We cannot do without the Russians on our side….Jordan Peterson [i]
The feigned disunity of the communist world promotes real disunity in the noncommunist world.Anatoliy Golitsyn [ii]
In his recent video on “Russia vs. Ukraine,” Jordan Peterson said that the West must join with Russia in order to counterbalance China; but, like most influential celebrities, Peterson has yet to realize that China and Russia have been secretly working together for a long time. He has not awakened to the fact that President Richard Nixon’s opening to China was a strategic blunder, and partnering with Russia at the end of the Cold War was also a blunder. Russia is now the world’s leading nuclear power, bar none. China is now the greatest industrial power in the world, bar none. Power of this kind is not attained by accident, but by policy. And the West, led by the United States, facilitated the strengthening of these hostile regimes.
Listening to Peterson’s video on the Ukraine War, I see that he does not know about a KGB strategy known as the “fake split.” In 1958 KGB Chairman Alexander Shelepin gave a lecture on how the KGB’s deception “machinery” could be used to engineer “fake splits” between countries of the communist bloc. The idea was to trick America into helping one communist country against another on the assumption that the two countries really had become enemies.[iii] Not all splits within the communist world have been faked, of course; but in his 1958 lecture Shelepin let slip that communist China was the ideal country for Moscow to have a “fake split” with. If this sort of scheme is thought to be too grandiose to be real, think again. The history of the Soviet Union is littered with grandiose schemes and outlandish deceptions; from Operation Trust in the 1920s, [iv] to the denial of the Ukraine terror famine in the 1930s, the WiN deception of the 1940s, and the perestroika deception of the 1980s. Russian power has continuously engaged in “active measures” to distort and confuse Western thought. The West’s media and intelligence services have been swindled by the communists, again and again.[v] In the short span of 32 years, Lenin’s followers got control of the world’s largest country (Russia) and the world’s most populous country (China). This suggests that communist leaders are gifted deception strategists. Given this history, should the West have taken the Sino-Soviet split at face value? The answer is “no.”
Because Peterson does not have a background in Soviet strategy, and because he is unfamiliar with the deception practices of the Russian special services, he blames the emerging alliance between Beijing and Moscow on the West’s “self-aggrandizing” behavior in Ukraine. He thinks we have driven Russia into China’s arms. He suggests that we are treating Vladimir Putin “like a cornered rat.” It is better, says Peterson, to make Putin into our partner. Of course, this was our policy twenty years ago; and it failed.
Many countries are now succumbing to communism because we made Moscow and Beijing our partners more than thirty years ago; and this cannot be a coincidence. Look at Peterson’s own country, Canada, and its slide toward communism under Justin Trudeau. In fact, communists are coming to power all over the Western Hemisphere – in Peru, Chile, and Colombia. Communists are entrenched in Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela. Rather than marking the end of communism, the fall of the Soviet Union marked the stealthy acceleration of communist subversion around the world.
If we look at things from a strategic standpoint, Soviet-dominated Eastern Europe was the proverbial “poison pawn” in a Russian gambit that almost failed. In blaming the West for taking that “poison pawn,” Peterson has forgotten the ABCs of totalitarianism: NATO’s provocation against Russia was not its eastward expansion. NATO has provoked Moscow by being weak and stupid. In fact, nothing exemplifies our weakness and stupidity more than our readiness to form combinations with Moscow and Beijing by turns. For us, the “China card” was a crutch. And now Peterson wants us to play the “Russia card.” As KGB defector Anatoliy Golitsyn wrote nearly four decades ago, “False alignments, formed with third parties by each side against the other, make it easier to achieve specific communist goals, such as the acquisition of advanced technology or the negotiation of arms control agreements or communist penetration of the Arab and African states.”[vi]
Contrary to Peterson’s narrative, America and the West took Moscow at its word in December 1991 when the hammer and sickle flag was taken down from the Kremlin. And since NATO was no longer Russia’s enemy, why would Moscow mind NATO expansion? Some observers thought Russia was going to join NATO. After all, the West gave Russia credits, technology, and billions in investments and payoffs. At the same time America acted as if the Cold War was over, neglecting or destroying its nuclear weaponry. Yet Russia did the opposite. In fact, Russian pundits have openly bragged that Moscow outwitted the West. For example, a mocking Pravda article from November 2014 completely contradicts Peterson’s narrative of NATO driving Russia into China’s arms:
