This story posted today on YouTube turns out as much about OSINT detective work from within Russia as about the internal brutality of the politically criminal and thoroughly kleptocratic regime of Tsar Vladimir the Small.
Tweeted earlier this morning —
While the United States has its own Russian infection with Trump’s own anti-democratic and demagogic and delusional fascist nationalist base, he has yet to turn American national and state military defense and police security services into his own personal goons, Americans on the way to mid-term elections are not waiting for him or his cult to amass that kind of power. Trump represents a diminishing base of corrupt or diminished or greedy Americans who crave his “power” — his appearance of it, in any case — in relation to their own damaged psyches and penchants for absolute and sadistic personal and political control — under cover of Christian zealotry, no less — of all that surrounds themselves.
What American and the world witnessed 21 years ago was an Islamic terrorist attack on two breathtaking office buildings symbolic of western business and political order. At the time, as one country-western singer-songwriter noted–Alan Jackson – “Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning)”–an ordinary American couldn’t tell the difference between Iraq and Iran.
Perhaps that absence of American and more generalized global political sophistication has changed.
As flesh swells where stung, BackChannels views the September 11 attack on America’s homeland as the installation of the “New Nationalism” to come to the United States and infect several other EU/NATO states–Hungary, Italy, Poland, Turkey–with reversions to dalliance and inroads by authoritarian power.
As a blogger drifting along the contours of institutions and media concerned with defense and national security, I’ve encountered two primary challenges: how to condense, distill, and package strong material for public overview and impact; and, sigh, how to give the “pebble” sufficient weight to get a firm small wave bouncing back and force across the Internet pond.
You haven’t been on my specific poli-sci/poli-psy/poli-spy tour, but the clues in events and personalities don’t reside only my mind: they are all here on the web. My guess: the knowledgeable, say at GCHQ or NSA, have already put them together (well, those cats have got to have better resources and more interesting conversations), but the ordinary public appears to me to be struggling with what has happened–and with what may be happening if it doesn’t come to grips with a strong true representation of cultural and political reality.
Premise-Thirty Years Revenge for ’89 and ’91
I believe Bolshevik criminal elements within the Soviet KGB wasted little time prying their way back into power and prestige sufficient to bend the Russian Federation’s democracy and justice to their own will and for their own ends (ref.: Nekrasov documentary on Litvinenko, Rebellion: The Litvinenko Case AKA Poisoned by Polonium: The Litvinenko File).
In addition to focusing on self-enrichment and power, the cohort appears to have been bent on vengeance for the Soviet Army’s defeat in Afghanistan in 1989 and the dissolving of the Soviet Union itself at noon on December 25, 1991, an implication drawn by the manner of Vladimir Putin’s ascent to Russia’s presidency, his legendary affection for Felix Dzerzhinsky, Joseph Stalin, and Soviet Era Russia, and the inadequacy expressed through his “malignant narcissism” (see “Liar, Thief, and Tyrant”, February 20, 2022, on this blog) and related devotion to supporting his own Russian messianic heroic image through artifice (because that’s all he really has). The emperor may have no clothes but neither Russians nor the west are dwelling on that as he has Russia focused on his greatness (or else!) and everyone else his destructive threat.
Moscow’s Development of the East-West Rivalry Narrative
I believe conventional western financial and political leadership took the familiar tack of wanting to help the defeated get back on its feet through the extension of capital, the hand of cooperation, and patient tolerance or understanding for the Russian travail that followed the collapse of the Soviet Union. Only at the turning point of the Syrian Civil War (2011) did western detente return to play–and then containment. Today, for having accepted the position of responding to Russia’s initiatives and rollout of its own and quite evil narrative arc, EU/NATO have found themselves in various ways somewhat compromised; a little incoherent about corruption, legacy, power, and realpolitik in each state’s own way (for related review, have a look at authoritarianism or nationalism in Hungary, Italy, Poland, Turkey, and the United States) ; and finally brought to face once again a most dangerous confrontation with Moscow and its criminal Soviet-post-Soviet character now on full display in the ethnic cleansing and “rubbling” of Ukraine.
