Cold War

The Freeman

freemanMany of the articles in early issues of the Foundation for Economic Education’s journal The Freeman still have a relatively modern resonance. In spite of their deep entanglement in the Cold War espionage and un-American activities debates of the day, some of the discussions of U.S.-Soviet relations in the August 1952 edition were still relevant more than 30 years later. Fascinating items include an appeal for an end to Western appeasement of the USSR by the double defector Igor Bogolepov (alias Ivar Nyman), with his account of how passive resistance could bring the Soviet system down if only there was co-operation with the resisters on the part of the West, and his “confession” about his own duplicitous behavior:

Thus, during the years 1923 to 1942, I was personally connected with the Communist business of selling to the West a false picture of an innocent, peace-loving, arch-progressive and democratic Soviet regime. At first I was none too pleased to be associated with this “operation confusion” carried out by my boss, Maxim Litvinov. But since it was impossible to live in the Soviet Union without somehow serving the Communist cause, I said to myself: “I might as well remain where I am, because if a real Communist takes my place here at the Foreign Office, then who is going to throw monkey wrenches into this monkey business?”

So I began to sabotage in my own field as my fellow-countrymen all around me were sabotaging in theirs. Although it was not in my power to alter Soviet strategy, I could at least try to make its execution less effective. I always overemphasized the legal or factual difficulties in the way of carrying out political moves. Or I tried to soften their effect. And whenever I was charged with conveying Soviet propaganda to the West, I did my best to make it as unfit for the Western mentality as possible. This was not difficult, since the censors were mostly sharp, uneducated boys from the Secret Police who preferred to have articles from Pravda, and other propaganda for home consumption only, translated into foreign languages with very little alteration.

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Looking through GQ

Commenting on the recent GQ controversy, and the question of “Radio Liberty’s failure for a number of days to post on its Russian-language website any in-depth reports about the banning in Russia of Scott Anderson’s “GQ” magazine article, which was highly critical of Mr. Putin and accused the FSB of instigating terrorist attacks to help his rise to power”, ex-VOA reporter and executive Ted Lepien writes that

Thirty-one years ago this week, on 7 September 1978, Georgi Markov, a Bulgarian émigré journalist who wrote for Radio Free Europe, BBC and Deutsche Welle, was assaulted in broad daylight on London’s Waterloo Bridge. Markov’s murder happened during the Cold War, but in more recent years the murder of Anna Politkovskaya and of numerous other journalists in Russia, as well as the assassination in London of former KGB and FSB officer Alexander Litvinenko, who became a vocal critic of Mr. Putin, have brought into focus the question of how safe it is in the post-Cold War world to criticize Russian leaders, especially for journalists living in Russia, but also for anybody living in the West who has ties to Russia.

Hat tip: Mari-Ann Kelam

Waiting for Obama

As Moscow waits for President Obama’s official visit, which begins on July 6, the commentators of Ej.Ru don’t take an optimistic view of the likely outcome. Lilia Shevtsova wonders how Russia’s foreign minister Sergei Lavrov can square his often-repeated claims that the ending of the Cold War also marked the end of the dominance of Western civilization in the world with his assurances that Russia shares the same goals as the West. And Yulia Latynina remarks that

The United States tries to solve problems. Russia tries to create them. That is the definition of a pariah state. A pariah state is one that is important in international politics because it creates problems.

Venezuela exercises to include land-based Russian anti-submarine aircraft

An interfax report dated September 8 says that during the joint Russia-Venezuela naval exercises to be held in the Caribbean in November, Russia plans to temporarily deploy anti-submarine aircraft at air bases on Venezuelan territory.

The warships scheduled to take part in the exercises include the “Pyotr Velikii” heavy atomic missile cruiser and the “Admiral Chabanenko” anti-submarine ship, according to the report which cites information given by Russian foreign ministry spokesman Andrei Nesterenko.

Doing the splits

A number of articles have appeared in the Western and Russian press suggesting that splits exist within the current Kremlin leadership, and that there is a tussle for power among various internal factions. On August 25, Pavel Felgenhauer reported that

presidential adviser Gleb Pavlovsky has said in a radio interview that there is a “party of war” inside the Kremlin – a group of high officials that are pressing for a direct attack on Tbilisi to overthrow the Georgian government. Pavlovsky states the alleged “party of war” wants to use the conflict with Georgia to undermine President Dmitry Medvedev’s plans of modernize Russia, that “they say we must go further than Tbilisi,” apparently indicating possible plans of further military action to subdue other pro-Western Russian neighboring nations like Ukraine. Pavlovsky stated that by signing a ceasefire agreement brokered by Sarkozy, Medvedev has defeated the “party of war” (Ekho Moskvy, August 12).

