Tuesday, February 14, 2023

Russia’s Intelligence Community Is Almost Certainly Compromised; at Odds With Itself – The Occidental Observer - by Rolo Slavski

Back in the day, the USSR used to actually engage in what is referred to as “active measures.” That is, they would work to create networks of sympathizers in the West related to culture, business and politics. The topic of Soviet interference in the West is rather intricate and worth exploring in detail another time. To simplify it drastically, the nature of Soviet subversion in the West was dependent on the kind of sympathy for the USSR that was found in the West. With the counter-revolutionary cultural reforms of Stalin onwards, the USSR suddenly found itself suddenly more culturally conservative than the West in many areas. This cost them a lot of support among the progressive culture-creator caste of the West. In short, support for the USSR began to dwindle in the West once rock and roll and party drugs came to dominate Western culture. The USSR came to be seen as stiff, militaristic and anti-fun, which it was, and their outreach efforts suffered as a result.
In the non-aligned world, the USSR engaged in more active active measures right up through to the day of its collapse. They focused on funding counter-insurgencies, education of Third-World elites, arming rebels and the like.

After the collapse, the reorganized FSB was reformed as an internal police force by the satrap government of Boris Yeltsin, with the intention of preventing a revisionist Socialist/Nationalist leader rising up from the ruins of post-Soviet Russia. They have been largely successful with their primary mission. And they stopped engaging in any active measures abroad. However, a special exception was made for Ukraine with the establishment of the rumored 5th Service/Department of the FSB. It was almost certainly the FSB that was tasked with planning the SMO in Ukraine leading to the failed Kiev Coup of the early weeks in the war and also the failed seizure of many other critical cities in Ukraine. As is becoming clearer and clearer now, the plan was to seize these cities by coming to a deal with the politicians who ran them and by activating pre-prepared networks of agent operatives. This explains why the Russian military dashed in lightly armed, and then proceeded to sit around waiting for something to happen. In Kherson, the operation succeeded, as evidenced by the fact that the city was taken without any bloodshed. And then surrendered later, of course. In Kharkiv, the Russian motorized columns were almost lured into an ambush that they escaped from by the skin of their teeth. In Kiev, running gun battles in the streets may have been more than just freshly armed local militias running around and settling old scores, but rather the work of an insider network that was activated on the eve of the arrival of Russian troops.

More puzzling has been the Russian government’s half-hearted effort to conduct the war in Ukraine and take necessary measures at home to prepare the country for war with NATO. On the level of rhetoric, the Kremlin claims that they have been at war with NATO in Ukraine since the start. However, if the situation is indeed so serious, it begs the question: why they are treating the whole affair so lightly? Russia’s economy has not been put on war footing and all public pronouncements by the government and Putin himself vociferously deny that there will be any “nationalizing” of the economy. Despite all this, many oligarchs continue to leave Russia, friends of Putin even, their billions intact and in tow. The same neoliberal pro-Western creatures continue to occupy their posts of power as well. Elvira Nabiullina is probably the most egregious case. Thanks to her, Russia lost billions of rubles that had been kept in the West. And despite the fact that Russia is in a position to benefit from a classic Keynesian war-economy situation, she continues to pursue neoliberal austerity measures that stifle the economy in the name of controlling inflation. This is not idle speculation on my part. Big names in Russia like Sergey Glazyev, who is quite popular in English-speaking alt-media, have come out and condemned the Kremlin’s policies as nonsensical—and suicidal as well. It was a shock to everyone when Nabiullina, who was up for re-nomination this year, retained her position, despite the fact that she had even counter-signaled against the war and was one of the most unabashed pro-Western voices in the Kremlin.

Meanwhile, many Russian-language analysts and commentators on Telegram have pointed out the “lag” with which President Putin speaks about developments on the front. Unlike Zelensky, Putin stays far away from the frontlines. Also unlike Zelensky, who Putin personally promised the Israelis that he wouldn’t assassinate, he probably does fear being assassinated himself.

Times of Israel:

Former prime minister Naftali Bennett said in a video published Saturday that Russian President Vladimir Putin assured him, in the early days of the war, that he wouldn’t kill Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. 

“He gave me two great concessions,” Bennett said of his March 5, 2022, meeting with Putin, when he flew to Moscow in an effort to mediate shortly after Russia began its invasion.
“I knew Zelensky was under threat, in a bunker. … I said to [Putin], ‘Do you intend to kill Zelensky?’ He said, ‘I won’t kill Zelensky,’” Bennett recalled in the interview, which was published on his own YouTube channel.
“I need to understand. Are you giving me your word that you won’t kill Zelensky?” Bennett said he asked Putin.
Bennett said the Russian president repeated: “I won’t kill Zelensky.”
Bennett said he called the Ukrainian president immediately after the three-hour encounter with Putin, and told him, “I’ve just come out of a meeting — [Putin] is not going to kill you.
“[Zelensky] asked me, ‘Are you sure?’ I said 100 percent. [Putin’s] not going to kill you.”