Russia and Russia’s leadership may have a “special” narcissism and enormous compensating vanity, but I am certain that among nations and their full collection of political experiments that it has no “special truth”, for at every opportunity, Moscow has supported criminals, dictators, fanatics, and terrorists–and it has through its Active Measures and destabilization operations put to work similar elements in its targets.
The poster displayed in this tweet appears to have been a gesture of support from within Russia following Trump’s 2016 election win. One may take it as a comment on the medieval mentality and related methods popular with both leaders and their respective followers.
Donald John Trump as Malignant Narcissist
The steps and terms-of-art I’ve picked up in relation to “Malignant Narcissism” have been these, and while practically self-explanatory, academics and analysts have spent serious verbiage on each. I’ll step in most informally to convey the gist.
Narcissistic Mortification: experiences of humiliation or shame to the extent that the identity and self feel damaged, impotent, and small. The discomfort–for what it is to do to the person–may be considered remarkable.
Covering/Splitting: “Covering” refers to the hiding of the damaged self and the packing away of an awful experience; “splitting” refers to the creation of an heroic undamaged self to be both asserted and defended at all costs. With “MaligNarcs”–expressed through authoritarian, dictating, and sociopathic manipulation–the appreciation or recognition and respect for normal boundaries and limits fade before the objectives of the self in hiding damage and asserting extraordinary power.
Control of the Experiences and Perceptions of Others: most well known: “gaslighting”. However, add deceptions and lies without ends or limits. Whatever works . . . works.
Messianic Delusions of Grandeur: Although the MaligNarc creates the chaos–no different from the fireman who sets the fire, so he may show up and put it out as a hero–the vision is to stand astride the same heroically saving his class, creed, gender, race, and religion from all who would diminish any part.
Unlimited Narcissistic Supply: adoration and love unlimited.
According to psychologist John Gartner, Trump clearly exhibits four key symptoms of malignant narcissism — the “most destructive” personality type — including paranoia, narcissism, antisocial personality disorder and sadism. “
This type of leader pops up all throughout history, and they’re always extraordinarily disruptive,” Gartner told AFP, noting that the same label has been applied to Hitler, Stalin and Mussolini.
“What is so strange is that we’re not used to seeing this type of leader in America.”
Medieval leaders love mobs, also secret gangs, behind-the-curtain deals with other “nobility”, dumb but loyal armies, and the idea above all of being as if gods, blessed by religious power, and free to define the law of the lawless land–and in Russia’s absolute “patrimonial authoritarianism”, apparently free to treat persons and property as alike and to destroy either at will and with impunity.
Modern leaders do all they can to minimize and eliminate that mentality from their districts, regions, and states, for the modern world in every facet relies on complex cooperation and the integration of large systems. It may help if they’re devoted to the health and well being of their respective constituencies and not solely the representatives of one patrician class or another.
Thematic on this blog has been “Medieval v Modern”, and, of course, it or I, or the same 🙂 , has posed the question, “In which world do you wish to live? Medieval? Or Modern?”
As the European Union and NATO see more clearly what Moscow has “accomplished” with its barbarous medieval ambitions (or delusions) over the past 30 years of support for the post-Soviet but still Soviet spheres of control and influence–and, finally, in the so-far “ethnic cleansing” of Ukraine–both will have to determine to take apart the Putin’s Olde Regime and nurture in its place a modern Russia that Russians too (as it dawns on them what has been and is being done to them and their children) might appreciate and embrace. In this passage where every day is agony for Ukrainians and an eternity for diplomats and politicians, that day’s on a seemingly far horizon, but it’s there and will become more visible with time. So-called “leaders” like Putin and Trump have made themselves impossibly archaic and in cultural, ethical, and moral terms, if not financial (yet), bankrupt.
Truth be known: neither Putin nor Trump has anything–apart from a little money or laundering service–to offer anyone.
