To be, or not to be the Russian Tsar, part 4

                                                           In the Ukrainian Trap

Situation in Russia, Europe and in the world is rapidly developing, spurred on by escalation of the Russian-Ukrainian conflict that becomes world war, covers all spheres of life and leads to sharp aggravation of contradictions, including social and economic, within most of the states involved. The world is changing rapidly, and as Josep Borrell said to those who oppose those changes and the war itself: “What kind of peace do you need?!”

The aggravation is manifested in events that become symbols reflecting processes hidden for many, but that may determine the future of mankind.

In this article, I would like to draw attention to two events: the attack by Ukrainian drones on the Moscow Kremlin and the sharp surge in terrorist and sabotage activities on the territory of the Russian Federation, and the “rebellion” of the head of the Wagner private military company, Yevgeny Prigozhin, who insulted the highest Commanders of the Russian Armed Forces, personally Minister of Defense Sergey Shoigu and Chief of the General Staff Valery Gerasimov.

Only few days back, most of Russians could not even imagine that drones would attack the Moscow Kremlin, that Russian planes and helicopters could be shot down over Russian territory, and one of the commanders of military unit of the Armed Forces, on his video channel, available to millions of people, will publicly accuse the Minister of Defense and the Chief of the General Staff of deliberately disrupting the offensive of the Russian troops, of the unnecessary death of Russian soldiers, that he will make those accusations using words like «сука» (Eng. – “bitch”) and «блядь» (Eng. – “damn, whore, slut, hooker”).

Even the Western media tried to reduce intensity of the conflict and gave incorrect translation of Prigozhin’s words. The English translation gave impression that Prigozhin used the word «f..cking» in reference to weapons that the Russian Ministry of Defense had supplied in insufficient quantities to his unit. In Russian, Prigozhin used the words more abusive to address the minister and the chief of the General Staff, but not weapons. There has never been anything like this in the history of Russia!

No one could imagine that after that “rebellion”, Prigozhin, Gerasimov and Shoigu remain in their positions in command of the military operations, and the conflict continues.

In the photo: Vladimir Putin and Sergei Shoigu at the Victory Parade on Red Square in Moscow on May 9, 2023. The President, whose “cook” insulted the Minister of Defense few days before the Parade, and the minister, whom the “cook” insulted. I would like to note that Shoigu is three years younger than Putin, and his gait shows that before his appointment as Minister of Defense, he did not serve a single day in the army and never marched in formation. It seems that he is being given now the lesson to lead formation…

I would like to analyze the processes that run behind those events, taking into account my seventeen years of experience in the Kremlin, over 50 completed construction contracts at the Kremlin facilities, including the Banquet Hall in the State Kremlin Palace, where Prigozhin became «cook of the President”, as some people who are not familiar with the Kremlin “kitchen” call him, as well as with my experience of personal meetings with both Putin and Prigozhin, with those who brought Prigozhin into the Kremlin, as well as with the current Minister of Defense Shoigu.

In the photo: Patriarch of All Russia Alexy II (left), Minister of Emergency Situations of Russia Sergei Shoigu (then much younger, on the right) and me (left, behind Shoigu), 1998, at the Illumination of the Temple at the Mitinsky cemetery in Moscow, where the operators at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant who had been killed by the explosion, and the liquidators of the accident were buried

The Russian General Staff and the Ministry of Defense of Russia are keeping silent. The Kremlin is also silent. Why? It is impossible to consider Putin’s remark “Nothing special happened” that he told one journalist answering question about the drone attack, as an official statement. People in Russia hear that silence and do not understand it…

It is necessary to analyze the recent events that reflect the situation in the Russian army, its economy, as well as in the upper echelon of power, in the Kremlin, around Vladimir Putin, especially since it was him, the Commander-in-Chief, that Prigozhin addressed to in his “rebellion”, and it was over his, Putin’s, official residence in the Kremlin that the drones were blown up. It is really difficult to be the Russian Tsar …

