Viktor Kalashnikov is a Russian freelance journalist and a former KGB colonel. In the autumn of 2010, he and his wife Marina, a historian, were treated in a hospital in Germany for mercury poisoning in what they said had been an attempt on their lives by Russia’s FSB, the successor to the KGB. He is a distant relative of Mikhail Kalashnikov, the inventor of the AK-47.
A Russian Analyst’s View, Part One
By J.R. Nyquist
A few days ago I received a call from Victor Kalashnikov in Moscow, a former KGB officer who now works as an investigative journalist. He was eager to share his analysis of recent global events. This was also an opportunity to ask his opinion about the global economy and the crisis in Syria. “Your side is losing,” he complained. “Did you read Barack Obama’s speech at National Defense University? What was this reference to the Twilight Struggle of the Cold War in his speech? What is this?”
Obama had spoken of the collapse of the Berlin Wall, saying that “a new dawn of democracy” had taken hold abroad. It was the sort of thing American presidents liked to repeat.
“I’m sorry to say,” Kalashnikov continued, “the president’s statement is at variance with my own perception. He says that your homeland is more secure today and there have been no more big attacks. Usually supreme commanders refrain from saying things like that. Undoubtedly you know what Hezbollah is. It’s not a loose group of fighters. It is a large organization. They use satellite TV programs to spread their radical Islamic ideas. So you may dismantle a bomb or destroy a terrorist network or base, but it would be premature to feel somehow relaxed. Moreover, Hezbollah’s program of indoctrination is going on worldwide. That’s the point. You Americans, whether you like it or not, are confronting an aggressive Islam, and Islam is a huge thing. It is very flexible, very motivated.”
I interrupted Kalashnikov’s analysis to ask about the U.S. economy. “You can print as many greenbacks as you like as long as your carrier battle-groups remain active,” he said.” As long as America maintains its security sphere the U.S. currency will be supported by nations who want protection. “The real problem is that your side doesn’t have an adequate grasp of the strategic situation. You defeated Germany and Japan in World War II. What followed next? Brainwashing followed next. What you did was indoctrination – putting into their heads a pro-democracy ideology. That’s why you were successful back then. If the Allies had destroyed German networks without stopping their propaganda the war would never have ended in the hearts of the Germans.”
Kalashnikov was making a point about winning hearts and minds, and the relationship between terrorism and indoctrination. “Your president sees that some terrorist organizations are fed by state actors,” noted Kalashnikov. “But terrorism is a tactic. It is fed by many weapons and has many actors. Terror as a political tool was born in Russia. This was very well explained by Alexander Solzhenitsyn and Fyodor Dostoevski [see The Possessed]. Now it is no accident that Russia is a close ally of Iran, Syria and Hezbollah. The latter represents a step forward in military organization. My feeling is that the Russians were the designers of this new organization. Hezbollah has a great tactical advantage compared to the state sponsored armies of the large powers. Hezbollah is flexible and mobile worldwide, not limited by borders, institutions, etc. They use terror to attack and kill civilians, to spread fear and defeatism. They are not the first ones to do that.”
Kalashnikov emphasized that Hezbollah, Syria, Iran and Russia are working together against the United States. “Russia is behind Syria and Iran,” he said, “supplying weapons and technologists. So far I see no viable solution to that challenge. That is why I was irritated by your president’s words, ‘we are more secure.’ But who is really in control? Who really has the initiative, Obama or Putin?”
I asked Kalashnikov about Russia’s vulnerability to Islamic terrorism. His answer took me by surprise. “The Russians think that with Orthodox Christianity Russia will be able to cope with Islam,” he explained. “Orthodox Christianity is strangely compatible with Islam. Western Christianity is far more distant from Islam. Did you know there are very strong and fast-developing contacts between the Russian Orthodox Church and Iran? This started some five or six years ago. The mullahs and the Orthodox are consolidating their friendship. They share an ideological and spiritual platform which is called ‘anti-Americanism.’ Both of them reject American values and way of life, and they reject American policy. That unifies them. It’s very important after the Soviet collapse that Russia was able to combine with true allies who will work against the same ideological enemy.
