Why Nobody Bombs
The geopolitical history of the last century, in
the course of which totalitarianism emerged, developed, and evolved to
become the ineluctable lot of mankind that it is today, may be
encapsulated in three short sentences. One:
Stalin created Hitler. Two:
Stalin sicked Hitler on the West. Three:
Stalin got the West to become his ally in order to defeat Hitler.
The bitter fruit of Stalin’s strategy was half of Europe falling into his lap. Bitter for no other reason but that all of Europe had been meant to fall to the prospective scourge of Nazi evil, as surely it would have done had the object of his political manipulation not smelled a rat and leveled the first blow. With fewer than one quarter of his opponent’s tanks, no winter clothing for his troops, and barely enough fuel to keep his army advancing for ninety days, this was the beginning of mass suicide on a national scale. For Stalin’s erstwhile dupe had finally understood that there was no way out of the bunker.
What made Stalin cringe, even as his prematurely roused enemy approached Moscow, was not some phantom fear at the utterly improbable prospect of an eventual German victory. It was, rather, his pellucid realization that the surprise attack had meant that his own dream of absolute domination over Eurasia would never be fulfilled in his lifetime. As for the all too probable prospect of a partial victory for Russia, this was small consolation indeed. For Stalin had long understood that partial victories were no good for totalitarianism.
The last serious effort in the West’s
83-year-long struggle to apprehend and reverse the global advance of
totalitarianism coincided, more or less, with President
Reagan’s first term in office. At
that time, it was still possible for a detached observer such as myself
to find a common language with the day’s received wisdom on
America’s foreign policy, if only because the context of the
debate left blank some reasonably wide margins.
Even in Washington, but certainly in London in those
exciting years, to be marginalized for criticizing the political,
military, or intelligence establishment for their myopia, their wishful
thinking, and their overall inability to understand or to cope with the
Soviet threat, did not mean to be summarily silenced.
It meant being a dissident, with all the advantages
of being part of a legitimate political and intellectual minority.
Then everything changed.
President Bush’s first term in office
coincided with the epochal restructuring of totalitarianism in Russia,
a geopolitical hurricane that blew away all the trusty signposts upon
which a wary West had had to rely for decades in the absence of any
real knowledge or deep understanding of its enemy.
Now the dissidents — even those far more
audible, far more respected, and in my own view far more important than
myself — would no longer be heard in the ensuing chorus of
jubilant confusion. In fact,
America’s new foreign policy of self-congratulation did not
leave us any margin at all, because just about everybody in the
universe now wished to become part of the happy mainstream of opinion. When, in November 1991, Lord
Chalfont addressed the House of Commons with a plea to reconsider
“Options for Change,” Britain’s bumbling
way of inaugurating the New World Order and pocketing the Peace
Dividend, he was reduced to quoting an article I had written in the Daily
Telegraph in support of his claim that Russia
“still has enormous military power.” I may be vain, but I am not an
idiot, and when I saw that the defense of the realm hinged on a turn of
my pen, I realized that the game was up.
Eventually I withdrew and moved to Italy, but not
before publishing a short book entitled The Coming Order:
Reflections on Sovietology and the Media. In it, as in all
the newspaper and magazine articles that I managed to publish during
the last decade, I defended my view that the worldwide
“Communism” is a strategic
manouevre, that “restructuring” in the
“Soviet Union” is the transfer of power from the
old Communist Party clique to the new secret-police junta, and that
Western Sovietologists, political scientists, and media commentators
are even more helpless, clueless, and absurdly naive than they have
ever been in the face of this new, and in all likelihood final,
Meanwhile, there was Europe.
Even the most hardened dissidents in
Britain’s Eurosceptic movement — called
“bastards” by the Prime Minister for organizing
Parliamentary opposition to ratifying the Maastricht Treaty —
never entertained the view that the main force behind the unification
of Europe was the Kremlin. The
most outspoken among them pointed to Germany as the ultimate
beneficiary of the whole process, in terms of its eventual political
and economic dominance, and found that troubling
ventured to reflect that the restructuring of Soviet totalitarianism,
whose new foreign policy had been inaugurated with the reunification of
Germany and a call for a “common European home from the
Atlantic to the Urals,” would have been an absurd proposition
in the absence of just such an opportunity for peaceful expansion
westward. Peaceful because,
at the end of the day, Russia would remain the only military power in a
Europe that was unified economically; and this Europe would be tied to
Moscow's long-standing satellites politically, and decoupled from the
United States militarily.
To some extent their slowness was excusable. Only
in May 2000, for instance, did it emerge that Helmut Kohl’s
ruling party had long been financed by the Communist Party of East
Germany, with the funds filtered through Communist Hungary, meaning
that at the time of Germany’s unification Kohl was literally
in Gorbachev’s pocket. This
and related money-laundering scandals finally cost Kohl his job, but
anyway by now it was too late for Britain’s heroic
“bastards” to fight against European unification in
any but the limited way they had chosen. For
the trouble with facts is that the right ones are almost never to hand
just when we need them, while the wrong ones are almost always too
numerous to convince anybody who is still confused.
And that, incidentally, is why a writer like Orwell
insisted on writing just as he pleased, leaving it to posterity to
supply the footnotes and an alphabetical index of villains. To finish
what Stalin started — incapacitating, embracing, and
absorbing first Central and then Western Europe, so that the
“common European home from the Atlantic to the
Urals” is at last occupied by its historically inevitable
owner — and to achieve this objective without war, is the
challenge of the Andropov generation to which all of Russia’s
present-day leaders belong. All
of them come from the Lavrenty Beria school of political studies,
including those somewhat less prominently titled, like Arkady Volsky or
Evgeny Primakov, and those squarely in the Western field of vision,
like Gorbachev and Putin.