…Russia overcame the inertia of collapse and started reviving its power, while the West, being lulled by sweet day-dreams of the liberal ‘end of history,’ castrated its armed forces to the point, when they could be good [only] for leading colonial wars with weak and technically backward enemies. The balance of forces in Europe has thus changed in Russia’s favor.”[vii]
Dmitry Sudakov, the writer of this article, is not bemoaning Russia’s fate at the hands of an aggressive NATO alliance. He is laughing at the West’s idiocy. “The illusion of world supremacy played a cruel joke on Washington,” added Sudakov. “The West, having discarded Russia, had been cutting its tanks and destroying its tactical nuclear weapons. Russia, feeling its own weakness, kept all tanks and tactical nuclear weapons.” Thus: “When the Americans realized that [they had fallen behind], it was too late. In December 2010, Under Secretary for Arms Control and International Security, Rose Gottemoeller, sounded the alarm. The Russians had more tactical nuclear systems that the USA, she said.”[viii]
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was not an act of desperation. It was an act of exploitation. Russia and China are now attempting to shift – or have already shifted – the balance of power in their favor. Some countries have already understood the nature of this shift. Consequently, Russia’s BRICS[ix] alliance is about to expand. It is whispered abroad that Egypt, Turkey, and Saudi Arabia are preparing to join BRICS. If Saudi Arabia turns away from America and joins with Russia and China, an oil embargo might be used to break up NATO or force the realignment of Japan.
Of course, Jordan Peterson may not care because he thinks that America and the West are less deserving of survival than “Christian” Russia. At the same time, our fool of a president “fist bumped” Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman instead of shaking his hands during a recent Middle East visit. Biden also suggested, however indelicately, that the Crown Prince had murdered journalist Adnan Khashoggi.
While Peterson would make enemies into friends, Biden would make friends into enemies. Here are two sides of the same coin. Russian active measures have successfully disoriented Western leaders and opinion-makers. This disorientation gives significant advantages to Moscow and Beijing. The first rule in politics is to know who your friends are, and know who your enemies are. While Biden is a lost cause in this regard, Peterson may be open to changing his mind. Contrary to what Henry Kissinger built his career on, we cannot safely make friends with anyone we please. A cunning enemy will respond to an offer of friendship with false friendship. And what is more dangerous than a false friend? Fifteen years ago, SVR/KGB defector Sergei Tretyakov told journalist Pete Earley,
I want to warn Americans. As a people, you are very naïve about Russia and its intentions. You believe because the Soviet Union no longer exists, Russia is now your friend. It isn’t, and I can show you how the SVR is trying to destroy the U.S. even today and even more than the KGB did during the Cold War.[x]
A False Moral Tone
Jordan Peterson became a celebrity because he refused to go along with laws enforcing non-binary gender pronouns. He risked his career for the sake of free speech and many of us admired his outspoken and courageous stand. But now, in terms of the moral tone of Peterson’s discourse, his condemnation of Russian military aggression rings hollow. In fact, his analysis of the Ukraine War is riddled with equivocal statements.
According to Peterson, Putin is “a thug,” yet a “practicing Christian.” Peterson says the Ukraine invasion is “unconscionable,” yet Russia is a “bulwark against the moral decadence of the West.” Peterson says Putin collaborates with “a genuine philosopher, Alexander Dugin,” yet Peterson does not tell us that Dugin’s philosophy calls for the destruction of America and the smashing of liberal civilization. Out of this, a question rises up: What happened to Peterson’s moral discernment?
Here is Peterson’s thesis about the Ukraine War. He begins with the following question: “Are we [the West] degenerate in a profoundly threatening manner?” Peterson thinks the answer to the question “may well be yes.” Pointing to the culture war, he asks: “How serious is that war? Is it serious enough to increase the probability that Russia … would be motivated to invade and potentially incapacitate Ukraine – merely to keep the pathological West out of that country?”