One more remark. The topics I have listed cannot be covered in one article, and today I will focus on the attack on the Kremlin, and in the following articles I will try to analyze the “Prigozhin rebellion”, the forces that are behind him, trying to understand what Prigozhin is striving for…


                      Attack on the Kremlin and sabotage war inside Russia             

On the night of May 4, 2023, for the first time since 1942 and exactly on the day when in 1945, 78 years ago, Soviet soldiers erected the Red Banner over the Reichstag in Berlin, the air attack was made on the Moscow Kremlin. Two Ukrainian drones were blown up over the center of political power of Russia in the Moscow Kremlin. The fire spread on the dome of Building No. 1, the Senate Palace, the official Residence of the President of the Russian Federation.

In the photo: This fire almost destroyed the standard of the President of the Russian Federation and symbol of state power. Its destruction could have been presented as symbol of the state power collapse. In 1991, it was the descent of the national flag of the USSR from this building that marked the collapse of the Soviet state.

In this photo: View from inside the Kremlin to Building No. 1, the residence of the President of the Russian Federation. I have been in this building, visited the offices of the high officials, including the head of the Presidential Administration, at that time Dmitry Medvedev, the future President. My company Moskonversprom carried out reconstruction and repair works in this building, including the production and installation of entrance doors. Each of these doors weighs several times more than the weight of the body of the heaviest employee of the Presidential Administration and withstands the impact of a loaded truck.

The drone attack took place 5 days before the Victory Parade on Red Square commanded by Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu. Russian President Vladimir Putin hosted and addressed the parade. On the day of the Parade, attacks by Ukrainian drones were repeated, although they could not spoil the event. Drones were shot down or failed to reach Moscow…

Minister Shoigu holding review of troops on Red Square.

Ukraine is definitely winning the sabotage and terrorist war that Russia «has not started yet.» There were no reports of sabotage or terrorist acts by the Russian special services during thirteen months of the war. All the strikes that were inflicted on the territory of Ukraine were military strikes.

It was only on May 10 that reports appeared that several dozen Ukrainian soldiers were poisoned with arsenic in Zaporozhye region, where they had been relocated before counteroffensive operation. They were poisoned by volunteers, Ukrainian girls, who brought dumplings to the soldiers. The girls disappeared, and so far, the Ukrainian special services have not been able to identify and find them (or have not yet provided information about the detention of the suspects).

Most Ukrainian commentators were under impression that this was not the work of the Russian special services, but guerrilla war of the local pro-Russian population against Ukrainian military personnel. Perhaps it was revenge for the deaths of local residents who were shot or arrested in Zaporozhye after the retreat of Russian troops and the return of the territory to Ukrainian control. At that time, harsh purges were carried out, including arrests and executions of pro-Russian local residents.

Of course, the Russian special services operate networks of agents and secret groups against the Ukrainian army and the Zelensky regime, but so far, they have not been engaged in sabotage or terrorist activities. They are focused on obtaining information for the Russian army on military installations, command centers, concentrations of army units, military and logistics infrastructure, and are also collecting information on the supply of Western weapons, military and political plans of Kiev and NATO.

The reason for limited operation by the Russian network in Ukraine is the political decision of the Kremlin to stay within the military special operation that differs from a full-scale war and imposes restrictions on Russia’s military actions.

However, there is another reason, more important. The Russian special services do not have effective and powerful network that allows to risk agents and send them on sabotage or terrorist missions that will inevitably lead to their exposure, capture or being forced to hide or retreat from Ukraine.

It is indisputable that the special services of Ukraine turned out to be much better prepared for war, including secret war, than the Russian ones. They created numerous cells and groups throughout Russia in advance, and these cells were created over the years, from 2014 until the entry of Russian troops into the territory of Ukraine, and also after the outbreak of the war, when millions of Ukrainian refugees moved to live in Russia.

During thirteen months since the beginning of the war, the activity of the Ukrainian special services on the territory of Russia has been constantly and inexorably increasing. In various regions of Russia, there are nearly daily successful, mostly minor, but increasingly significant sabotage acts, as well as identification and arrests of Ukrainian agents.

