Friday book #11: Spetsnaz

I bought today’s book probably in 1990 or 1991, when I was a young officer in the British Army and studying the Soviets was a form of professional development. But before long the Soviet Union collapsed and all we Russian-speaking officers found that nobody cared about the Spetsnaz any longer. Nowadays, the subject is probably right back in fashion.

spetsnaz

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16 thoughts on “Friday book #11: Spetsnaz”

  1. Huh, is this THE Viktor Suvorov, the notorious scandalous turncoat? I only read the famous-infamous Ledokol, but it was a long time ago…

    Is this one any good, or just sensationalism, revealing dark secrets?

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  2. Yeah, ‘Icebreaker” ‘Suvorov’

    Here’s an example of his methodology. First he says that before WWII the Soviets established 10 airborne corps for the invasion of Germany. Then he says that in Western armies a corps has about 50,000 men, which is true. He concludes that half a million Soviet paratroopers were going to descend on poor German-occupied Europe, and Europe was saved from this dire fate by Op. Barbarossa.

    Nowhere does liar ‘Suvorov’ mention that only 5 airborne corps were actually established, nor does he mention that the Soviet airborne corps had 3 airborne brigades instead of the 2-5 divisions of a Western corps at the time.

    And that’s how liar ‘Suvorov’ inflated 50,000 Soviet paratroops into half a million. That tells you all you need to know about the guy.

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    1. rkka,

      As regards ‘Icebreaker’, an equally interesting feature is that it is a restatement of the view of Stalin’s foreign policy common among the supporters of ‘appeasement’.

      Essentially, this was that the ‘overt’ strategy of seeking collaboration with the Western powers against the common threat from Germany pursued by Stalin following Hitler’s consolidation of power concealed a ‘covert’ strategy whose central objective was to finesse the capitalist powers into destroying each other in a disastrous internecine war.

      As you may recall, I dealt with the arguments of ‘Suvorov’, and also the more sophisticated version of the same case made by Robert C. Tucker, in comments on two threads on the ‘Sic Semper Tyrannis’ site in August last year.

      (See http://turcopolier.typepad.com/sic_semper_tyrannis/2015/08/httpobservercom201508can-the-united-states-stop-a-war-with-russia.html ; http://turcopolier.typepad.com/sic_semper_tyrannis/2015/08/lest-we-forget.html .)

      A key point I was concerned to make in these comments was that the famous ‘Long Telegram’ sent by George Kennan from Moscow on 22 February 1946 was underpinned by a restatement of the view of Stalin’s diplomacy common among supporters of ‘appeasement’.

      The study by Tucker – who was a subordinate of Kennan’s in the Moscow Embassy at the time and later – is actually an attempt to defend the revised version of the analysis of the ‘Long Telegram’ to which his erstwhile superior came in the months following the sending of that document.

      If you read the ‘Long Telegram’ carefully, it is clear that it was underpinned by the notion that Stalin’s ‘real’ strategy had been the ‘overt’ strategy pursued by the German Communists in the late Weimar period, which had – disastrously – focused on destroying the Social Democrats, rather than attempting to collaborate with them against the National Socialists.

      People who had held this view had, not surprisingly, expected that, in the wake of the internecine war, Stalin would drop the façades of the ‘Popular Front’ and ‘collective security’.

      If you read Kennan’s later writings carefully, it becomes clear that when this failed to happen – Stalin’s strategy at the end of the war was to retain the ‘Popular Front’ – his response was to ask himself whether rather than an unsuccessful attempt to communise Germany, Stalin in the late Weimar period had been deliberately encouraging, or at least tolerating, Hitler’s victory.

      In this new version – restated by ‘Suvorov’ and Tucker – Stalin’s concern had right at the outset been to ensure the victory of those political forces most likely to get into a conflict with the Western democracies.

      The whole notion that Stalin was attempting to finesse Germany and the Western powers into war has, in my view, been definitively refuted by the demolition of ‘Suvorov’ and Tucker by the Israeli historian Gabriel Gorodetsky. Like Paul Robinson, Gorodetsky is an alumnus of St. Antony’s College, Oxford – and as such, is in the fortunate position of not only being familiar alike with British and Russian archives, but having a ‘feel’ for the politics of both countries.