To test Peterson’s thesis let us assume America is the prototype of Western degeneracy. Let us then compare America’s per capita drug overdose and abortion rates with Russia’s. After all, who would argue that the less degenerate country would have a higher number of drug overdoses and abortions? By this measure, of course, Russia is more degenerate than the United States. For example, a 2014 RT report states that 100,000 people die from drug overdoses every year in Russia.[xi] The same statistic for Americans in 2014 was 47,055.[xii] But then, America has more than twice as many people as Russia has. In per capita terms, this means Russia has roughly four and a half times the overdose rate as America. If we look at abortion, we find an even more interesting statistic. Despite a large drop in abortions over the past decade, Russia still has the highest per capita abortion rate in the world. The 2022 abortion rate in Russia was 53.7 compared to 20.8 for the United States.[xiii]
Question: Did Peterson give any real thought to his bizarre hypothesis of comparative Western degeneracy before promoting the idea? Quite obviously, it is inconceivable that he took any trouble with it at all. Furthermore, as he is an intellectual superstar, some people will take his malign anti-Western hypothesis as a profound insight. So, the question arises: Why is Peterson doing this? Why is he being so irresponsible with such a serious subject? Why forward pro-Russian/anti-Western bigotry to over 1.4 million online followers?
In his book, Hitler and the Germans, the political philosopher Eric Voegelin explained that our “first reality” is moral. It is Truth. And those who want to evade the Truth end up adopting a false reality which “permits killing” and other horrors. This is the essence of moral degeneracy, according to Voegelin. In the case of Jordon Peterson, we have a professor who once stood against moral degeneracy; but now he inexplicably offers an apologia for killing and other horrors perpetrated by Russia against Ukraine. Voegelin wrote, “this kind of cooperation is participation in crime, which falls under the notion of accessory.”[xiv]
One becomes an accessory after the fact by providing rhetorical cover for malefactors engaged in mass slaughter. For what else do we call it when a man suggests that the West is “degenerate in a profoundly threatening manner” thereby compelling Russia “to invade and potentially incapacitate Ukraine – merely to keep the pathological West out of that country?” This becomes more egregious when accompanied by Peterson’s grotesquely cynical comment that nobody “gives a damn about Ukraine.” And then Peterson conjures up the Holodomor – Stalin’s terror famine against Ukraine, suggesting that Western observers who oppose the invasion of Ukraine are hypocrites because they do not know what the Holodomor is. This insult to Ukraine’s supporters is compounded by the obscenity of a discourse that nowhere admits the validity of the Ukrainian cause or the courage with which Ukrainians are defending their country.
It would have been far more respectable if Peterson had only said, “I believe we should abandon Ukraine because a nuclear war with Russia is not worth the risk.” We could then discuss the merits of appeasement versus confrontation. But Peterson says the West does not have the moral high ground. We have no right to oppose Russian atrocities. He suggests that the West has morally contaminated Ukraine so that Russia has been forced to stem the pestilence. There is only one faux pa in Peterson’s presentation: He failed to describe Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as “a special military operation.” As noted earlier, Peterson says the West is “self-aggrandizing” – a crime far worse than invading a neighboring country after declaring that it is no country at all; then knocking down its cities, killing and kidnapping tens of thousands of its citizens, and blocking grain shipments to starving countries in Africa.
Anna Politkovskaya was a Russian journalist. She was brutally assassinated in 2006. Here is what she said about Putin before her death: “I Dislike him for a matter-of-factness worse than felony, for his cynicism … for his lies, for the gas he used in the Nord-Ost siege, for the massacre of the innocents that went on through his first term as president.”[xv] Politkovskaya saw where Putin was taking Russia. She wrote, “In Russia we have had leaders with this outlook before. It led to tragedy, to bloodshed on a vast scale, to civil wars. Because I want no more of that, I dislike this typical Soviet Chekist as he struts down the red carpet in the Kremlin on his way to the throne of Russia.”[xvi]
These men of power, these bloody dictators, these serial liars and mass murderers have plagued us throughout history. They always sound reasonable on the surface. But deep down, underneath, they are the same. They want power and glory, wealth and immortality. As a schizophrenic once shouted after assaulting a passerby, “They shall know my name!”
At the outset of his invasion of Poland, Hitler said: “I have tried to solve the problem of Danzig, the Corridor, etc., by proposing peaceful discussion…. In my talks with Polish statesmen I discussed the ideas … from my last speech…. There is nothing more modest or loyal than these proposals … [which] have been refused. Not only were they answered first with mobilization, but with increased terror and pressure against our German compatriots….”[xvii]
Fast forward 82 years….
