January 17, 2000

By General Oleg Kalugin (Retired)

The Cold War was pronounced dead 10 years ago, but its evil spirit that had permeated and poisoned the international atmosphere for decades, is still alive and has been rearing its ugly head here and there for everyone to see and wonder. True, the original sinister designs to subvert the world and mold it according to the Kremlin’s visionaries appear to have been abandoned altogether. But what a temptation to spread a new gospel — that of a multipolar world — a surrogate of sorts of the old Soviet doctrine! On the surface, it may even have its attractions: no more irreconcilable class struggle, no more communism versus capitalism, no more division of the world into two warring camps.

What’s offered instead is a new concept of world order divided along national and geo-political lines: National interests of one group of states with capitals in Moscow, Beijing, and Deli against the interests of other groups wherever their capitals may be.

The dubious honor of launching this new edition of the Cold War belongs to Yevgeny Primakov, former spymaster and Prime Minister of Russia. Primakov’s ideas first surfaced when he was running the Russian spy agency (SVR), but they found a quick and cordial response in the hearts of the Russian political elite. They rekindled the search for national identity and ideology lost with the demise of Communism and collapse of the USSR. In fact, they have laid the cornerstone of Russia’s national security doctrine for the years to come.

A recently revised version of this doctrine views the West in a far more confrontational way than before. It reveals Russia’s growing obsession with military threat, emanating from the outside world, the threat which, according to the previous doctrine, adopted in 1997, did not exist. It also reiterates the old fears that the West has designs on Russia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. The latest polls conducted in Russia show that 37.5 percent of its citizens believe that the West wants to split and destroy their nation, 41 percent say the West is trying to reduce Russia to a third world country.

Reflecting these trends and the moods of the top brass General Gennady Troshev, Russian field commander in Chechnya, amplified his countrymen’s fears in a blunt soldierly manner, “Who benefits from the war in Chechnya? Only the West. They, in the West, rejoice witnessing how we destroy each other.”

No wonder the “new” Russia security doctrine abandons “partnership” with the West for “cooperation,” stresses the need for more military spending, supports the idea of a first nuclear strike in a conventional conflict.

As if to prop up its hostile posture vis-à-vis the United States, the Russian government has announced that it will resume cooperation with Iran in nuclear energy area and will go ahead with its plans to sell three more nuclear reactors for power generation in that country. Some Russian political commentators suggest that if the USA withdraws form the ABM Treaty, the Kremlin should feel free to export to all interested parties, including Iran, Russian technology to penetrate and overcome ABM systems. Others offer even more fantastic projects to stop America’s economic growth and undermine its stability. A popular Russian daily “Obshaya Gazeta” in an article by M. Delyagin (Dec. 9, 1999) discusses it in the following way, “Russia must thoroughly analyze all the factors of stability in the USA. We must understand that the American markets, no matter how unstable they might be, will not collapse by themselves. At the necessary moment they must be given a push — moreover in such a way as to most effectively utilize the opportunities which will be created.” A story of America’s plot to destroy Russia is told in these words: the US leaders are using the campaign against corruption in Russia as one of the instruments in the competitive struggle against Russian business. This struggle serves largely as a justification for the growing protectionism on the part of the developed countries, especially the USA. Another large circulation weekly, “Arguments and Facts,” predicts a new financial crisis in Russia in February or March, which will devalue the US dollar and throw the United States in panic and economic depression.

Finally, the old Soviet blueprint to drive a wedge between the US and Europe has surfaced again. A key strategic threat to the USA, according to Moscow’s analysts, comes from the transfer of world dollar assets to “euros.” To keep Europe in America’s bondage is one of the US foreign policy priorities today.

If one looks closer at these half-truths, insinuations and outright lies some very familiar traits can be easily traced¾those of the Soviet style KGB.

The old gang is back at work. It is buoyed by the new leadership understanding and approval of their past activities. Both the FSB and the SVR left no stone unturned in their efforts to smear the political groups and personalities opposed to Boris Yeltsin and his successor. Manipulation of the Russian media by the security and intelligence agencies has set new records. Under Communism when the media was the monopoly and the voice of the Party, the KGB used foreign outlets to place its disinformation, concoctions, and other active measures aimed at both local and Soviet public.

Nowadays, the so-called free Russian media represents an aggregation of motley political and business interests — a great field for players from Lubyanka and Yasenevo. Publications like “Nezavisimaya Gazeta,” “Moskovsky Komsomolets,” “Top Secret,”  “Versiya,” “Komsomolskaya Pravda,” and their editors and leading correspondents: Vitali Tretyakov, Vladimir Malevannyi, Artem Borovik, Alexander Hinstein, Oleg Lurie, Sergei Maslov regularly pick up tips and large chunks of pie from the secret police and intelligence disinformation kitchen. So does National TV channel One partially owned by tycoon Boris Berezovsky. The latter has recently showed an FSB faked letter attributed to a Chechen leader Salman Raduev who ostensibly wrote a letter to Russian Federal authorities offering the head of another Chechen leader Shamil Basayev for $1 million.

As in the old Soviet days when they wanted to build up the reputation of Yuri Andropov, Former KGB boss, as a liberal reformer, keen on good single malt scotch, Ian Flemming Novels and modern Jazz, the KGB connected or controlled media now tries to do the same to Russia’s would-be president Vladimir Putin. But this time they emphasize Andropov’s other merits: toughness, discipline, uncompromising stance on principal domestic and international issues. By favorably comparing Putin to Andropov official propaganda has been attempting to impress the Russians that Putin is their best and only choice.

