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Symposium: KGB Resurrection (Continued) By: Jamie Glazov
FrontPageMagazine.com | Friday, April 30, 2004


FP: So Mr. Bukovsky, is reducing our reliance on oil the crucial factor in our relations with Russia? And as we now wrap up with a final word from each of you, kindly tell us what advice you would give American foreign policy makers vis-à-vis Putin’s Russia today.

 

Bukovsky: Actually, I stopped giving advice to any government a long time ago as I have learned over the years that it is an extremely frustrating and thankless task. Governments are notoriously incapable of operating on the basis of long-term policies or strategies. Their decision-making is mostly reactive, meaning that they always react to yesterday's events. 

 

While any strategy aimed at anticipating a problem in advance leaves them totally disinterested, they usually demand a solution when it is too late and the problem in question is already full-blown. But even if by chance they accept your advice, they would always implement it wrongly, through wrong people, with wrong timing etc. It always gave me a feeling that they are trying to solve a mathematical equation by negotiations.  In reality, governments don't want a solution to a problem, they want to muddle through it, and I am no expert on muddling through.

 

Of course I agree with Mr. Woolsey that reducing (or even eliminating) US dependency on imported oil is a right strategy for many reasons. It should have been implemented for over 30 years now, ever since the Arab oil boycott of 1970s. Yet, it becomes an issue only sporadically, at the twelfth hour, when we suddenly learn that the most powerful country on Earth is virtually powerless. And each time, as we muddle through, the strategy is forgotten.

 

Of course I agree with the US Congress that G8 should once again become G7 for it should not have been G8 in the first place. But I can tell you in advance all the arguments State Department, Foreign Office and other "professionals" are going to throw at us. And they are the "decision-makers".

 

Of course I agree with the European Parliament resolution condemning Russia for its genocide in Chechnya. But we don't even know how many Chechens are still alive. When Putin was named as Yeltsin's successor by the end of 1999, only two people (to my knowledge) publicly expressed their apprehension based on his KGB past - Richard Pipes and me.

 

Many evil doings could have been prevented then. But the rest of the "professionals" went on television in almost every Western country to say: "So what? After all, the KGB was the elite of the Soviet regime". Sure, they were "elite", very much like the SS was an elite of the Nazi regime. 

 

In a sick society, the elite is the main virus-carrier. And while I am convinced that any effort at re-Sovietization will be a futile absurdity, I am equally convinced this "elite" will try it, ruining more human lives and poisoning international relations in the process. Just as we conduct our symposium, Dr. Igor Sutyagin was sentenced in Moscow to 15 years of hard labor as an American spy. Now, it is a common knowledge in Russia that Dr. Sutyagin, a peaceful scholar who had no access to state secrets and who conducted his research from open sources on contracts with different Western research institutions, is just a convenient scapegoat. His sentence is a stern warning to Russian intellectuals: stay clear of close contacts with foreigners. It is meant to chill down enthusiasm of too pro-Western Russians, and it is meant to scare off too enthusiastic Westerners. 

 

Well, suppose Mr. Putin pardons him tomorrow (under the pressure of Western public opinion). Would it change anything? Would it unring the bell (as the British say)? Of course not. Such lessons are not easily forgotten. Mind you, it would not even save Sutyagin because his life is ruined already: he has spent 4.5 years in pre-trial detention. This is Soviet "elite" in action as I know it. "Foreigners" are still enemies. Americans are still "enemy number one". President Bush and President Putin might be great personal friends, calling each other by their first names. Looking into each other's eyes at every opportunity. They are partners in the anti-terrorist coalition. Their Secret Services are cooperating in a common struggle. Praised be the Heroes of Invisible Front!  But Dr. Sutyagin's life is already destroyed. He is an American spy. But who cares about spies, right? They are expendable because they are “dirty people.” 

 

Just as we conduct our symposium, the Russian authorities are playing games with a tiny Caucasian Republic of Georgia, which managed by a miracle to get rid of their old Soviet "elite". The game is as simple and as old as the ancient Roman Empire. Divido et Empero. Divide and rule. Two tiny ethnic areas, Abchasia and Adjaria, are used as Trojan horse to destroy a newly regained democracy. And what do they know about it in WashingtonD.C.? Nothing. Perhaps, if it was A.C., they would have known something. A blip on the map. 