      Against this background, it comes as no surprise to find that ‘Suvorov’ – aka Vladimir Rezun – has been a central figure in the attempts of the late Alexander Litvinenko and his associates in the circle around the – now equally late – Boris Berezovsky to suggest that Putin’s ‘overt’ strategy of seeking alliance with the West against jihadist terrorism conceals a ‘covert’ strategy of encouraging such terrorism.

      The role of ‘Suvorov’ in these efforts was touched on in some comments of mine on Sir Robert Owen’s report into the death of Litvinenko, which Colonel Lang put up as a post on SST back in January.

      (See http://turcopolier.typepad.com/sic_semper_tyrannis/2016/01/david-hakkuk-on-sir-robert-owens-inquiry.html .)

      It was ‘Suvorov’/Rezun who is reported to have played a key role in introducing Litvinenko to his Italian associate Mario Scaramella.

      Although a mass of relevant evidence about the ‘information operations’ in which the these and others collaborated was suppressed at Sir Robert Owen’s Inquiry, parts of a crucial letter written by Litvinenko were produced. In this, he claimed that the notorious Ukrainian mobster Semyon Mogilevich, while an agent of the FSB and under Putin’s personal ‘krysha’, had been attempting to obtain a ‘mini nuclear bomb’ for Al Qaeda.

      (For the document, see https://www.litvinenkoinquiry.org/files/2015/03/INQ018922.pdf .)

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      1. I have Icebreaker a little further along on my shelf, so we will get to it in a few months’ time. But as David points out, it is has been thoroughly debunked by Gorodetsky. That makes one doubt also how accurate his other books, such as Spetsnaz, and Inside the Soviet Army (also on my shelf), are too.

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      2. David,

        I did not know about Rezun’s relationship with Litvinenko, but it comes as no surprise at all. Rezun’s stock-in-trade is mendacious fact-twisting, as demonstrated by my point about his claims about the Soviet airborne units formed in 1941. Litvinenko’s claims about Putin trying to give a mini-nuke to AQ sounds like more of the same vicious mendacity.

        Unfortunately, from long experience I know that mendacious fact-twisting about Russia is a commodity that sells very well to the Anglosphere Foreign Policy Elite & Punditocracy (AFPE&P).

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  3. IIRC today, Speznaz can be nearly anything from a local third tier town SWAT equivalent to the elite of the GRU.

    And count me in on the “Suvorov/Rezun is interesting but really wrong and should know it better” school.

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    1. Yeah, I remember when I read it, decades ago, it was fun to read, and I never thought of it as a historical study or anything like that. It’s literature, fiction, counterfactual fiction. As long as that’s understood…

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      1. I actually read him after Mansteins “Lost victories”.

        The hilarious thing is that Manstein labels Soviet pre war positions as an “Aufmarsch für alle Fälle” which I would translate as “deployment with all manners of developments in mind”, and iirc frankly states that the RKKA in its early Barbarossa development had no offensive preparations sufficient for actually attacking Germany.

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  4. Paul,

    I am most interested to hear that you will be discussing ‘Icebreaker’.

    A few more thoughts about the way that misreadings from the past echo onwards. I should stress that my starting point in this is emphatically not any history of sympathy for communism.

    My own instinctive identifications are much more with figures like Peter Durnovo than they are with any of the Bolsheviks, although I also greatly admire figures like Aleksandr Svechin and Maxim Litvinov, who I think tried to make the best fist of things in impossible situations.

    But however much one may dislike a regime, it is important to get one’s intelligence right – which commonly means trying to make an honest attempt to grapple with the complexities of the historical background.

    If you look at the relevant episode of the 1998-9 CNN ‘Cold War’ series – rebroadcast two years ago – and then read the transcripts of the interviews for the series, it is clear that the programme as broadcast simply ignores what the interviewees said.

    A key moment in the Cold War comes when, in his 9 February 1946 pre-election speech, Stalin restates familiar Marxist-Leninist orthodoxy about the inevitability of an eventual military conflict between the Soviet Union and capitalist powers.

