Frontpage Interview's guest today is Konstantin Preobrazhenskiy, a former KGB agent who became one of the KGB’s harshest critics. He is the author of seven books about the KGB and Japan. His new book is KGB/FSB's New Trojan Horse: Americans of Russian Descent.
FP: Konstantin Preobrazhenskiy, welcome the Fronpage Magazine.
Preobrazhensky: Thank you for giving me a chance to address the realistically minded people.
FP: Tell us about your background and the circumstances under which you came to the KGB.
Preobrazhensky: I graduated from the Institute of Asia and Africa of the Moscow University in 1976. Before that, I was an intern at the Tokai University in Japan. I am a specialist in Japan, a fluent Japanese speaker. I love Japan very much. And this love has brought me to the KGB.
FP: What do you love about Japan?
Preobrazhensky: Because it is a fairyland. In its ultra-modern society you can see the medieval society of "samurai" like through a magic telescope. This unbelievable combination makes Japan a magic fascination which cannot be expressed in words.
FP: Ok, so tell us how you ended up in Japan.
Preobrazhensky: Well, if you are a specialist in Japan, you had to travel to the country that you were studying. And that was possible only if you were working for KGB. By the way, Soviet specialists in the U.S.A. were in the same situation. They all were connected to the KGB and most of them were its officers. There was only one chance to avoid working for KGB: becoming an officer of the Central Committee of the Communist Party, the member of the highest elite. But it was very hard to do that.
So I only had one choice: either become a KGB collaborator, whose position is very dependent, or its staff officer with shoulder-stripes and high military salary. The second variant was much better.
But it was very hard to do. In the end, my father, the Deputy Commander of the KGB Frontier Troops, “pushed” me into KGB intelligence, the most privileged and well-paid job in the USSR.
My work in Tokyo as a spy from 1980-85, was very successful. I was covered as a correspondent of the Soviet TASS Agency. But it was not a cover for me. It was my actual job, because I am a born author. My KGB colleagues in Tokyo called me, with a grin, “An author covered as a spy.” And they were right.
While in the KGB, I published a couple of books on Japan:” The Sports Dressed in Kimono” (1985) and “The Bamboo Sword” (1982). Both were a success. And two of my short novels, “Karate Begins with Bows” and “Very New and Old Pagoda” were published by the Soviet Academy of Science in 1987, in the Academic Anthology, “Soviet Authors on Japan, 1917-87”
In Tokyo, I was spying on China. I recruited a Chinese scholar there. But Japanese counterintelligence learned about it somehow and caught me in 1985 on my way to contact this new Soviet agent. It became a spy scandal. The KGB forcibly returned me to Russia and accuses me solely of this scandal, though nobody knew the real reason. It tragically interrupted my career as a Japanologist.
FP: So when did you turn on the KGB?
Preobrazhensky: My interviewers always ask me when I got disappointed in the KGB. Never. Because I came there disappointed. Contrary to most young officers, I knew about its criminal and inhumane activities from my father’s colleagues. That is why I began to write a book of revelations about the KGB from my first day of serving there. It was first published in Tokyo in 1994, soon after I left the KGB in 1991. It was entitled, “The Spy Who Loved Japan.” It became a best seller.
When I left the KGB in 1991, it was dissolving at that time, although under Putin it has resurged. Immediately I went to the Japanese media in Moscow and began to publish interviews, articles and even books disclosing the KGB. I became a security columnist at “Moscow Times” newspaper which made me world known. “The Spy who Loved Japan” irritated the KGB greatly, but they could not do anything against me in 1994: it was a short period of Russian democracy. But finally my anti-KGB activities forced me to run away from Russia.
FP: So under what circumstances did you come to the U.S.?
Preobrazhensky: After Putin came to power in 2000, he began the persecution of all the KGB dissidents. In 2002, Oleg Kalugin was sentenced in absentia to 15 years, being accused of disclosing the KGB secrets. I knew I was next. Unfortunately, I was not “in absentia”, but in Moscow. As a professional, I got a feeling that they were going to arrest me very soon. I urgently went to the U.S. on a private visit and asked for political asylum. Now I am permanent resident in the U.S. This dramatic story has been described in my new book, “KGB/FSB’s New Trojan Horse: Americans of Russian Descent.”