 

We are talking about a Russian crisis coming to fruition after almost 90 years. As soon as the oil price comes down, Russia proper will go into fragmentation. Seven, eight, ten pieces apart, I just don't know. The consequences will be horrible. We don't know how these fragments of Russia are going to be governed: by parliaments, or by war lords? Are they going to live in peace with each other, or they are going to fight? And if they do fight, what weapons at their disposal will they use? 

 

Above all, none of these fragments of Russia are likely to maintain the national infrastructures. And we still have about 30 potential Chernobyls, not to mention quite a few of chemical factories. Now tell me, do our "professionals" have a slightest inkling of what to do with these?  Do they have at least some contingency plan? Not likely. More than 10 years ago Istarted to speak about this eventuality, and no one so far has bothered to ask me what to do about it. And, inevitably, when they come rushing to me with these questions, I will be happy to oblige. You want my advice? Hell no. It just too often appears that the West is only preoccupied with hanging itself. 

 

FP: Thank you Mr. Bukovsky. Mr. Pacepa, do you share Mr. Bukovsky’s pessimism? Kindly give us your final word thoughts on this discussion.

 

Pacepa: I spent 27 years of my life working for the KGB, I defected from it 26 years ago. Today most of the top governmental positions in Russia are held by former KGB officers. This is like “democratizing” Germany by putting the old, supposedly defeated Gestapo officers in charge. That’s not good for our future relations with Russia

 

By definition, police states are totalitarian, and totalitarianism requires a tangible enemy. The Gestapo targeted the Jews. The KGB’s main enemy has always been the United States. And anti-Americanism has increased as more former KGB have taken over key government positions. A week after Putin became president, an American businessman, Edmund Pope, was arrested in Russia, charged with spying for America, and sentenced to 20 years in prison in a farcical show-trial. Shortly afterwards, in a grand gesture of magnanimity, Putin pardoned Pope. But, following the same old Soviet pattern, the trial was used to demonize America and inflame the idea in the minds of the Russian people that America is still Russia’s number one enemy. Simultaneously, the fact that such trials go largely unnoticed in the West means that Russia maintains its cover as a friend to America.

 

The Russian government said in its own press release that over 300 closed-door espionage trials were underway in March of 2001. The Western press has described those trials as “so lacking in evidence and so far-fetched in their suppositions that at least three of them have been thrown out by Russian appeals courts.” Not-guilty verdicts are simply re-prosecuted, over and over, with no deference to double jeopardy, a very basic rule of democratic systems that take civil rights seriously. A 2002 public-opinion poll shows that anti-American sentiment in Russia has been pumped up to levels not seen since the Cold War by the continual running of these show trials. The recent framing of Dr. Igor Sutyagin as an American spy, described by Mr. Bukovsky, indicates to me that the Kremlin wants to keep anti-Americanism in vogue in Russia.

 

The Kremlin’s foreign policy has been made to seem relatively pro-American, at least in comparison with the Soviet past. I believe the facts on the ground in Russia indicate that this may be a deception campaign aimed at gaining advantages from the West. In this way Russia has its cake and eats it, too. Putin was the first leader of a foreign country to express sympathy to President George W. Bush on September 11, and Russia is said to have contributed some Russian intelligence. Russia has also been admitted into NATO and agreed with the U.S. to cut existing nuclear warheads by 65%. Nevertheless, Putin and the former KGB officers who staff his government, I believe, have not broken with their anti-American past because, simultaneously, Putin has been making fresh overtures to the very three governments America has termed an “axis of evil.” This is “crazy like a fox” behaviour.

 

In March 2002 Mr. Putin quietly reinstituted Russian sales of weapons to Ayatollah Khamenei of Iran, a key terrorist state. In August 2002, he concluded a $40 billion trade deal with Saddam Hussein’s tyranny. In September 2002, he received Kim Jong Il, dicator of the third top terrorist state of North Korea, in Moscow with grand honors. In February 2003, he proposed a Moscow-Berlin-Paris anti-American axis, and has tried to include Beijing as well. Anti-Americanism may well be Russia’s true policy under the cover of a pose of friendship. Anti-Americanism is a part of KGB culture of long standing, and today, under Putin, ex-KGB run the show. The danger of Russia’s remaining 6,000 nuclear missiles may be the least of it. The infrastructure that has not been dismantled is Russia’s police state culture, which knows little else than how to maintain power using disinformation, espionage and dirty tricks, covertly, to whip up hatred of an enemy. Perhaps NATO can be used as a kind of trans-Atlantic “civilizing” club to gradually help Westernize Russia, but it will be a long process, and expensive. Meanwhile, there are grave risks to assuming that Russia was reborn as a mild-mannered democracy with fond feeling toward America in 1991. Russia is not a blank slate. That would require an erasure of history, and no one has ever managed to do that.