Criminally insane, mad, off the rails, and in the manner of the Malignant Narcissist and Thug in Charge, Russia has lost all sense of boundaries and limits. Putin’s Russian Circle of Thieves has taken from the Russian People their dignity, economy, freedom, and security; it has marched into battle enslaved conscripts and either criminal or leveraged (both) officers.
I’ve made the case on this blog that the “end of the Cold War” became in its underlying reality a struggle for revenge on the west for the Soviet defeat in Afghanistan (shorthand: “’89”) and the dissolving of the Soviet Union in bankruptcy (“’91”). We are now about 30 years out (1992-2022) from Vladimir Putin’s most traumatic political memory (the fall of the SU) and very near direct war against what has become a politically absolute, criminal, and rogue state held in the grip of real mafia and political thugs.
How Close the Prospect of War with Russia?
How Free are the Russian People Under Putin?
Might There Be Some Practical Motivation for Russia’s Conquest by the Destruction of Ukraine?
Excluding Russia’s gas reserves in Asia, Ukraine today holds the second biggest known gas reserves in Europe. As of late 2019, known Ukrainian reserves amounted to 1.09 trillion cubic meters of natural gas, second only to Norway’s known resources of 1.53 trillion cubic meters. Yet, these enormous reserves of energy remain largely untapped. Today, Ukraine has a low annual reserve usage rate of about 2 percent. Moreover, more active exploration may yield previously undiscovered gas fields, which would further increase the overall volume of Ukraine’s deposits.
A Note on the End of the Cold War and Russia’s Persistent Imperial Vanity
I’ve no idea what CIA, GHCQ, NSA, et al. have been doing, but I’ve cause to believe I’ve both found and uncovered The Dots, fuzzy and large though they may be. Here they are:
Motivating Zawahiri to team up with Osama Bin Laden to work on fireworks for 9/11?
Addressing Islamic Extremism (and Osama Bin Laden) may have been something Moscow and Washington thought they might work on together.
Wishing not to repeat myself nor dull the reading with definitions (“Active Measures”, “Destabilization Operations”, “Hybrid Warfare”, etc.), it may do to stop here but with the observation that Russia’s barbaric behavior in Syria starting in 2011 may have also set the stage not only for the invasion of Ukraine but added emphasis to its various nuclear-related civilizational, existential, and political threats: Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin has no conscience.
Regarding the term “Mafia State” as applied to Russia
These newly established enforcers formed the seedy underbelly of Russian society that expanded upon the collapse of the U.S.S.R. and the move towards free-market practices. Since his rise, Vladimir Putin has incentivized gangsters to do his bidding in a new way. Rather than overt collusion, the Russian government, as ABC puts it, “make[s] its views known” and allows gangs to operate within the guidelines set forward by Putin.
As the European Council on Foreign Relations notes, more and more crime networks tangentially linked to Russian actors have appeared all over Europe. Multiple politically convenient assassinations or assassination attempts have been made on anti-Russia figures by gang members who have been accused of being Russian assets. The Russian government, via the Russian mafia, has dabbled in ventures ranging from hacking to money laundering.
The west handled the “end of the Cold War” as if the key elements in “east-west rivalry” had been resolved and returns to the previous state of affairs could be dulled through cooperation, peace, and prosperity.
As much has proven over time an horrendous goof however noble the intents.
Putin & Co.’s Russia presents as nothing less than a most barbaric, criminal, and self-centered enterprise bent, enthralled, and maddened by its own destructive capability, narcissistic paranoia (see “Paranoid Delusional Narcissistic Reflection of Motivation”) and grandiose messianic delusions.
This with Russia’s criminal political enterprise persistent through Putin more from the Bolshevik camp than the Romanov will end in Russia internally–or from without but with consideration for The Russians en masse and for the world’s Modern International Standards in cultural comportment, development, integration, law, technology, and trade, all of which Putin & Co. have chosen to degrade and destroy without putting up anything at all that could be called Good.
The Rus warlords Oleg of Novgorod and Sviatoslav I of Kiev launched several wars against the Khazar khaganate, often with Byzantine connivance. The Schechter Letter relates the story of a campaign against Khazaria by HLGW (Oleg) around 941 (in which Oleg was defeated by the Khazar general Pesakh; this calls into question the timeline of the Primary Chronicle and other related works on the history of the Eastern Slavs.