More recently, on September 1, Andrei Piontkovsky wrote in an article published in the Moscow Times that Georgia has “split the Kremlin”:

The Georgia crisis revealed a new strategic force in the Kremlin that opposes both Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and President Dmitry Medvedev. We still cannot name its players, but we are aware of its interests and impact on events in the same way that astronomers discern a new but invisible planet by recording its impact on known and visible objects in space.

One after another, loyal Kremlin pundits have appeared on television and radio to denounce “provokers,” whom they dare not name, for “planning the incursion of Russian troops all the way to Tbilisi and the establishment there of a pro-Russian government.”

And on September 3, Yulia Latynina published an article in Yezhednevny zhurnalquoted by Window on Eurasia – focusing on the conflict in Ingushetia and the increasing autonomy of the republic’s President Murad Zyazikov, once more with a reference to a split:

“the destabilization of the Caucasus” since the Georgian events reflects a fundamental divide in the Russian Federation. As a country, “Russia needs peace [there], but the siloviki need stars and power,” something they can only win by stirring up trouble and engaging in more violent acts.

Moreover, she adds, “the contemporary Russian model of power is so constructed that those in power can do anything – from the most familiar things like corruption to the most exotic like loss of control over the territory of a republic.” In this situation, the real criminals are not those who take bribes or assist in murders but those who have made this system possible.

The view that the Kremlin’s political system is traditionally characterized by power struggles and inter-factional competitions of various kinds is nothing new. During the Cold War it was the standard method used by Western Kremlinologists to explain the apparent shifts of emphasis in Soviet foreign policy. While throughout the post-World War II period there undoubtedly were divisions within the ranks of the Politburo, the notion that there were “liberals” vying with “conservatives” in the corridors of Moscow’s power became a generally employed means of misleading western public opinion about Soviet intentions. One of the major examples that comes to mind is the Soviet War Scare of 1983, when belligerent statements of a most extreme kind began to come from the Soviet leader, Yuri Andropov, who until then had been carefully presented to Western opinion as a “liberal” by comparison with his predecessor, Leonid Brezhnev. One aim of this image campaign was to influence and support Western anti-war movements, and to create a general atmosphere of fear and uncertainty throughout Europe which might render Western politicians – especially American ones – more amenable to Soviet foreign policy aims. As Benjamin B. Fischer notes in his CIA monograph A Cold War Conundrum:

US-Soviet relations had come full circle by 1983–from confrontation in the early postwar decades, to detente in the late 1960s and 1970s, and back to confrontation in the early 1980s. Europeans were declaring the outbreak of “Cold War II.” French President Francois Mitterrand compared the situation that year to the 1962 Cuban missile crisis and the 1948 face-off over Berlin. On this side of the Atlantic, the doyen of Soviet-watchers, George Kennan, exclaimed that the new superpower imbroglio had the “familiar characteristics, the unfailing characteristics, of a march toward war–that and nothing else.” Such fears were exaggerated. Even at this time of heightened tension, nowhere in the world were the superpowers squared off in a crisis likely to escalate into full-scale nuclear war. But a modern-day Rip van Winkle waking up in 1983 would have noted little if any improvement in the international political climate; he would not have realized that a substantial period of detente had come and gone while he slept. The post-detente “second Cold War” was essentially a war of words–strong and at times inflammatory words. In March 1983, President Reagan denounced the Soviet Union as the “focus of evil in the world” and as an “evil empire.” Soviet General Secretary Yuri Andropov responded by calling the US President insane and a liar.4 Then things got nasty. Following Andropov’s lead–and presumably his orders–the Soviet propaganda machine let loose a barrage of harsh verbal assaults on the United States reminiscent of the early days of the Cold War. Moscow repeatedly accused President Reagan of fanning the flames of war and compared him to Hitler–an image even more menacing than that of Andropov as the evil empire’s Darth Vader. Such hyperbole was more a consequence than a cause of tension, but it masked real fears.

As Fischer shows, the 1983 Soviet war scare was a real one, and the possibility that a nuclear exchange might have taken place between the United States and the USSR was not a fantasy. And in the end, the Kremlin’s careful engineering and manipulation of terms like “hawks” and “doves”, of “liberals” and “hardliners” which were supposed to exist within its power structures, mimicking the “hawk-dove” dynamics of US foreign and defence policy, turned out to be a mask for something much more disturbing – a call to arms which could have involved a military invasion of Western Europe. The painstakingly crafted KAL-007 crisis, involving the shootdown of a South Korean aircraft over Soviet territory,burgeoned into a mighty ratcheting up of military tension combined with ferocious anti-American rhetoric.