To drive a politically and economically united Europe into Moscow’s inescapable embrace, that is to say to properly unify Europe once and for all, the West as a whole had to be properly spooked. Not by Moscow, of course; on the contrary, Moscow was to pose as a fellow victim of the clear and present danger lurking without. As in the tried and tested, though in the end only partly successful, Hitler scenario, the dummy danger in question had to be identified and incubated, and later secretly aided and abetted, before it could be sprung on the sleeping West like a succubus.
Such a danger as eventually offered itself up for the role of scarecrow was Muslim fundamentalism, and the religion of Islam more generally. Like Hitler’s rise to power, the specter of 1.5 billion Mussulmans brandishing “pre-perestroika” Kalashnikovs from Kashmir to Morocco was plausible enough a threat to terrify the West; unlike Hitler, it was not so single-minded, autarchic, or spontaneous as to actually cause the puppeteer much trouble in the interim. Admittedly, it was the Russians who had invaded Afghanistan, not the other way round; but by the time the war in Chechnya was percolating, a few bombs in Moscow planted by post-perestroika secret police (see, for instance, Lorenzo Cremonesi’s interview with André Glucksmann, Corriere della Sera, August 11, 2000) would enable Putin to claim that Russia was on the receiving end of the terrorist nightmare.
Once identified, the threat of what would become known euphemistically as “rogue regimes” — states working as the launching pads of terrorism against the West — had to be made flesh. Here a few facts may be adduced. During the single year preceding Putin’s election in the spring of 2000, Moscow’s known sales of military hardware to Baghdad had already been in the hundreds of millions of dollars; yet in the spring of 2001, to accelerate and direct these acquisitions, Iraq opened a “military intelligence bureau” in Moscow, its 20-strong staff headed by General Mohammed Subhi, and another one in Belarus, headed by Colonel Kamil Hadidi (see, for instance, the Sunday Telegraph, February 25, 2001). Defectors from Saddam Hussein’s regime, meanwhile, brought to the West the news that “Iraq carried out a successful nuclear test before the Gulf War and now has a nuclear stockpile.” The test, carried out in September 1989 underneath Lake Rezzaza, used “a gun-assembly nuclear warhead bought off the peg from Russia” and went undetected because “the Russians supplied Iraq with a table listing US satellite movements” (see the Sunday Times, February 25, 2001).
Concurrently with the escalating military buildup in Iraq organized from Moscow, Putin, in his meeting with NATO officials in February 2001, “offered Europe his space shield” (see, for instance, Corriere della Sera, February 21, 2001), the same mythical shield he had been offering to Europe since his first official meeting with Kohl’s successor, Chancellor Schroeder, in June 2000. As at least one regional Italian paper summarized the message in a headline, “Putin to Europe: We Will Defend you from the Muslims.”
At this point I may be told that Iraq, unlike Iran or Afghanistan, is a secular state, and that consequently the example is misleading. My reply is that, like all totalitarian rulers from Lenin to Assad, Saddam Hussein is above all a political opportunist, who rose to power as a secular Communist only to trace his descent from the Prophet when it suited him. The Muslim rallying cry “Allah is Great” was only emblazoned on Iraq’s banners at the time of the invasion of Kuwait. There it will remain until the wind of history changes.
If it is indeed true, as “some senior retired officers of the CIA, including James Woolsey, a former director of the agency, have suggested,” that Iraq’s intelligence services were behind the plot to deploy suicide hijackers in the attack on New York, so much better for my argument. But, as Woosley has been quoted as saying (in the Daily Telegraph, September 20, 2001), “There’s never been anything inconsistent about the idea that bin Laden would be providing most of the people in this, with Iraqi intelligence helping logistically and otherwise being behind it.” The important aspect of Woolsey’s thinking is that the Islamic “fundamentalist threat” is at least belatedly perceived as consanguine with and fraternal to the “rogue regimes” that Russia has been financing, arming, and inciting against the West with one hand, while offering the West protection from these very regimes with the other.
And if I am wrong, and the World Trade Center attacks had in fact came from Iran, Syria, or Libya? From opposition groups in Saudi Arabia, Algeria, or Pakistan? From the Palestinian refugee camps? Or even from Afghanistan, with its history of political opportunism and tribal backstabbing? No matter. Whichever “rogue regime” they came from, Moscow has been supporting it; and whatever the “rogue regime” may say to clear its name will be drowned in the twin chorus of Western indignation and, more important, of Russian solicitude. And even if, for now, America still feels patriotic and wants to fend for itself, who better than the Russians to protect old helpless Europe from the menace of Islamic terrorism.
In the words of one writer, John Keegan (Defense
Editor of the Daily Telegraph, writing in that
newspaper on September 14, 2001):
There are two
reasons why President Putin might help.
The first is that Russia is also plagued by the
menace of Islamic terrorism that, in Chechnya, has inflicted
humiliation on the successor to the once-great Soviet army. The second is that lending
assistance to NATO might persuade the alliance to admit Russia to
There is hardly any difference, come to think of it, between what I say here and what Keegan says in his article. The only difference is that I realize that the developments he outlines spell the end of freedom in Europe, and he doesn’t. He believes that Russia’s help is a hopeful sign, invaluable to the West in its plight, while I believe that it marks Russia’s triumphant return to Stalin’s dream of totalitarian hegemony in Eurasia.
But what would people have said to a writer who, a few days after Pearl Harbor, wrote an article warning the West against an alliance with Stalin?
Andrei Navrozov writes for Chronicles magazine. He is author of The Gingerbread Race and The Coming Order: Reflections on Sovietology and the media. The above article was written in early October, 2001.