Grand Strategy in the Age of Mass Destruction


The Dark Side of the Moon
Commentary for 9 February 2015

Bluff 1. To engage in a false display of confidence or aggression in order to deceive or intimidate someone. 2. To make a display of aggression, as by charging or baring the teeth, as means of intimidating another animal. 
                             - The Free Dictionary

Nuclear Blackmail is a form of nuclear strategy in which an aggressor uses the threat of use of nuclear weapons to force an adversary to perform some action or make some concessions. It is a type of extortion.
                             - Wikipedia

During the Munich Security Conference on Friday, British Defense Secretary Michael Fallon told Reuters of a three-fold concern. First, he said, the Russians “may have lowered the threshold” for using nuclear weapons. Second, he said, the Russians are “integrating nuclear with conventional forces in a rather threatening way….” Third, he said, “at a time of fiscal pressure they are keeping up their expenditure on modernizing their nuclear forces.” (See the Reuters story: UK concerned over ‘threatening’ Russian nuclear strategy.)

The Guardian headline on Friday showed a picture of Russian President Vladimir Putin with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and President Francois Hollande of France. The headline was, Fear of Vladimir Putin grows in EU capitals amid spectre of ‘total war’ – which included a disturbing comment from an EU diplomat in Brussels that arming Ukraine would trigger a war with Russia, and Russia was bound to win the war.

Here is our destination. We have traveled a long road, believing the Russian lies, and now we have arrived. We have helped the Russians attain a new supremacy. We have aided them every step of the way. We believed in perestroika and glasnost. We flattered ourselves by claiming victory in the Cold War. We took the bait of 9/11, fell for the Islamist diversionary attack, and here we are – unable to oppose the Russians and (as we will soon find out) the Chinese. This is the point which defector Anatoliy Golitsyn warned about in his 1984 book, New Lies for Old:

The scissors strategy [of previous decades] would give way to the strategy of ‘one clenched fist.’ At that point the shift in the political and military balance would be plain for all to see. Convergence would not be between two equal parties, but would be on terms dictated by the communist bloc. The argument for accommodation with the overwhelming strength of communism would be virtually unanswerable. Pressures would build up for changes in the American political and economic system .... Traditional conservatives would be isolated and driven toward extremism. They might become the victims of a new McCarthyism of the left. [page 346]

T.S. Elliott once wrote of the Soviet Union in a preface for an anonymously written book titled The Dark Side of the Moon. It was about Eastern Poland under Soviet occupation after 17 September 1939. The Russian occupiers subjected Polish civilians to mass deportations, executions, and the confiscation of property. All of this was hidden behind the more visible face of Adolf Hitler, who had famously invaded Poland on 1 September 1939. Similarly, Arab terrorists famously started a war on 9/11/2001. Afterwards, we completely lost track of what Russia was up to. Again, it is a case of the "dark side of the moon."

It is now interesting to see in what way history repeats itself. And why should history not repeat? – Especially when successful strategies may be used again and again, with nobody the wiser. We were manipulated in 1939-45, and we have been manipulated in the period 2001-2014. Of course, it is not that Hitler and bin Laden were nice guys. It is merely that we allowed ourselves to become so absorbed in fighting a lesser enemy that we completely lost sight of the greater enemy. Worse, this greater enemy manipulated us in ways that are shameful to have permitted. Once again, we turned a blind eye to Russia’s preparations to take over Europe; that is to say, preparations to take full advantage of our distraction.

Last year Moscow sliced off Ukraine’s Crimean territory. Today a battle rages for control of eastern and southern Ukraine. As NATO troops deploy with a wary eye to Russia there are worries that we do not have sufficient force, especially if the Russians unpack their tactical nuclear weapons. These small but powerful weapons are game-changers. A conventional force without tactical nuclear artillery cannot withstand a force that has such artillery. This is a fact which the British Defense Minister has noted, and which is bound to weaken the resolve of Europe’s leaders.

In Russia, meanwhile, anti-American and anti-NATO propaganda follows a pre-war pattern of “preparing the public’s mind” for war. The Americans are blamed for the fighting in Donbas. America is blamed for attempting to destroy Russia. It was, after all, American machinations that overthrew the legally elected government of President Victor Yanukovych.  So popular is this idea, that even the famous George Freeman of STRATFOR says that the overthrow of Yanukovych was “the most blatant coup in history.” But then, George never did understand events in the former Soviet Union. Even less does he understand the situation in Washington. Honestly ask yourself: Is Obama an imperialist determined to destroy Russia?