Iran is a strong anti-American state. The same can be said of Syria and Hezbollah too. I am here in Moscow, just 800 meters from a new Mosque that is being built. It is huge. The Russian police say that some 120,000 Muslims are gathering there in downtown Moscow. The number of Muslim immigrants is growing. They have been coming in for the last five-to-six years. The ethnic composition of Moscow is changing.”
I was surprised to hear this and asked Kalashnikov if this wasn’t a dangerous development for Russia. After all, won’t the ethnic Russians eventually reject an alien colony in the heart of their capital?
“Sure,” Kalashnikov admitted, “it’s a huge problem. But for now they are Russia’s allies. Please understand that Iran is not a Russian satellite like Cuba or Venezuela. Iran may be regarded as an ally because they target the West, but Iran is different from the others.”
I asked Kalashnikov if Russia might be using Iran as Stalin once used Hitler (to start the Second World War). I also suggested that once Russia was done making use of Iran the Kremlin would turn against Islam in order to lead Europe against the Islamic threat. I noted that Moscow already supports the anti-immigrant Right in Europe, which is why figures like Anders Breivik was an admirer of Putin. It is no secret that the racist and neo-fascists of Europe look to the Kremlin for leadership.
Kalashnikov responded eagerly by saying, “Let me talk about [the neo-fascists] in Hungary. They are pro-Putin. They are nationalists, and of course, they are absolutely anti-Semitic and anti-American. That’s right. When I came to Berlin two years ago the taxi driver from the airport said he was pro-Nazi, pro-Hitler and the Jews were to blame for everything. He spoke highly of Putin. And taxi drivers are good barometers. There is sort of a trend at work. But the key thing, you must remember, is Winston Churchill’s phrase that Russia ‘is a riddle wrapped inside an enigma’? That was just part of the phrase. Churchill said he knew the key to that riddle. He said it was Russian national interest. What he meant was Russian international strategy as he understood it. In that sense he was definitely right. My point is, whatever groups or trends may be identified, they should be evaluated on the basis of a common denominator. Will they assist in the struggle against the United States?”
I asked Kalashnikov if Moscow grasped the fact that working with fascists and neo-Nazis might be dangerous. Didn’t Moscow learn anything from the Hitler-Stalin Pact of 1939?
“The main thing, the absolute priority,” said Kalashnikov, “is to get rid of the Americans at any price. It is an absolute priority today. No doubt about it. Whether it is dangerous to combine with fascists, we will see. The main thing is to separate and split NATO. This has been the core of the Russian strategy in Europe. You have to understand that anything that is negative for the Americans is positive for Moscow. American society and ideology – most all American values – are absolutely alien and opposed by us. That is why we are desperately seeking new allies and friends of whatever kind.
Two things I would like to stress: from the perspective of the Russian generals everything should have a strategic dimension: politics, military affairs, etc. They interpret everything in terms of a clear-cut enemy because what happened to the USSR did not change the nature of Russian society. We have a ruling class that controls everything, subject to no laws or norms, with huge resources, and centralization. What you have to understand is that Russia is a more centralized state than the Soviet Union was. There are no Republics. All important things are controlled from the Kremlin.
And a new Cheka [secret police] has come into existence and everybody has missed it. Everyone is ready to deplore the situation of the Russian opposition, but there is no interest in the new Cheka. It is well-equipped, newly trained and motivated. They are making headway, and they have crushed all the real opposition we’ve had in recent years. It’s a huge political factor at play in Russia. And I must tell you that professionally they are quite good, staffed with a new generation of Russians. Chekism is regenerated with the same old ways of thinking and acting, but with even better weapons and methods. The new KGB generation should be taken into account. They are on the Internet, they are using information warfare. I see them in Ukraine, in the Baltic States and in Europe. These guys are well paid and very committed.”
Part 2 coming soon.