Sviatoslav finally succeeded in destroying Khazar imperial power in the 960s. The Khazar fortresses of Sarkel and Tamatarkha fell to the Rus in 965, with the capital city of Atil following circa 967 or 969. A visitor to Atil wrote soon after the sacking of the city: “The Rus attacked, and no grape or raisin remained, not a leaf on a branch.”
Putin’s delusional accusations regarding Nazism in Ukraine better fit description as the “Paranoid Delusional Narcissistic Reflection of Motivation” than any dominant or significant political stance held in modern Ukraine, and the same may better inform Russians and the residents of EU/NATO of the character of his insanity than any truth about international affairs.
Cause: Aid and Compensation for the harms and indignities imposed on those trapped within the Soviet-controlled German Democratic Republic and subject to enslavement and punishment at the hands of the state’s secret police, the Stasi (Ministerium für Staatsicherheit).
We mere humans just don’t own time. For atheists, time is just a fact of life.
We do, again, and each as representative of Homo Sapiens sapiens, and for better or worse, own our memories.
It has been our species’ great misfortune to find always some portion of our numbers made to suffer at the hands of others.
Forget “God, Nature, and the Universe”. The earthquake, hurricane, tsunami, and volcano would seem possessed of physics and entirely dispossessed of conscience except that some of us believe that in the presence of one or the other, divine providence destroyed our lives or saved them.
Degradation, dehumanization, enslavement, subjugation, subjection, and other such evils–those are different, and in the history of our species, one sees the chains and whips changing hands by turns, and, sigh, we may feel ourselves lucky if wielding the whip . . . but then nothing lasts beyond bearing except a number of nefarious processes that we perhaps have not wrestled sufficiently into the past. So here we may acknowledge that we don’t get to erase our bad memories; we don’t get to retrieve the dead; we may or may not have some revenge on our tormentors–and if it was ourselves that held the keys and snapped the whips, our day–we know it secretly–has come–or will.
I believe it in the tendency of our species to develop awareness, compassion, conscience, consciousness, empathy, greater integrity and reason, and at the end of every dastardly era, great human sensibility and wisdom.
I was asked not long ago to help promote the cause of the internally displaced in place of the once Soviet-controlled and Communist German Democratic Republic.
Imagine, if you will, going to sleep in one dismal but predictable awful cultural, legal, political, and social circumstance and waking the next day without a country–and afterward a “democratic open society of the west” that prides itself on compassion but hasn’t much in place for you–and then years later when it does . . . you’re no more important in it than you were in the other place.
Perhaps one’s personal circumstance has become more bearable , the powers that be more polite, and amends for the insufferable past made with good will whether or not sufficient to quells bad memories and the residuals in nightmares.
I have found in overview–remember my analytical discipline: collect, select, and opine–that East Germany’s internal migrants, all of whom went to sleep in one place in time and woke up in another entirely–have not been overlooked but perhaps underserved in the regions of cultural and economic development. In the Soviet way, they had been locked down in time, suffocated, surveilled, deprived of normal human political and social processes, and subject to deliberate state-driven control, diminishment, and, ultimately, erasure.
How would even the most benevolent of modern societies “compensate” for that experience?
Well . . . there is today the business of living well enough to create and enjoy better memories in freedom and with at least a modicum of privacy (although the “modern” appear to have some new horrors on the horizon, e.g., massive intrusion via data sifting) as well as dignity and security.
Now and then, I haul out Qualities of Living (QOLs) a conceptual alternative to thinking about power as an expression of grandiose narcissistic ambition with accompanying control and influence ascribed to a potentate absolute or constitutional. What if power were more often the power to bring extraordinary improvement to geopolitical space in the many dimensions to be appreciated by the inhabitants of a given space?