At the outset of his invasion of Ukraine, Putin said: “It is a fact that over the past 30 years we have been patiently trying to come to an agreement with the leading NATO countries regarding the principles of equal and indivisible security in Europe. In response to our proposals, we invariably faced either cynical deception and lies or attempts to pressure and blackmail, while the North Atlantic Alliance continued to expand despite our protests and concerns.”[xviii]
Is there no similitude here?
Given his previous denunciations of totalitarian dictatorship, Peterson should have been the first to denounce Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. In addition, he should have recognized this invasion as an attempt to resurrect the Soviet Empire; for that is what is being attempted, even as statues of Lenin are being set up in the newly conquered Ukrainian oblasts.[xix] Is Putin evil? Peterson says “no.” He says Putin “is far less terrible than any leader that has preceded him for about a century.” But here, as elsewhere, Peterson sheds his credibility. Is Putin less terrible than Yeltsin, than Gorbachev, than Chernenko? Whatever happened to Peterson’s rules for life? Rule 8 says, “Tell the truth – or, at least, don’t lie.” Why lay down cover for Putin’s crimes? And what about Rule 37 from Peterson’s original 40 rules? – “Don’t let bullies get away with it.”[xx]
Peterson suggests the West should offer Putin the minimum terms Russia will accept for peace. In other words, let us sell out Ukraine the way Chamberlain sold out Czechoslovakia in 1938. Why? Because, says Peterson, a single Russian missile would be sufficient to “destroy Britain once and for all.”
How is Putin not a bully?
Here is what I cannot understand about Jordon Peterson. Nobody in the West is threatening Russia with nuclear war. The situation is entirely the other way around. Only Russia is making nuclear threats. Does Peterson realize that he is blaming the side being threatened? Does he realize that he is rhetorically supporting a nuclear bully? Peterson nowhere blames Russia for bringing the world to the brink of nuclear war. Only the West – only the prospective victim – is blamed.
When a war is being fought, and nuclear war is being threatened, we ought to be more circumspect. Let us avoid rhetoric calculated to demoralize our own side. Demoralization, under present circumstances, opens the door to the slippery slope of appeasement. Suppose we could stop a nuclear war by feeding Ukraine to Russia. What countries will be fed to Russia next? How far out will Russia’s “sphere of influence” then extend? Will it stop at Poland or France? Spain or Portugal? Peterson hopes, like Chamberlain at Munich, that the dictator will be satisfied with one bite. Yet Russian officials are already suggesting the conquest of Alaska next.[xxi] Where exactly is Russia’s sphere of influence marked on the world Atlas? Does it include Peterson’s country of origin, Canada? How many nations must be sacrificed to the Russian Moloch? Furthermore, scorn should be poured on the idea that NATO has backed Russia into a corner. Consider, if you will, how large Russia’s corner happens to be. Russia has eleven time zones. How many time zones does Ukraine have? Does the largest country in the world really need further enlargement?
Russia promised to respect Ukraine’s sovereignty in the Budapest Memorandum of 1994, when Ukraine agreed to give up her nuclear arsenal. If Ukraine had kept that nuclear arsenal instead of trusting to Russian promises, there would be no war in Ukraine. Peterson thinks the West should negotiate with Russia. But Russia does not keep her treaty commitments. What is the point of negotiating when every negotiation is an exercise in self-deception? We ought to hold the Russians to their past promises before believing in further promises.
It is unfortunate that someone of Peterson stature has given rhetorical cover to Russian military aggression in Eastern Europe. In terms of strategy and morality, Peterson has hit a false note. Contrary to what he supposes, Ukraine is not some puppet state created by a CIA coup. President Yanukovych was not deposed. Yanukovych abdicated. He fled his country out of shame and guilt, knowing that innocent blood was on his hands.
In closing I should say that the truth matters, especially when naked aggression has been carried out against an otherwise peaceful country. Jordan Peterson says, “All protestations to the contrary, none of us give a damn about Ukraine.” But that is untrue, Dr. Peterson. It is obviously and unequivocally untrue.
Links and Notes
[ii] Anatoliy Golitsyn, New Lies for Old: The Communist Strategy of Deception and Disinformation (New York: Dodd, Mead & Company), p. 182.