FP: The American media and literary culture ignored your book. How come?
Preobrazhensky: My book was ignored. Only a few religious writers have reviewed it as it is devoted to the KGB penetration of America through the Russian Orthodox Church. It tells how the KGB managed to put Russian Americans under its control by merging the Russian Orthodox Church abroad with the Kremlin-controlled Moscow Patriarchate. That is why the laymen journalists probably did not want to cover such a delicate topic. How is possible to speak about the Church as a tool of espionage? It would not be “politically correct.” So political correctness has helped Putin to keep his espionage in America secret. Moreover, it is helping him facilitate it. Putin knows very well about American political correctness and about the fact that American counter-intelligence is not eligible to monitor clergymen. The KGB is doing it in Russia very aggressively in spite of the fact that Church and State are separate there too.
So we have a situation that Putin is openly spying in the U.S. and Americans are afraid of writing about it. This idiotic paradox is a symbol of current American-Russian relations. They bring profit only to Russia.
Just recently, the wall of silence about my book was finally broken. My book was reviewed by Professor Clare Lopez, published by Gerard Group International:
Professor Clare Lopez has come to a conclusion which is very important for me: “For those who think the Cold War ended in 1991, this book will have you thinking again. Konstantin Preobrazhensky wants Americans to wake up to the ongoing agenda of the Russian regime, which he says under the rule of Vladimir Putin and the KGB has reverted to the intelligence-dominated repressive state of the 20th century.”
FP: Can you talk a bit about the growth of leftism in America and the KGB influence on it?
Preobrazhensky: Well, the KGB has no special need to influence American leftists any more. Their ancestors in Stalin’s time have done it for them. They have seeded leftism among the American intellectuals, and today’s KGB is only gathering their crop.
On the other hand, a lot of American leftists were recruited by the KGB in the Soviet period. They are still working for the Russians. There are many KGB collaborators in this country.
Also, a lot of Americans have been educated as leftists at the leftist universities in America. Their professors were contacting the KGB in the 1930s, or were “useful idiots,” as Lenin has cynically called the Western intellectuals devotedly working for Russia. Their successors are teaching there now. The graduates of such universities are joining the most important governmental offices, and it might very well affect the American political course.
But there is one more reason for the growth of leftism. Many people get disappointed in capitalism. A lot of Americans are still sure that socialism is better. When I tell them that socialism inevitably brings the GULAG they do not believe me.
Russian intellectuals of 19th century made the same mistake, but they were severely punished for it by the 70-years of horrible Communist rule. Americans have not suffered such a disappointment yet.
Leftism brings a specific damage to America. Let’s not forget that Julius and Ethel Rosenberg delivered American atomic bomb secrets to Russia not for money, but because of being leftists.
And the wide spread of leftism in the U.S. alleviates Russian influence here as Russia is a leftist country.
FP: What is the extent of Russia influence in the U.S.?
Preobrazhensky: It is very strong. The Russian mechanism of misinformation and manipulation includes the utilization of some American think-tanks and political scientists.
Democratic states are much more vulnerable than authoritarian ones. That is why Putin’s machine of lies not only deceives America, but creates an inadequate and adorned image of Russia, provoking America to make wrong decisions about this country.
One example is provided by the decision to close Russian Service of the Voice of America in 2007. Maybe Americans consider Russian Service to be a mere relic of the Cold War, unnecessary in free Russia, but in fact it has been one of the last sources of independent information for Russians. It has irritated Russian authorities. Putin has managed to close it with the Americans’ hands.
But the Russian propagandist TV channel, “Russia Today,” is very active in America. Nobody is going to close it or transfer to Internet!
The clear one-sidedness of American-Russian relations is also exposed by the Russian lobbyism here. There are the opened Russian lobbyists in America like Ketchum Company and others. But are there any American lobbyists in Russia? Oh, no.