In a similar vein the SVR has been planting stories in some Western media, particularly in Germany, portraying Putin as a sophisticated intelligence officer  a jack of all trades who made significant contribution to Soviet political, economic and scientific potential. He is credited with having handled high level political problems and overseen the dismantling of the Soviet military machine in East Germany, recruited and managed Western businessmen, stolen IBM, Euro fighter aircraft and Siemens electronic secrets, transferred the Party’s money to the West, etc. Erich Milke, former Minister of State Security remembered that Putin had been awarded a bronze medal for his service (that medal was bestowed upon every junior KGB officer who served in East Germany in the 1970s and ‘80s), but Milke’s deputy and East Germany’s intelligence Chief Marcus Wolf could not recall Putin’s name and never heard of his exploits.

Putin’s image-making has been accompanied lately by a vigorous public campaign to restore in the eyes of the Russian people the reputation of the KGB. On the eve of Day of the Security Organs (December 20th) President Yeltsin and Putin heaped praise on the Soviet KGB and its successors. “Several years ago,” said Putin “We fell pray to an illusion that we have no enemies. We have paid dearly for this…the Organs of State Security have always guarded Russia’s national interests.” While paying tribute to the founder of the Soviet Secret Police Felix Dzerjinsky and his spiritual heir Yuri Andropov, the Russian intelligence and security establishment once again reanimate the myth of the KGB’s great role in perestroika and democratization of the Soviet regime.

Earlier, in October of 1999, the SVR controlled conduits with good business ties in the West planted an article in the “US News & World Report” glorifying the Soviet intelligence operations during the Cold War. According to the magazine article entitled, “The pluperfect Spy: A practitioner of the dark art, perhaps without peer,” former KGB chief stationed in Washington Dmitri Yakushkin worked miracles during his stint in the KGB. He was charged with an impossible mission to save the Soviet system from collapse. He stood behind important decisions of the Soviet leadership; on Andropov’s orders kept an eye on them through the mechanism of the ultra-secret “Group North,” ran nearly 500 American agents including a spy-ring within the CIA, became eventually Andropov’s deputy and received “a special award for services to intelligence” in 1993, “the first and only KGB man so honored.” The whole article is so wildly off base that one wonders if the SVR still employs professionals to concoct its stories.

The now deceased “grey Cardinal” as Yakushkin is called in the article, in fact was one of the least effective KGB officers of his rank. He joined the KGB when he was 37, after serving for years in the Soviet Ministry of Agriculture. He came to New York in 1962 to work at the United Nations Secretariat with little English, and never recruited a single agent. Yakushkin’s career in Washington is splattered with failures. It was Yakushkin who instructed his security officer, the ill-fated Vitaly Yurchenko, who later defected and redefected to turn over to the DC metropolitan police a brown bag full of classified documents, which Edwin Moore, the even more ill-fated CIA officer had pitched over the fence of the Soviet Embassy.

Also on Yakushkin’s Washington watch at least two of his KGB officers were recruited right under his nose by the FBI, in addition to other operations being compromised. That Yakushkin supervised 500 agents in the US is absurd. In his time the total number of KGB agents in this ministry was a dozen at best. [During the renaissance years for the Soviet intelligence in the US in the 1940s there were never more than 250 spies on the Soviet payroll — an all time high!) Contrary to the article’s claims. Yakushkin never ran spies inside the CIA. Lee Howard, Aldrich Ames and Harold Nicholson came after Yakushkin’s 1982 departure. Nor does he deserve a credit for the Walker’s spy ring which originated in 1967.

The so-called “Group North” was established in the early 1970s as a bureaucratic ploy, was advisory in nature as the point of contact for coordination of intelligence operations against the US. It played little role in practical intelligence matters and never pried in Soviet domestic affairs. In February of 1985, former KGB chairman Vladimir Kryuchkov denounced, “the low standard of operations against the main enemy and the lack of appreciable results by the KGB residencies in recruiting US citizens.” Yakushkin never made higher than a department head and received “the special award” as did countless other intelligence veterans. His career came to an abrupt end in 1986, when he had to retire because of his covering up an earlier FBI approach subsequently revealed to the KGB by Rick Ames.

Knowing of the “US News & World Report” partnership links to the Russian periodical “Top Secret” it’s not difficult to see who supplied the “information” for the “Pluperfect Spy.” Top Secret was launched some ten years ago by Artem Borovik, a former correspondent of the liberal weekly “Ogonyok.” Borovik and his father Genrick Borovik, prominent journalist and at one time chairman of the Soviet Peace Committee, are old friends of the KGB. Artem was kicked out from the “Ogonyok” in 1991 when his boss, well known Soviet reformist of Gorbachev’s-era Vitaly Korotich, learned that his subordinate was a KGB stringer. Borovik’s sister is married to Dmitri Yakushkin, President Yeltsin’s spokesman and son of Dmitri Yakushkin senior. Whoever initiated the panegyric of Yakushkin senior — his relatives or the SVR— the article leaves no doubt about the heavy hand of the disinformation department of the SVR in its creation. Incidentally, before his retirement, President Yeltsin, in his final appearance in the Kremlin, awarded among others, Genrick Borovik, a nearly forgotten figure in today’s Russia, with a medal for “distinguished services” to the Motherland.

As Russia approaches the presidential elections, more tough talk, sabre-rattling, inflated stories about the most likely leader and his cohorts as well as outright disinformation may come around and flood the media. Moscow’s increasingly belligerent mood stems partly from its weakened position on the world arena. On the other hand, the present Russian regime has inherited a heavy load of old habits and suspicions and its current rulers even if relatively young, still bear the scars of the Cold War mentality. Under Mr. Putin, they may become more vocal and assertive in their claims to world leadership. The likelihood of Russia’s growing more unpredictable and turning in to a rogue state with a nuclear arsenal is quite high.

Oleg D. Kalugin
Major General
Former People’s Deputy of the USSR

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect that of the Daily Report on Russia and the Former Soviet Republics.

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