Bennett recalled: “Two hours later, Zelensky went to his office, and did a selfie in the office, [in which the Ukrainian president said,] ‘I’m not afraid.’”

Both Evgeniy Prigozhin, the CEO of Wagner, and Dmitri Rogozhin, the former head of the Roscosmos agency, survived assassination attempts while in the Donbass. Rogozhin, in particular, came very close to losing his life and got wounded.

Now, the war from the Russian side is being run by the Security Council, which is headed up by Nikolai Patrushev, the head FSB guy, among other high-level spooks. Also, the information from the front that makes its way to Putin’s desk comes via the FSB. So, if there is any informational “lag” then there can only be one culprit behind it, raising the uncomfortable question of whether or not Putin is being deliberately kept in the dark and at a distance from his generals.

Another interesting data point and one of the least commentated on phenomenon of the war so far was the campaign of sabotage occurring all across Russia and then later Belarus. The reason why the Russian media refused to implicate Ukraine in the near-constant occurrence of refineries and warehouses and factories going up in flames was that it would be an admission of yet another intelligence failure. How was it possible for the heavily-guarded Crimean bridge to be blown up? For Darya Dugina to be assassinated?

All of this seems to indicate serious intelligence agency failures at the very least, or worse, a compromised intelligence state. There are still many other little clues that we can look at when testing out this hypothesis.

We should consider the following rather strange occurrences:

The first being that American intelligence accurately predicted the start of the Russian SMO and warned Kiev. This was dismissed at the time by various pro-Russia alt-bloggers and even vociferously condemned by Russian officials like Lavrov and Peskov who condemned the very idea that Russia would be the initiator of any violence. In other words, many Kremlin officials were kept in the dark and left with an egg on their face. But American intelligence learned about the invasion anyway. Furthermore, privileged oligarchs like Roman Abramovich had advance notice as well, allowing them to take evasive measures with their fortunes. This same Abramovich arranged for the release of Azov prisoners from Russian captivity and subsequently toured them around in his private jet, feeding them tiramisu. He has not faced any consequences for this disastrous domestic PR fiasco from Russia’s authorities. But he has, amusingly, had to deal with the UK seizing some of his fortune, that is, Russian money, to fund the government in Kiev.

When the situation is looked at in it’s entirety, the disastrous early days of the SMO, the inability to secure Russian funds abroad, the prior notice available to American intelligence and privileged Russian oligarchs, the subsequent successful sabotage and assassination campaigns, Putin’s slow reaction times, the economic foot-dragging, and other strange occurrences that can only be speculated about now, the prognosis starts to look grimmer and grimmer for Russia indeed.

So far, I have only listed events that have occurred that cannot be denied and are therefore not conspiratorial, really. If I were to dip my toes into more conspiratorial theories regarding the compromised Russian intelligence state, I would mention the extremely suspect grain, steel, ammonia, and gas deals that have been made since the start of the active fighting. The most egregious example was the surrender of Snake Island by the Russians. The island was first officially abandoned because it was deemed indefensible by Russia. But, since its abandonment, the Russians have never attacked it, acting as if it were impregnable. To justify this strange action, the Kremlin then came out and said that it was a gesture of good will. Around this time though, frozen grain supplies started flowing again, raising eyebrows in Russia about whether humanitarian concerns were really the cause of the island’s surrender as opposed to financial ones. Similar subsequent episodes have occurred where military objectives may or may not have been sacrificed to secure financial deals regarding the trading of steel and ammonia. There is no smoking gun here though, so we cannot make any definitive verdict, but if such events were occurring, they could only be occurring under the watchful eye of the Russian intelligence community.

In the meantime, a new player has emerged on the Russian political scene: a mercenary outfit with close ties to Putin and a seemingly almost limitless slush fund of government money to tap into. I am referring, of course, to Wagner. In recent days, Evgeniy Prigozhin, its CEO, has come out with a statement in which he announces that Wagner no longer recognizes the governments of several formerly Anglo countries as legitimate.

I have written about the emergence of this powerful new political player in Russia’s internal politics before, and will have lots more to say in the context of their relationship to the GRU, the military intelligence organization which helped create the organization and which seems to be at loggerheads with the FSB now.