After 1990 “the whole software of life changed” for east Germans, says Markus Kerber, a bigwig at the interior ministry. Short-term pain was inevitable. Average labour productivity in the east was 30% of that in the west. Kohl’s decision to exchange Ostmarks at a 1:1 rate for Deutschmarks made swathes of firms uncompetitive overnight. Those that survived struggled with the western rules they had to import wholesale. By one estimate, 80% of east Germans at some point found themselves out of work.
Perhaps the Treuhand could have proceeded more gently, some argue today.
Cultural and economic adjustment, development, inclusion with some foresight and vision may turn out the key that will finally fix the past in the past where it needs to be. In this day, however, quite a number of cultures, groups, and just plain people have taken up the causes of yesterday, exhumed and tallied abuses, ranted high and low for justice, but the best all may do is not relive what’s gone and take pains–whatever it was–not to see it happen again.
In the 1970s the MfS changed its secret police activities and began increasingly to use “softer” methods. The GDR leadership did not want to compromise its attempts to gain international recognition: persecution and repression were to be concealed. The MfS now focused more on preventive surveillance and so-called “psychic demolition”. It used manipulation and targeted rumours in its attempts to systematically intimidate individuals or groups, to ruin their reputations, isolate or criminalize them. Friendships were destroyed, and professional careers ruined without the victims even realizing why.
However, the change in methods did not lead to any let-up in the repressive pressure exerted by the MfS. And the aim also remained the same: to prevent the development of non-conformist or dissident ideas and behaviour.
The rest of the group agreed that the destruction of trust was one of the most painful legacies of their experiences in the GDR. The dense informer network meant that everyone spied on one another. Many did not find out who had informed on them until decades later, when they requested their Stasi file.
So in the 1970s, the masterminds at Stasi School — formally known as the College of Legal Studies — decided on a new, more subtle tactic of repression, a way of stamping out rebellion without the overt use of force.
Instead of pounding their suspects into submission, they would send them mad. And so began the policy of Zersetzung.
The word meant disintegration or corrosion or decomposition. Today we would call it ‘gaslighting’ — playing with someone’s mind and self-worth until any resistance crumbles and he or she becomes either compliant or apathetic.
Six phases of postwar immigration to Germany can be distinguished (see table 2; see also Martin 1991; Münz and Ulrich 1993; Rudolph 1994; Seifert 1995). The first phase was dominated by the immigration of Germans: expellees, citizens of the GDR, other ethnic Germans
Born into poverty in pre-World War I Berlin, Mr. Mielke joined the Communist youth movement at age 15, and his career epitomized the grimness of Communist rule in East Germany, where assassination, kidnapping, execution, denunciation and intimidation were used to achieve and maintain power under the long, menacing shadow of the Soviet Union.
Mr. Mielke and the ministry for state security kept the 16.5 million people of East Germany obedient to Communism and repressed dissent for more than 30 years. Not only did the ministry pursue an effective campaign against those it regarded as enemies of the state, but its army of 90,000 agents and 260,000 informers finally turned East Germany into a country that spied on itself.
I don’t know, but both alone and in community we most naturally make ourselves comfortable and secure if, when, and where we can. “Living well” with agency, autonomy, dignity, efficacy, freedom, inclusion beats all of the alternatives, and living well with some thoughtful planning for ourselves, our own, and others . . . I would call that repair and profound improvement.
After the dissolving of the Soviet Union at the end of 1991, some KGB elite found themselves driving cabs, i.e., out on the streets, stripped of power and privilege. It didn’t take long for part of that set to determine to regenerate themselves, perhaps through their former networks (I’m mythologizing but keeping to milestones in the greater narrative arc), and set about taking revenge against the west.
9/11/2001 – I would call the event a Russian “Reflexive Control” operation by proxy against NATO. Whatever the truth of the matter, it provoked the proud flesh of a wounded west into a far rightward motion, i.e., the “New Nationalism”. In France, and with Putin’s blessing, Marine Le Pen picked up on the pride.
I’ll add another one or two touchstones here.
2011 – the Arab Spring and desertification lead to protests in Syria against a callous regime quick to respond with violence to any challenge of its authority. The same had also a mighty lever in enjoining the “War on Terror” against any enemy it wish to call a terrorist. Spillover: mass migration -> NATO, starting with Turkey, the same became a stimulus for greater nationalism accompanied by xenophobia. Most affected: Hungary, Italy, Poland, and the United States.