    In his interview for the programme, Paul Nitze describes how he and James Forrestal interpreted the speech:

    ‘I read the speech with care and interpreted it as being a delayed declaration of war against the United States … Why this enormous effort for three years – three five year plans? And it could only mean that he was getting ready for the contingency of war with the United States at the end of fifteen years … In fact if you read it today you’ll see that it is, can’t be interpreted any other way.’

    This is incredible. Almost half a century after the events, one of the most influential American Cold War strategists – whose fundamental concepts were carried forward into today’s ‘neoconservatism’ – had not grasped that the Leninist theory of the relationship of war originated as an attempt to explain the First World War: a war between capitalist states.

    As amended to define the security problems of a lone socialist state in ‘capitalist encirclement’, the supposedly inevitable war could be a direct attack on the Soviet Union, or the result of its being drawn into a war between capitalist states. To suggest that Marxist-Leninist ideology implied anything about the likely nature of the configuration of forces in the ‘inevitable’ war was ignorant.

    What however has to be explained is why, after the State Department had initially treated the Nitze/Forrestal interpretation as the rubbish it was, these were able to adduce the ‘Long Telegram’ from Kennan as supposedly decisive evidence that they were right.

    And here, a critical interview for the CNN series is with Robert C. Tucker – who along with ‘Suvorov’ is Gorodetsky’s key target, and was a subordinate of Kennan’s at the American Moscow Embassy in February 1946, and later a colleague at Princeton:

    ‘And what Stalin was saying in February 9, 1946 is that because of the nature of imperialism, as it was called, wars are inevitable. They will usually begin between two sets of imperialist states. As World War Two had begun between the British and the French on the one hand, and the Germans and the Italians on the other. But, as the experience of World War Two showed, he didn’t say this in the speech, one of these sets of belligerents had then turned upon Russia in 1941 when Hitler launched his aggression.’

    (See http://nsarchive.gwu.edu/coldwar/interviews/episode-2/nitze1.html ;http://nsarchive.gwu.edu/coldwar/interviews/episode-2/tucker1.html .)

    What Tucker doesn’t say is that both he and Kennan – like ‘Suvorov’ – thought that the war between British and French, and the Germans and Italians, was the result of the duplicitous ‘divide and rule’ strategies practised by Stalin. But because their interpretation was that of the ‘appeasers’, Kennan could not be candid.

    So Sir Jeremy Isaacs and his team, who made the CNN series, had actually found a ‘smoking gun’, revealing that the whole notion that ‘containment’ was based upon Kennan’s conception of the Soviet threat at any time is hogwash: in which case most Cold War historiography is fundamentally flawed.

    But rather than following up the questions the evidence they unearthed raised, they simply recycled the conventional wisdom.

    A paper entitled ‘The Genesis of Soviet Threat Perceptions’ finalised in July 1987 by Michael MccGwire, who before turning academic was the Royal Navy’s principal expert on its Soviet counterpart, correctly anticipated the Soviet shift towards a Svechin-style defensive posture. And it also argued that to understand what was going on one needed to go back to the origins of the Cold War.

    (See https://www.ucis.pitt.edu/nceeer/1987-800-05-McGwire.pdf .)

    (I was fascinated to see the original typescript appear on the internet not long ago, as I obtained a copy from MccGwire shortly after it was written, and spent months trying to interest broadcasting ‘apparatchiks’ like Isaacs in what seemed to me likely to be the most important security policy story of my lifetime.)

    In his 1995 paper ‘The Big Three After World War II’, the Russian historian Vladimir Pechtnov reviewed analyses from 1944-5 by Maisky, Litvinov and Gromyko – noting that they ‘meshed’ with MccGwire’s argument that Stalin had hoped to maintain some kind of cooperative relationship with the United States at that time.

    And he further noted that they also ‘meshed’ with the definition of Soviet objectives given in a paper entitled ‘Russia – Seven Years Later’ which Kennan drafted in September 1944.

    (See https://www.wilsoncenter.org/sites/default/files/ACF17F.PDF .)

    What Pechatnov does not ask is the obvious question as to why the ‘Long Telegram’ provided so much more apocalyptic an analysis.

    Also in 1995, in an exchange of letters, Kennan told the historian John Lukacs that in his view a united communist Germany was ‘the last thing Stalin would have wanted to bring about’ – and went on to claim that he ‘saw no inconsistency between the views I held in 1945 and those I put forward in later years.’

