strip the whole, preparing the way for a destructive nihilism. What we have, in America, is a series of illnesses — and COVID-19 is the least of them.
Aside from these points, there are no invincible countries — especially in an age like ours. Biological and nuclear weapons can destroy any country at any time. Especially, they can destroy a country that refuses to deal realistically with them; a country that wants to live as if such weapons do not require more from us.
Everything written here is inadequate. But there is nonetheless value in what is written, if only as a point of departure. We cannot go forward at all unless we dispense with the corrupting myths listed above. But how do we overcome these myths?
A mountain of misunderstanding is not removed by a single sentence, a paragraph or an essay. No words suffice to remove such a mountain. But the words must be pronounced, nonetheless. And they must be pronounced in the face of those who violently disagree.
Perhaps the most disconcerting thing about writing these essays is the poor quality of the critics. It’s tiresome to be criticized for things never said — for things that other people imagined; for example, that I advocate war with China or Iran or Russia; or that I want America to occupy the Middle East — or dominate the world.
I was treated, this week, to several emails from a libertarian writer who bragged that he reads this site — despite holding opinions “the opposite” of mine. He congratulated himself on his open-mindedness, reminding me that ”patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel.” He pointed to the Pentagon’s wasteful spending, taking me to task for being a “warmonger” who seeks to convert others to “warmongering.” He said, in essence, that I should not be concerned with the crimes of communist China when America has murdered hundreds of thousands of innocent people in the Middle East.
Forsooth, he implied I was a propagandist for baby-killers. He asked how I could say America is good while China is evil? China didn’t bomb Iraq, he noted. China didn’t invade Afghanistan. If I were a moral person I would be concerned with the immorality of Americans, not the immorality of Chinese communists. He said that China was no threat at all because our nuclear arsenal protects us. My concerns, he said, were therefore “silly.”
He complained that my subsequent reply was “condescending.” But how else should I answer a Jackass? A respectful reply would have sounded sarcastic. Accused of being a scoundrel and a warmonger, a friendly reply would have sounded obsequious, unmanly, perhaps even sniveling.
Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel? Defending the country against China or Russia is “warmongering”?
My critic misunderstands the meaning of the word “patriotism” The word refers to fatherly love and concern for one’s country. It does not signify inordinate praise for one’s country, or bragging about the flag. It has nothing to do with making America “great again.” What I express, in my writings, is real concern for the survival of my country. It is the only genuine expression of patriotism I know. Now let us consider what it signifies to list this genuine expression as “the last refuge of a scoundrel.”
Who lives without concern for his country? Who takes his country for granted? Who glibly runs down his country on account of his ideology? Who mocks expressions of genuine patriotic concern as “silly”? Is that a patriot? No. What does such a writer love? The truth? His country? Or the sound of his own, empty words?
If I am wrong, it is NOT because I am a scoundrel. If war erupts it will NOT be on account of my “warmongering.” It seems that there are two approaches to this subject. Only one is motivated by genuine concern for the country. The other is completely unserious.