But this statement by Prigozhin is really a game-changer, at least on the level of rhetoric. It reads as follows:

I hereby inform you that the Wagner PMC commanders’ council has signed the protocol. ‘The council was attended by 427 people (quorum has been reached). The following decisions were made:

1. To consider as illegitimate government bodies of the USA, Great Britain and Canada.
We know for certain that the policy of these countries is based on the creation and use of terrorist organizations, as well as terrorist methods in the following spheres: military, economic, biological, information, telecommunications (cyberterrorism), humanitarian (resulting in various forms of genocide and neo-colonialism: the oppression of the black population of Africa, the Slavic peoples in particular, Russians, oppression of Asians on racial grounds), as well as confessional terrorism, especially towards Christians and Muslims.
2. Recognize as invalid the following documents: the US Declaration of Independence (ratified 4 July 1776), the Treaty of Union of Great Britain (ratified 1 May 1707), the Constitutional Act of British North America (adopted March 29, 1867).
Accordingly, having all the necessary information about the 2016 and 2020 US elections, as well as the documented facts of fraud during the latter, we determine the 2020 US election to be illegal. We recognize Great Britain as a state whose citizens currently live in a “troubled time of anarchy.”
We challenge the sovereignty of Canada due to the fact that it is a territory of the Commonwealth led by King Charles.
Based on the above, the governments of the United States, Great Britain and Canada are recognized as terrorist and illegal:
Clauses 4 and 9 of paragraph 7 of the Charter of PMC “Wagner” apply to the following chief terrorists.
US President Joseph Biden, King Charles III of Great Britain and Canada must give an explanation for what reason they illegitimately hold power in the above states, oppressing the peoples of the USA, Great Britain and Canada.
In turn, PMC “Wagner” will provide the peoples of these and other oppressed countries all kinds of assistance in countering the terrorist structures, such as the government of the United States, British and Canadian government, Islamic State, Al-Qaeda, Boko Haram, Katiba Masina, etc. We will protect and support the civilian population of states, that has been exposed to genocide, neo-colonialism, terrorism by private, public and supranational entities.
Putting aside the clumsy wording of the document, the meaning behind it is clear. It is a declaration of war. Also, since the founding of the modern Russian state, talk of this kind has been strictly avoided. This may sound strange for someone who grew up during the Cold War, but Russia well and truly surrendered to the West and simply bit its lip and bore the various spook projects that were launched within the countries of the FSU and did nothing to respond in kind.

There were, however, isolated instances of resistance, like the GRU’s clandestine operations to help in Serbia, where Igor “Strelkov” Girkin first cut his teeth, and in Transnistria, where Strelkov and General Lebed intervened on behalf of the marooned Russians there, and, eventually, the creation of Wagner in Donbass by the GRU and their subsequent use in Africa, Syria, and now as a self-contained mini-army in Donbass again.

But the statement by Wagner indicates, on the level of rhetoric at least, that Wagner is not opposed to air-dropping Kalashnikovs to the MAGA people of America. And it is clearly a retaliatory response to being designated a terrorist organization by the US government.

For Russians who have been outraged by the passive and nonchalant way in which the Kremlin has been treating this war with NATO, this is welcome news indeed. Although Prigozhin is a “private individual” and so his statements do not reflect the official views and attitudes of the Russian government, perhaps it means that someone with power in Russia is willing to actually start fighting back seriously. However, if I had to make a prediction, I would wager that Wagner will be forced to take down the statement by the Security Council in the coming days and weeks. Stay tuned.

All in all, there appears to be yet another power struggle developing in Russia between the Security Council (FSB people) and the Wagner group (GRU people). This on top of the already existing conflict between the Not-So-Deep State and the Permanent Opposition. Meanwhile, Putin himself keeps to his tried and true strategy of governance: he sits on the fence between all these groups, acting as an arbiter between the internal squabbling parties.

Truth be told, I don’t foresee a MAGA-Hezbollah-CCP domestic insurgency supported by Wagner emerging in America any time soon, sorry. In fact, I have yet to see any proof, or even the faintest tangible rumor of Russia re-engaging in active measures in the West. This declaration by Wagner is literally the first and closest thing that anyone can point to. So, if a Russian shows up to your local book club offering assault rifles, I would suggest proceeding with extreme caution and possibly avoiding that social club for the foreseeable future.

Furthermore, Wagner already has its hands full in Donbass, Africa and Syria. With the return of Viktor Bout, a GRU man himself, I foresee an escalation of the conflict with NATO occurring in the Third World similar to how the game was played prior to the collapse of the USSR. Many Russian oligarchs have already moved into Africa and now battle it out against the French, American, Chinese and other players for access to the dark continent’s incredible mineral wealth. The rhetoric in the statement appears to be heavily skewed to appeal to Third Worlders anyways.

All in all, I think it is clear that Russia would be in a much better position if the GRU and Wagner were in charge of the intelligence community instead of the people who have been running Russia as a quasi-satrapy of the West for the last 30 years. This latest development because of the war-that-isn’t-a-war in the internal security structure of Russia is certainly worth paying attention to going forward.