 

FP: Mr. Woolsey, last word goes to you.

 

Woolsey: I have no substantial disagreement with either of these two remarkably insightful and courageous men about the situation in Russia and the return of, essentially, the KGB to power.  The Russian government under Putin has moved to within striking distance of being, essentially, fascist.  The framing of Dr. Sutyagin, Mr. Pope, and many others is one sure index of the KGB dominance -- the KGB is totalitarian and totalitarians need enemies in order to justify their maintenance of power and control.  Putin's overtures to Iran, Iraq, and North Korea as set out by my Mr. Pacepa are also crucial pieces of evidence.  Mr. Putin was offered olive branches by two American administrations and he has chosen not only to spurn them by making common cause with these totalitarian states but to try to thwart efforts in his "near abroad" by, e.g., the people of Georgia to move toward democracy and freedom. 

 

Putin is right, given that he has decided to move toward fascism, to fear the spirit of freedom that marked the recent developments in Georgia -- it is a spirit that could be quite contagious.  It is a major threat to the demonization of democracy and of the West that is essential to his and the KGB's maintenance of power by their chosen tactic of ruling by fear. 

 

The Russian people have, sadly, seen this before -- indeed for a huge share of their history.  Other than Russian nationalism, however, Putin and the KGB have no ideology to augment this fear, so it will be difficult for him to obtain the kind of Western support, via espionage or otherwise, that the USSR did in the 1930's and early 1940's from establishment figures such as Philby and Hiss.  The Soviets got very few ideological supporters of note in the West after WW II, although they, and later the Russians, effectively paid cash on the barrelhead for some effective spies and agents of influence (Ames, e.g.).  By the late 40's they had essentially lost the ideological war in the West.  This time they aren't even fighting it.  In the mind of any thinking young Georgian, e.g., the future of his country will be determined by a battle between KGB-backed fear on the one hand and freedom on the other -- not a good long-run bet for the KGB. 

 

I would close with one bit of optimism somewhat different in tone to the excellent and clear-eyed description of our current situation by Mr. Bukovsky. 

 

The world has gone from 20 democracies in August 1945 to 121 today (Freedom House figures) -- 89 of those operate under, generally, the rule of law, 32 have serious problems such as heavy corruption but have regular elections.  We, i.e. the West, the democracies, have not accomplished this mainly by force of arms  -- although deterrence, alliances,  and the willingness to fight where it was essential, as in the Korean War, were prerequisites. We have done it by convincing brave and crucially important individuals such as Mr. Bukovsky and Mr. Pacepa, that we were on the same side.  The poet Carl Sandberg put it best in his magnificent poem, "The People, Yes". Speaking of people who live in freedom, from Pericles's Athens to today, Sandberg wrote:

 

                                        "This old anvil
                                          Laughs
                                          At many broken hammers"

 

We, or our children, or their children, will laugh at a broken KGB as well. 

 

FP: Mihai Pacepa, Jim Woolsey and Vladimir Bukovsky, we are out of time. We are very grateful that you have honored us with your presence today. Thank you. We hope to see you again soon.

 

PREVIOUS SYMPOSIUMS:

 

The Hunt For Bin Laden: Guests: William Rosenau, Steven Simon and Brian Jenkins.

The Left's Attack on Bush: Guests: Victor Davis Hanson, Matthew Yglesias, As'ad AbuKhalil and Laurie Mylroie.

Snatching Saddam: Guests: James Woolsey, Jacob Heilbrunn, Cliff May.


Jamie Glazov is Frontpage Magazine's editor. He holds a Ph.D. in History with a specialty in Russian, U.S. and Canadian foreign policy. He is the author of Canadian Policy Toward Khrushchev’s Soviet Union and is the co-editor (with David Horowitz) of The Hate America Left. He edited and wrote the introduction to David Horowitz’s Left Illusions. His new book is United in Hate: The Left's Romance with Tyranny and Terror. To see his previous symposiums, interviews and articles Click Here. Email him at jglazov@rogers.com.


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