In the listing of years as the perhaps KGB penchant for clever aggression, the whole has gone with the “ones” — 1991; 2001; 2011; and if the invasion of Ukraine had been squeezed in right, 2021.
Putin’s Russia has been cooking on all of the medieval burners, numerology somewhat included, and, indeed, NATO has now to catch up with the array of conditions and threats fashioned by Moscow since the end of the Cold War, and Moscow, representing the Russian “Mafia State”, has some advantages given European and North American appetites for every illicit good and service moving around the planet. It and its buddies among dictators and thugs view the west both as turned toward nationalism (sadly true in part) and morally degenerate — but in Ukraine it has drawn a response remarkably different from what it had imagined. The key to that has been its criminality and barbarism. The cruelty displayed over time and across the post-Soviet Russian space of interest has been effective as regards inspiring hate for everything associated with Moscow. Whether the New Nationalists, Le Pen included, view themselves as part of the problem in light of Putin’s behavior, we shall see. One thing they won’t want will be domination by the Stalinist Russian.
Karen Dawisha detailed how the Soviet nomenklatura prepared in the mid-1980s for the demise of their state and what would have been their fall from grace but for plans to capture the state’s assets for themselves.
Husband and wife Andrew Nekrasov and Olga Konskaya documented in part how former KGB driving cabs determined to return to their former status in power as politically criminal agents with the master who seems today busy with trying to steal back a state that had gotten rid of its Moscow puppet. Once again, Moscow’s premier secret police–from Okhrana to Cheka to FSB–have succeeded in destroying goodness and justice in Russia (the west may be only waiting for the Russians to figure out how they have been themselves once again enslaved).
David Satter has made a mission of convincing the world that Putin’s ascent to power was predicated by the KGB’s false flag bombing of apartment buildings over which the fingers would point toward Chechen Rebels. Given the Kremlin’s penchant for absurd lies, barbaric acts elsewhere, and dramatic political theater and reputation for Orwellian perceptual control across time, I’ve been convinced.
According to John Schindler, the KGB had terrorist Ayman al Zawahiri of hijacker coordination fame as a guest over the winter of 1996-7, which makes sense of a timeline that fits with the KGB’s “recovery” of its less savory powers a little earlier in the mid-1990s (do watch the Nekrasov documentary for what happened in the gap between the “end of the Cold War” and the launching of revenge for the Soviet loss in Afghanistan and subsequent bankruptcy).
Aside, those fond of serial coincidences may enjoy looking up Felix Dzerzhinsky’s birthday and taking into the consideration the role of “1” in the dissolving of the Soviet Union at the end of 1991, the September 11 attack on the United States in 2001, the start of civil war in Syria in 2011, predicated in part on fighting “The Terrorists” (together with the west), and now the Russian Invasion of Ukraine here in 2021.
Hey, wait a minute!
(“Excess of sorrow laughs. Excess of joy weeps”).
Motivating terrorists to blow up the World Trade Center while working with western security to eliminate terrorism . . . that’s pretty slick, but it fits with the temperament of the damned that have also sustained the Middle East Conflict and countless other “frozen conflicts”– as well as dictatorships — worldwide, and it also helps answer the question as to why the west has bent backward so often for so long in the interest of sustained peace beneath the black cloud of mutually assured nuclear destruction.
So here we are with a monster dredged from fascist, feudal, and medieval quarters that now razes with blunt force and fire a modern state aspiring to a democratic, free, honorable, and peaceful future. While we have done more than stand by and watch–we have been responding to our more stranded neighbor–we haven’t faced the full criminal scope of the Russian President’s magical narcissistic beliefs and his related and wholly destructive behavior. Deluded and drunk in power, President Putin lies to himself and to Russia, and yet no one will either dare interfere with his course, and, quite possibly, no one knows how.
Have conditions in the west to become “existential” to do as Ukraine has been doing?