The terrorist attacks on officials in the Ukrainian regions occupied by Russia, murders of popular Russian journalists, bloggers and politicians, including Darya Dugina and Vladlen Tatarsky, and the subsequent assassination attempt on the writer and politician Zakhar Prilepin indicate that terror attacks inside Russia are on the increase.  


                       Unpreparedness for the war and “ignorance” of the elites

It is also necessary to recognize the fact that Ukraine, as a state, turned out to be much more ready for war than Russia. More important that Ukraine was ready for the kind of war that is now underway. Russia was counting on operation that would replicate on largerscale the takeover of Crimea under Russian control in 2014. For some reasons the Kremlin ruled out that Ukraine and the West could not allow for the second time “peaceful return of Crimea to Russia”.

The Kremlin and personally Vladimir Putin were convinced that the introduction of Russian troops would lead to immediate regime change in Kyiv, establishment of pro-Russian regime that will rather quickly get control over all of Ukraine. But that was just one of the mistakes.

The second mistake was that Moscow was sure that the West would not stand for Ukraine. As Dmitry Peskov, Putin’s press-secretary, said in his interview to the Bosnian ATV channel, the Kremlin did not even understand what had been happening in Ukraine since 2014, and had no idea what would happen after the start of the special military operation: “It was hard to imagine that NATO members, the United States, European countries, first indirectly, and then directly intervene in this conflict. NATO is now a de facto participant in this conflict, on the side of Ukraine.”

Of course, it is possible, as some Russian bloggers and commentators do, to attribute such “ignorance” to intellectual level of the current Russian elites. Indeed, such statement, made thirteen months after the start of the war, that the Kremlin could not “imagine” the consequences of invasion, show that in the Kremlin, there are officials who do not understand till now what was going in Ukraine for eight years, since 2014, as well as how stupid and shameful such statements look.

It looks as if inability to «imagine» and see the obvious remains property of the mentality of some in the Russian political elites. However, it is not so simple…

 What is the reason for this display of intellectual helplessness? What is the reason that the Kremlin and Russian special services were sure or acted as if they were sure that the Zelensky regime would immediately collapse as soon as Russian troops entered Ukraine, and the West would not get involved in “hopeless conflict”? Why did this happen despite the fact that in the West and in Ukraine the political elites did not particularly hide that Ukraine was preparing for war and the West was getting ready to help it?  

And, there was another aspect. Western and Ukrainian politicians and the military knew that the Russian secret services had all these years information that Ukraine and the West were preparing for war. Many in the West could not believe and “imagine” that this information would not be passed on to Putin. The fact that the information was blocked, distorted, that Russia was not seriously preparing for the war, limiting itself to advertising releases of new weapons and parade shows, turned out to be unexpected for many in the West, including the military. As a result, the West also turned out to be unprepared for the kind of war they had to enter deeper and deeper.

What are the reasons for such unpreparedness and lack of “imagination” of both Russia and the West?


                                                                      Underestimation of Ukraine

One of the reasons is the underestimation of Ukraine by Russia and the West as independent political and military force, the underestimation of passionarity of Ukrainian elites and people.

In the pre-war years, Ukrainian diplomats, political and business clans, including the secret services, outplayed everyone. The Russian elites and special services were completely outplayed by the Ukrainians. In fact, that was political failure of the Russian elites, who turned out to be dependent on their Ukrainian and Western “partners” and failed to correspond to the tasks and challenges that they faced, including the challenges that were created by Russians themselves.

More, the Russian elites did not realize their own weakness and dependence. However, the Western elites also did not understand the Ukrainians, underestimated them, and largely followed their lead, although believing that they were leading Ukrainians and pursuing their own Western interests. This underestimation by the West of Ukraine, as well as underestimation of Ukrainians by Russia, continues to this day.