One can hardly get past the idea of Obama accomplishing something as difficult as the overthrow of a foreign government. This is doubly laughable when we reckon that the number of Russian agents in Ukraine must be in the thousands. What does the CIA have in Ukraine? Perhaps they have fifty agents, or maybe 200 if you count Russian dangles. Please, let’s not be so ignorant as to misunderstand the nature of the post-Soviet Ukrainian reality and how outgunned the CIA must be in every “former” Soviet country. 

When we look at the actual behavior of the so-called Kiev “junta,” they nonetheless have acted in ways that often benefit Russia and not Ukraine – and certainly not the United States.  Of course, one might pick up a Veteran’s for Peace publication and learn that the wicked corporate villains at Monsanto are taking over Ukraine’s farmland, or some such thing. One might even, as STRATFOR’s Eugene Chausovsky did, base your analysis on the expert opinion of ethnic Russian mechanics you met on an overnight train from Sevastopol to Kiev. “They considered the protestors camped out in Kiev’s central square terrorists,” wrote Chausovsky, “completely organized and financed by the United States and the European Union.”  

And what shall we say of the Ukrainian girl who, a year ago, pleaded for assistance in freeing her country? “I want you to know why,” she said, “thousands of people all over my country are on the streets. There is only one reason. We want to be free from dictatorship…. We are civilized people … not a Soviet Union. We want our courts not to be corrupted. We want to be free.”

Is that really so hard to believe?

“I know that maybe tomorrow we will have no phone, no internet connection, and we will be alone here,” the Ukrainian girl explained. “And maybe police men will murder us one after another when it will be dark here. That’s why I ask you now to help us. We have this freedom in our hearts…. You can help us by sharing this with your friends…. Show that you support us.”

Of course, there are many people in eastern and southern Ukraine who disagree with such sentiments. In eastern Ukraine the Russian lies are accepted out of fear of the unknown, and from a misplaced ethnic pride. Obviously, the Russian strategists have not been idle in Ukraine. Moscow’s agents have been very busy discrediting those who want real freedom. By calling the protestors in Kiev “Nazis,” and by saying that their goal is to kill ethnic Russians, we detect the dishonesty of the "other" side. It only takes a moment of reflection to realize that there can be no movement in Ukraine to kill ethnic Russians. In truth, the difference between Ukrainians and Russians is so negligible that such a campaign would be impracticable if not laughable.

Was America sending billions to help the Ukrainians win their freedom? It may be true, though the origin of money from the West is not invariably given by those wicked malefactors at the infamous CIA. There are many in the West who would like to see Ukraine’s economy freed from its post-Soviet shackles. There are many who would like to see real freedom in every country of the world. But is this enthusiasm found in Obama’s White House? In truth, we may doubt the White House wants trouble with Russia. Obama is not a Russia-hater. He is not pushing for a massive rearmament. He has never been particularly strong on freedom for the Russian or Ukrainian people. And the CIA has not had an effective track record operating in this part of the world. Whatever money millionaires gave, whatever advice diplomats gave to Euromaidan, it was from the heart (i.e., from those who wanted something good for the Ukrainian people). Yet we may admit that these generous people never understood the real situation in Ukraine; for they probably did not understand that Moscow has always viewed “independent” Ukraine as a fiction. As David Remnick explained, “In Putin’s mind, Ukraine is not a nation….” Or as Putin told President Bush, “You have to understand, George. Ukraine is not even a country.”

This is a point of view we even find in the work of Aleksandr Solzehnitsyn. But if you ask a west Ukrainian, you will get an entirely different answer. No money can buy this answer. No circle of conspirators at Langley, or in the White House basement, summoned this answer into the streets of Kiev. This movement was, in fact, organic to Ukraine. It is not the product of American money, even if such money was used. To declare that Ukrainian feeling is something mercenary is far more than ignorance. It involves a blind cynicism and a readiness to believe the new Russian lies. Please remember that America is a signatory of the Budapest Memorandum, and is thereby obligated to defend Ukraine's national independence.

Consider, as well, the routine bribery of Ukrainian officials by Gazprom and the old KGB structures. How many millions were spent to buy off politicians in Kiev? How much poison was used to destroy those politicians who refused to take a bribe? For that matter, did the Americans overthrew Yanukovych, or was it the Kremlin that overthrew and kidnapped him because he was not the poodle they’d imagined he would be? Let us count accurately. Let us be wary of Julia Tymoshenko and her associates (whose bread crumbs lead back to Gazprom). It is hardly fair to say, in the last analysis, that the revolt in Ukraine was the result of American meddling. It was the result of decades of misrule by Russia’s secret agents and secret Soviet structures, and decades of a controlled economy and crony capitalism.