Any Russian that agrees to become an American lobbyist would be declared a national traitor. Putin calls such people “the jackals at foreign embassies”. Mikhail Khodorkovsky, a Russian tycoon and the former President of the YUKOS Company, was said to be a sort of American lobbyist. Where is he now? In prison, from where he will hardly ever get out. In Russia, it is considered non-patriotic to be an American lobbyist.
“Do not criticize Russia because it will strengthen the position of the opponents of its pro-Western course there.” Such a phrase is very much used by both Russian and American authors. It is a very sophisticated piece of misinformation. It postulates that still not all the people in the Russian elite are anti-American and they all have a freedom of arguing against Russian anti-Americanism. Such a notion is very well understood by Americans. But in fact, there are no pro-American people in the Kremlin. Hatred of America is symbol of loyalty there. If you love America, you cannot work in the Russian government.
Sometimes this myth is pronounced in another version:” Oh, do not criticize Russia or they will make friends with China.” But they are friends already. It is too late to caution about it. This is the misinformation thesis invented by Directorate “A” of SVR, that the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service Directorate “A” is tasked to misinform American and Western public opinion about. Many journalists are reproducing this false thesis, not knowing where it was invented. But recently some American politicians began to pronounce a far more dangerous thesis: “Let’s yield Georgia and Ukraine to Russia, and Russians will help us in Iran.”
FP: The chance of Putin helping the U.S. in Iran?
Preobrazhensky: Zero. The Russians will never do so. They will never help the U.S. in any Islamic country. They have developed their own, very special relations with the Islamic World, based on anti-Americanism.
Russia has a four-centuries experience of tolerating Islam and does not want to share it with America. Moreover, Russia’s strategic goal is to display the U.S. to militant Islam as a scapegoat instead of itself.
FP: What are the methods of Russian influence?
Preobrazhensky: In 2004, Putin revived Stalin’s practice of inviting Western writers directly to Moscow and charming them personally. He has founded the “Valdai Discussion Club” for them. The club meetings are held at Golitsyno, one of Putin’s residences in Moscow suburbs, and also in other places of Russia. There Putin is hosting luxurious receptions at which he is fascinates American intellectuals.
Putin is a good actor. He presents himself as a sole liberal captured by the conservative KGB surrounding. He portrays this picture: they are urging him to deviate from democracy, so the West should not criticize him too much or he will yield to the KGB completely.
Dr. Andrei Piontkovsky of the Hudson Institute has called members of Valdai Club “a collective Feuchtwanger”.
Leon Feuchtwanger was a famous German writer of the 1930s who admired Stalin’s regime. Today, the “collective Feuchtwanger” is propagating an adorned image of Russia, which affects American policy towards Russia. All this mechanism of Russian influence in America will be disclosed in my forthcoming book, “How Russian Federation is Ruling United States”.
FP: What can Americans do to protect themselves from these Russian threats on their own territory? And what U.S. policy do you recommend toward Putin?
Preobrazhensky: America should stop the current abnormal situation which finds Russian intelligence working here manifestly, being sure that Americans now cannot afford a spy scandal against its supposed “ally” in fighting terrorism.
America should stop tolerating Russia by concessions and apologies which cause nothing but laughter from Russians. Americans should understand that Putin and other Russian leaders have a criminal psychology as they are building criminal capitalism. From the point of view of the mafia, those who make concessions are losers and fools. They deserve only further pressing, which Russia is demonstrating. America should be hard with Russians. Only after that Russians will respect America.
America should get rid of false expectations about Russia, the most dangerous of which is the following: "We need each other to oppose China and militant Islam". Russia does not need America at all in this. Russia tolerates both China and Islam in a way of betrothal, behind the back of America and in spite of it.
America should finally comprehend that Russia does not share American values. That it is not a democracy. America should treat it like it is treating China and other non-democratic countries.
FP: Konstantin Preobrazhenskiy, thank you for joining Fronpage Magazine.