In 2001, Putin appointed Sergei Ivanov, previously the Deputy Director of the FSB, as Minister of Defense. (I wrote about the coming of Vladimir Putin to power and his role in the removal of Defense Minister Rodionov in “Russian Army and U-Turn in Putin’s policy” )

It was Ivanov who began active purges of the Russian Ministry of Defense and the GRU, depriving the military of independence, reducing potential and influence of the army on Russian society.

The purges carried out in the armed forces of Russia was comparable to dissolution of the tsarist army after the revolution of 1917 and creation of the Red Army and exceeded the purges of 1937. In 2006, out of 355,000 officers in the Russian army, 213,000 were fired, among them the most experienced officers with combat experience in the two Chechen wars, who were accused in political ambitions.

However, the most severe blows to the Russian army were delivered during the period when Serdyukov was the minister of defense, who was nicknamed «furniture maker» and did not serve in the army for a single day before the appointment.

  Since Ivanov, the FSB had control over the Russian military intelligence, GRU, and since 2014, it was the FSB that concentrated sources of information in Ukraine in its hands. The Russian Foreign Intelligence Service was moved away from the Ukrainian direction, and the FSB took control over supply of information to the Kremlin and Putin personally about the situation in Ukraine.

However, the decision to concentrate control over the information to the top leadership of Russia on the situation in Ukraine was initiated not by the FSB itself, but by the Ukrainian-Russian clans and elites, and behind them stood the Ukrainian special services.

By that time, the chain of agents of influence was created by Ukrainians political and business clans interconnected with their Russian partners in the Presidential Administration, the State Duma, the Government and the media. The FSB turned out to be dependent on that chain.

In 2015 and 2016, I came to Ukraine several times with the Peacebuilding Initiative (RPI) group, based in Geneva and Cambridge. The RPI took the initiative to hold peace talks between Kiev and the separatists of Donbass. The initiative was not successful, because even then, officially agreeing with the RPI initiatives and expressing readiness for peace negotiations (primarily in terms of obtaining funding), unofficially, the Ukrainian side openly said that there would be no peace, but there would be war.

My Ukrainian contacts, whom I knew from Soviet times, in closed conversations with me, but with the utmost frankness after few glasses of vodka, said that “Putin will attack, even if he does not want now”, that “the war with the Russians would be terrible”, that “at least three million Russians would die in Ukraine”… I didn’t believe them, though the situation in Ukraine shocked me.

However, in Moscow, the ruling clans somehow managed not to see what was going on in Ukraine…


                                                   The Ukrainian “Russian Doll”

Here, I would like to note that after the creation of Rus in the 9th century, when different tribes of Eastern Slavs had been united by Prince Rurik and his descendants, the process of integrating the tribes into single nation — the Russians — began. This process was interrupted by the invasion of the Mongol Empire, and the Russian nation was divided into three main parts, and each part ended up in different states and under different rule. From these parts came Russians, Ukrainians and Belarusians.

However, in spite of the division, Ukrainians, Russians and Belorussian inherited and preserved as one of the most important characteristics of their mentality, the technique and organizational method that I call “Russian doll”.

Russian doll — matryoshka. Each smaller doll is inserted into the larger one, remaining whole and independent in itself, and can be used separately at the discretion of the those who created or own the dolls.

For centuries, both Russians and Ukrainians used this principle in organizing social, political and economic life — Russians in the Moscow Tsardom, then in the Russian Empire, and then in the USSR and modern Russia. Ukrainians successfully used it in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and Russia, and in the Kingdom of Poland, in the Austro-Hungarian Empire, in Russian Empire and then in the USSR, spreading into territories, penetrating into party and state structures, acting within the state, but maintaining the “Ukrainian doll”, their quasi-civilizational identity, unity, mentality, ideology, based initially on Russian nationalism that over the centuries, under the conditions of national oppression and social inequality, transformed into Ukrainian nationalism.

The “Russian doll” principle has become an important element of the cultural and historical heritage of Russian civilization, and Ukrainians, having spun off from Russian civilization, took this principle as heirs of Ancient Rus’, and applied it wherever they lived, in whatever state they were, under oppression in Poland or Austria, or being important part of elite, as it was in the Soviet Union. Moreover, being subjected to oppression, the Ukrainians have developed the most effective ways and forms of applying “Russian doll” principle – “Ukrainian doll”.