To have a true understanding of the situation in Ukraine, one should first know something about Russian history, and about Chechnya (and about earlier events in Yugoslavia). The breakup and splitting of a country into two or more hostile camps is an old and favored technique. The British used it to rule India. The Russians are now employing this method to overcome Ukraine. But it is not a simple “divide and conquer” game. It is much more complex, involving other games in far-flung regions of the earth. It is also about dividing Europe – especially to divide NATO. Let the Germans and French and Italians tremble at what Russia is preparing to do. Let them break with the Americans. Let them chart their own course, and make their own deal.

Then watch and learn what strategy consists of. It is not simple or obvious at the beginning. It is in the latter game that earlier moves are finally understood. It is also important to look at other countries on the map, like Syria.

From Ukraine to Syria

Marius Laurinavicius is a senior analyst at the Eastern Europe Studies Center in Vilnius, Lithuania. His work deserves special notice.  Last month he wrote a piece titled, Putin’s Russia. Do traces of KGB, FSB and GRU lead to [the] Islamic State? Suspicious facts about the Wahhabi (Islamist) revival movement of the Soviet Union are here set down. We are given key insights into the relationship between the Islamic State and the KGB/GRU, including its strategic objectives. Here we find a brainchild of the KGB, modeled on the fake anti-Communist movements of other times and places. As in the 1920s with Operation Trust, the 1970s through the 1990s saw the creation of KGB-controlled anti-Soviet front organizations, from Charter 77 in Czechoslovakia to Vladimir Zhirinovsky’s Liberal Democratic Party of Russia.

Creating false opposition movements in Russia is an old game. It should be expected that Moscow would create one or more KGB-controlled Islamic fronts. These have proven especially useful to Moscow, especially with regard to the Chechen alibi back in 1999 and in Syria today.

According to Laurinavicius, the Islamic State is part of Moscow’s plan. He quotes at length from a 4 June 2013 Radio Liberty interview with Akhmed Khalidovich Zakayev, a former Chechen prime minister. Here we learn about dead Islamist leaders (Dokka Umarov) returning to life, double agents and complex provocations. We learn about KGB-controlled Islamists showing up in Syria under the flag of the Islamic State. One may ask what this means. Zakayev’s puts Moscow’s strategy into perspective with the following question: “Can you imagine what position the Western leaders, who made the decision to lift the arms embargo for the [Assad] opposition, will be put in?” Suddenly, very bad terrorists appear in Syria, effectively undercutting the West’s opposition to Assad’s Russian-backed regime.

Zakayev’s interviewer, supposing this to be a paranoid conspiracy theory, asked incredulously if Dokka Umarov was really connected with Russia’s special services. Zakayev answered: “We have said so many times. In 2007 Umarov declared war on America, Great Britain and Israel. Before this statement, Dokka was on the radar of Russia’s special services, but was released by some miracle…. Umarov is fully under the command of the Russian special services.”

As Laurinavicius explains in his article, Umarov did not emerge as the apparent leader of ISIS in Syria. But Omar al-Shishani (a.k.a., Tarkhan Batirashvili) was the man of the hour, and al-Shishani’s admits he came to Syria under Umarov’s command. Laurinavicius also clarifies al-Shishani’s background. The man was not a simple Georgian soldier fighting the Russians, but a terrorist agent provocateur who was actually helping the Russians to justify their annexation of Abkhazia. According to al-Shishani/Batirashvili’s Orthodox Christian father, Tarkhan did not go to Syria because of religion. He simply wanted to make money.

Laurinavicius’s previous article, Putin’s Russia. Why it is worth[while] to reconsider links between [the] Kremlin and international terrorism, also provides important information.

Like the moon, Russia has a face that everyone sees and a dark side we cannot see. Today this face is not Communist. It pretends to be conservative, perhaps nationalist and even pro-Christian. Meanwhile, Russia's dark side is not seen. The country's ruling principles are denied. They remain dark and hidden from view. We are left to infer them from a few choice facts.    

If we want to understand the nuclear blackmail that is now unfolding in Europe, or the political sabotage and terrorism that has been ongoing since the beginning of the century, then we must look to the dark side of Russia. There we will find the answers.