Radio Liberty interviews with Soviet citizens traveling abroad suggested that much of the Soviet public was genuinely alarmed. A series of officially sponsored activities at home fed the frenzy. Moscow organized mass “peace” rallies; sponsored “peace” classes in schools and universities; arranged closed briefings on the “war danger” for party activists and military personnel; designated a “civil defense” month; broadcast excerpts from Stalin’s famous 1941 speech to troops parading through Red Square on their way to defend Moscow from the approaching German army; and televised a heavyhanded Defense Ministry film that depicted a warmongering America bent on world domination. The Politburo also considered, but rejected, proposals to shift to a six-day industrial workweek and to create a special “defense fund” to raise money for the military. What were the Soviet leadership’s motives? Some observers who have studied the war scare have written it off as political theater–as an elaborate orchestration to release tensions over KAL 007 at home and promote the ongoing Soviet “peace offensive” abroad.99 But it clearly was more than that. The leadership would not have invoked the memory of World War II–which is emotionally charged and had an almost sacred significance for the Soviet people–solely for propaganda purposes. It would not have fueled popular fears about nuclear extinction just to boost morale and influence public opinion abroad.

Thus,when the chips were finally down, the notions cultivated in the Soviet-encouraged talk about the supposed presence of conflicting liberal and hardline interests within the Kremlin began to fall away. The KAL-007 incident became the signal for a sudden stiffening of resolve, which indicated the true manner in which the Kremlin machinery worked. So today, in the aftermath of the Georgia crisis, one can detect the beginnings of a change in Russia’s foreign policy – the advertised presence of “splits” in Russian power is actually a sign that what may be imminent is not a softening or weakening of will on the part of the Kremlin’s leaders, but rather its opposite: and it may point once again to the “war psychosis” that is latent in Russia’s defence psychology and military thinking. The psychosis can be traced all the way back to the Nazi-Soviet pact of 1939 and its main consequence: Germany’s (and in both Soviet and current neo-Soviet mythology also West’s, and the United States’) “betrayal” of Russia in 1941.

A Bang, Not A Whimper

Jeff Nyquist, on how The Cold War Never Ended (excerpt):

By some counts, Russia has the best intelligence service in the world. A cheap trick of latter-day prognostication is to watch Russian moves with an eye to what they know. Prior to 9/11 the Russian parliament staged hearings in which testimony was presented about an imminent attack on America by “shadow forces.” The dollar was expected to crash. The Russian people were encouraged to trade their dollars for gold. To this end, gold was made legal tender in Russia. Anyone watching these hearings, knowing the prescience of Russian intelligence, would conclude that something “very nasty” was coming against America. And sure enough, 9/11 proved the point. Russian spies go everywhere. They look into everything.

It is worth noting that Russian economic moves have been telltale since 1998. At the time, under the leadership of Boris Yeltsin, Russia was cooperating with the West. But there were disturbing cracks in the friendly façade. A defector warned that Russia had a secret intelligence “alliance” with China. Even more disturbing, Russia was still working on a super-plague biological weapon, planning to build new missiles, cheating on other arms agreements. Russia was refurbishing underground nuclear bunkers and nuclear-proof cities. Why were these preparations taking place in the midst of peace, under the leadership of Boris Yeltsin?

Long ago Russian strategists predicted the West would suffer a severe economic crisis. As far back as the 1950s Russian strategists talked of a “forty-year” strategy and more, with strategic preparations in the clandestine, criminal, economic and political spheres. Though Communist ideology is supposed to be dead, Western analysts shouldn’t underestimate the ongoing influence of Marxist ideas. Having seen the world through the lens of Marxism-Leninism, Russian and Chinese leaders didn’t become overnight disciples of John Locke or Adam Smith. The old battle line remains between rich nations and poor nations, between capitalism and socialism. As a self-conceived champion of the poor nations, the Marxist always anticipates a global capitalist meltdown that will bring about a new balance of power (in favor of a Marxist bloc of countries). This is part wishful thinking, part realistic thinking. History teaches that financial crashes periodically occur. If you are plotting to overthrow a global social system, it is logical to strike when that system has suffered an upset. In terms of playing to this expectation, the Chinese have concentrated on trade while the Russians have concentrated on monopolizing raw materials (oil, natural gas and minerals).