After the collapse of the USSR, according to this principle, Ukrainians acted within Ukraine, conquering the country and displacing Russians and other Russian speaking, transforming them into Ukrainians, and within Russia, infiltrating their representatives into business clans and state structures, the Armed Forces, and public organizations, involving them in their own projects and securing influence, turning them into agents of the Ukrainian influence.

They continue to act like this even after the start of the war, and they act in this way not only in relation to Russia, but also to the West, occupying positions in Western corporations, companies, including those that operate in the countries of the former USSR. That allowed them to influence the policy and decisions made in relation to Russia nearly in all major Western business and political structures. They filled think-tanks, public organizations and the media.

In 1992-1996, when I was the Head of the representation office in Russia and General Manager of the branch of one of the biggest American corporations, York International, and supervised the entire post-Soviet space, including Ukraine, there were no Ukrainians in the management of the Western corporations. There were Austrians, Germans, British, Russians, Polish, ethnic Jews, but there were no Ukrainians, and it never occurred to anyone to invite them to supervise Russia.

Now times are different. No corporation will be able to invite ethnic Russian, especially citizen of the Russian Federation, and Ukrainians are dominating. That started not in 2022, but in 2014. The “Ukrainian doll” principle worked all those years. Kyiv received important lever of influence, primarily on the Western business and politics, as well as in the media, research and public organizations, in the military and near-military sphere.

The dynamics and trends in the development of relations and interactions between Ukraine and the West are not taken into consideration neither in the West, nor in Russia.

Neither Brussels, nor London, nor Warsaw, nor Berlin think about the consequences of Ukraine’s integration into Europe, believing that Ukraine will integrate like most other states and peoples, although the example of Poland that is close in mentality to Ukraine, shows that “integration” will not be easy…


                                                              From Stalin to Putin

The West supported Ukraine’s preparations for war with Russia out of its own interests. However, the West underestimated Ukraine, as it continues to underestimate it now.

The West could hardly believe that the Ukrainians would be able to convince the leadership of the FSB, the Ministry of Defense, the Kremlin, Putin personally of the need to attack and invade Ukraine. There were more chances that Ukraine invades the separatist republics of Donbass, or Russia helps to create powerful pro-Russian armed forces that could start the civil war in Ukraine.  

That was the purpose of the Minsk agreements to convince the Kremlin to postpone the conflict enabling Ukraine to be ready for war, to create powerful groups of support in the West and push Moscow into invasion.

After all, both Russians and Ukrainians at the genetic level do not accept aggressor, they cannot tolerate being invaded. The invasion of the territory of the “Russian world”, as well as of the “Ukrainian world”, inevitably puts any aggressor in position that leads to destruction.

Joseph Stalin is still being accused of not believing the reports of Soviet intelligence officers, diplomats and German communists that Hitler was preparing an attack on the USSR, that because of Stalin’s mistakes, the Soviet Army was not ready for war, and that led to the defeats of 1941 and allowed German troops to reach Moscow, where they were first stopped and defeated. That assessment and understanding of Stalin’s actions is wrong.

(More, that was deliberate distortion of reality, and distortion was created during the reign of Nikita Khrushchev, who grew up in Ukraine and rose from the son of mine-worker to the post of First Secretary of the Communist Party of Ukraine, and later General Secretary of the Communist party of the Soviet Union. Khruschev created the regime that was dominated by the clans originated in Ukraine)

There were several reasons for Stalin’s reaction to intelligence reports and for that strange underestimation by Stalin and other Soviet leaders of the threat of German attack, and one was that Stalin had to do everything so that the USSR would not be the aggressor in the inevitable war with Germany.

Stalin knew that the West and the world would be against the aggressor, that the USA and the UK would support the side subjected to aggression. If the USSR had started war by invading Germany, the United States and Great Britain would not have helped the USSR, but would most likely have helped Germany to resist the Soviet army. Stalin could not allow the world to rally, even for a short time, around Germany against the USSR.