[iii] Edward Jay Epstein, Deception: The Invisible War Between the KGB and CIA (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1989), pp. 97-98. According KGB defector Golitsyn, “fake splits” in the communist bloc were used to draw the United States into supporting allegedly “independent” communist countries that were supposedly at odds with Moscow. After a 1958 lecture on this subject, KGB Chairman Shelepin “let it slip that China would be the perfect candidate for such a deception.” After working with the CIA’s counterintelligence staff in 1968, Golitsyn found evidence for the fake Sino-Soviet. But American experts did not take this evidence seriously. Without doing further research, even Epstein concluded that the experts were right and Golitsyn had been wrong about the Sino-Soviet split. Epstein came to this conclusion because of the documented “border war between Chinese and Soviet troops on the Ussuri River.” What Epstein failed to discover was that a Chinese defector, writing under the pen name of Yao Ming-le, alleged that PLA chief Lin Biao had staged the Sino-Soviet border war in collusion with Soviet generals. According to Yao, real regiments were to be decimated in this fighting, but it was – according to Yao – purely for show. Defector Yao’s bizarre story, which pretends to clarify the mystery of Lin Biao’s conspiracy and death, comes remarkable close to Golitsyn’s scenario of staging a “false split.” How do we explain Chinese defector testimony about a fake Sino-Soviet border war? In Golitsyn’s scenario the battles would have been staged as an outward show for American consumption; in other words, to fool the West into accepting the Sino-Soviet split as authentic. In Yao’s scenario, the battles were staged to fool Mao (so that the CCP leader would take shelter in a bunker where Lin Biao would gas him). Yao’s story is inherently improbable as a coup plot. There are easier ways to assassinate and overthrow a leader than creating a fake war. On closer analysis, Yao must have been a dispatched defector sent to allay suspicions by U.S. authorities. These suspicions might have arisen from an intelligence-related incident during that period which is mentioned in Kissinger and Nixon’s memoirs. A more interesting tidbit of defector testimony on this subject emerged in August 1998, when GRU Col. Stanislav Lunev told me that a close friend of his had been at the alleged Lin Biao crash site near Öndörkhaan Mongolia (Lin Biao or his fellow coup plotters – depending on which version of the story you believe – allegedly attempted to flee to the Soviet Union and were shot down as the plane entered Mongolian airspace). According to Lunev, Soviet investigators at the site determined that everyone on the crashed aircraft had been murdered previous to the flight and put on board to look as though they had been attempting to reach the USSR. Since the Soviet Union was accused of attempting to overthrow Mao Zedong, and the fabricated evidence was meant to implicate Moscow in a coup against Mao, why didn’t Soviet authorities publicize the evidence and use it do deny involvement in the alleged coup? Why remain silent and allow the world to believe false Chinese allegations? Again, the most likely explanation leads us back to Golitsyn’s scenario of a false Sino-Soviet split.
[v] Amazon.com: Disinformation: Former Spy Chief Reveals Secret Strategies for Undermining Freedom Attacking Religion and Promoting Terrorism (Audible Audio Edition): Prof. Ronald J. Rychlak, Lt. Gen. Ion Mihai Pacepa, Corey Snow, Audible Studios: Books – Pacepa’s book on “Soviet active measures” describes several East Bloc operations in great detail, illustrating how specially constructed Russian narratives have become integral to Western thinking. Pacepa explains that Russian-aligned agent networks in the West facilitate these false narratives. Looking beyond Pacepa’s text, it appears that these networks have grown into a power that can, in some instances, censor those who contradict the false narratives.Examples include the climate change debate, the 2020 election, the vaccine debate, the Capitol Hill Riot of January 6, and the left’s Trump/Russia allegations. Being on the wrong side in these controversies can lead to censorship on social media, disqualification in certain professions, or legal actions by the Department of Justice.
[vi] Golitsyn, p. 182.
[x] Pete Earley, Comrade J: The Untold Secrets of Russia’s Master Spy in America After the End of the Cold War (New York: G.P. Putnam and Sons, 2007), p. 8.
[xiv] Eric Voegelin translation by Clemens and Purcell, Hitler and the Germans (Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1999), p. 236.
[xv] Anna Politkovskaya translated by Archer Tait, Putin’s Russia: Life in a Failing Democracy (New York: Metropolitan Books, 2004), p. 242.
[xvi] Ibid, p. 244.
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