Putin underestimated the threat of turning Russia into aggressor in the eyes of the world. The main reason for this underestimation was the belief that there would be no war, there would be a quick special operation of rather small military contingent, suppression of small pockets of resistance by nationalist units like Azov, and then the Zelensky regime would be overthrown by the pro-Russian opposition. Zelensky in January 2022, according to opinion polls, was supported by about 11% of Ukrainians, and more than 45% of Ukrainians had positive attitude towards Putin.

After establishing pro-Russian regime in Ukraine, the scientific and industrial potential, transport, logistics and trade systems of Ukraine again, as in Soviet times, were to become one single complex that would ensure full control and effective use of most of Eurasia as one system stretching from China and Korea in the East, and India in the South to the EU in the West, and Africa in the Southwest.

That was the plan worked out in the Kremlin, and it was coordinated with China. There was only one problem. Ukraine was able to infiltrate agents of its influence in the Russian elite enough to convince the ruling clan in Moscow, Putin personally, in need of “special operation”, in easy victory, in need to attack Ukraine by Russia.


                                                             It’s hard to be Tsar

Now the world knows that Putin is the aggressor and that it is Russia that invaded Ukraine.

Those eight years were used by the Ukrainian nationalist elites to put the country under their control, rallied it, to integrate it into Western systems as much as possible for peacetime.

Ukrainian business clans that acted like tentacles and metastases, permeated Russian business and government structures and acted as offshoots of the Ukrainian special services. The operation conducted by them in Russia and in the West has yet to be assessed by historians of the future, when details of the operation will become known. It must be admitted that it was amazing operation in terms of its level and success that, according to Peskov, «was hard to imagine…»

At the same time, the Russian special services, political and business elites were not only deceived, but corrupted and saturated with pro-Ukrainian groups of influence. Moreover, they were corrupted at the expense of Russia that allocated huge amounts of money to support the “pro-Russian opposition” in Ukraine that used the money, benefits, business opportunities not only for its own enrichment, but also for corrupting the Russian military and political elites.

Ukrainians convinced Russians that rapprochement with the West, integration into NATO, military buildup, nationalist and anti-Russian propaganda and preparation for war, — all that was not the real goal of the Ukrainian elites and their leadership.

The ruling clan in the Kremlin turned out to be convinced that this was just the “game” with Western partners, the way of squeezing financial aid out of them that the Kremlin refused to provide to Kiev after Putin came to power.

They were convinced that integration into Europe was aimed at obtaining technologies, capital and favorable conditions for trade and business, and Russian business and officials could take advantage of all that. They were convinced that this was just the attempt to integrate into the EU, to do what Russia tried to do under Yeltsin, and then in the early years under Putin, and then under Medvedev. Russia failed, but Ukraine can do it, and Russia will be able to promote through the Ukrainians its interests in Europe and on the world stage much more effectively. The idea was introduced that Russia and its elites should be interested in Ukraine’s integration into the EU, and many groups of the Russian elite, whose representatives were not only in the regions, the State Duma, the government, but also in the Kremlin, agreed with this.

In reality, Ukraine, its nationalist circles, were preparing for war, realizing that there would be no peace with Russia. There will be war and the victory of only one party and destruction of another.

Why can’t Ukrainianism (sorry for creating a new word in English – VM) and the Russian world get along, coexist on the same territory, or side by side? This issue requires a separate and in-depth study, but that Is the way the war is going now…

It is more or less clear what will happen if Russia wins the war for the territory of Ukraine. However, no one is yet considering the option if Ukraine wins, and Ukrainianism, as the variety of the Russian civilizational based on nationalism, crushes the Russian state, Russian mentality, Russian territorial-communal civilization, at least on a part of the territory of modern Russia, for example, on the European part of Russia? What will it bring to the remains of Russia, to Europe, the world? I think that time has come to raise these questions and try to find answers to them …

(To be continued)

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