    Again, one might have thought that Lukacs would have pointed out the obvious ‘inconsistency’ between what Kennan says he thought and what others took him to think.

    But historians, like television producers, seem happier to revel in Cold War triumphalism than actually to ask awkward questions about the past.

    A key reason all this matters is that Nitze’s conception led naturally to the view that a crucial goal of Soviet policy was ‘escalation dominance’, and that this should therefore also be a crucial American goal. Essentially, the overall balance of military power – and in particular nuclear power – came to be seen as a crucial factor determining the ability of each side to take risks in local contests whose cumulative outcome would determine the overall result of the Cold War confrontation.

    An ironic corollary of this is that when the Soviets moved towards a serious interest in nuclear arms control, those who followed Nitze interpreted this in the same terms as Kennan had interpreted Litvinov’s attempts at ‘collective security’ – as a strategy of deception: which, as MccGwire brings out, it patently was not.

    Accordingly, as he also brings out in the ‘Genesis’ paper, they were completely incapable of understanding the background to Gorbachev’s so-called ‘new thinking’. And then, the people who failed to anticipate this, and went on claiming that it was deception long after this was clearly demonstrated not to be the case, simply concluded that change in the Soviet Union was the product of the Reagan-era military build-up.

    It is the people who swallowed whole Nitze’s misinterpretation of Kennan who have been in control of American – and British – and security policy for the past twenty-five years: which makes these historical issues of contemporary relevance.

    The notion that Nitze was right quite patently cannot be defended. The notion that Kennan was right can only be defended, by arguing that the account given by ‘Suvorov’, although perhaps crude, was fundamentally correct.

    If however Gorodetsky is right, then Kennan is wrong – and a question has to arise as tow whether, in assigning responsibility for the Cold War, he is as much to blame as Stalin.

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    1. Uncle Joe was, of course, a notorious boogeyman (nearly as evil as Vlad The Impaler Putin today), capable of any heinousness and treachery. But he died in 1953. And the guy who succeeded him unambiguously declared peaceful coexistence and economic competition as his modus operandi.

      And yet the red scare and the cold war continued. How could a Stalin’s 1946 speech justify that? It just doesn’t add up. An obvious alternative explanation is that the western elites wanted a confrontation (I imagine, for a variety of reasons), and they still do.

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  5. rkka,

    You write:

    ‘Litvinenko’s claims about Putin trying to give a mini-nuke to AQ sounds like more of the same vicious mendacity.

    Unfortunately, from long experience I know that mendacious fact-twisting about Russia is a commodity that sells very well to the Anglosphere Foreign Policy Elite & Punditocracy (AFPE&P).’

    Yes. And what – from my point of view, as a somewhat cynical old-fashioned kind of ‘Brit’ – is particularly galling, is that we are not doing ourselves any favours by listening to people like Litvinenko and ‘Suvorov’/Rezun.

    A few more observations about how this situation came about may be to the point. And here, the 1987 paper by Michael MccGwire to which I link below is relevant.

    What he and his then Brookings Institution colleague Ambassador Raymond Garthoff had argued for years was that the ‘escalation dominance’ interpretation of Soviet military strategy was quite precisely wrong.

    Rather than being an essentially political strategy, it was actually heavily focused on contingency planning for a global war, which in one way or another it was anticipated the ‘imperialists’ might unleash.

    When from 1948 on Soviet planners began to prepare for such a war – for MccGwire’s reading of the reasons they did so see his paper – their initial focus was on an offensive westwards to liquidate the bridgeheads on which the vastly superior American military-industrial potential could be deployed.

    Subsequently, contingency planning came to be based on the idea of attempting to pre-empt an American nuclear attack. Of course, if one attempted to neutralise NATO’s nuclear capabilities in this way, there was no reason not to attempt to do maximum damage to the American military-industrial potential.

    In the course of the ‘Sixties and early ‘Seventies, however, NATO’s adoption of ‘flexible response’, and the realisation that one could not ‘win’ a nuclear war, generated a shift back towards a conventional strategy – hence the re-emphasis on the offensive westwards.

    (Among other things, if one could not strike at the American military-industrial potential, the objective of preventing its effective deployment in Europe became so much more salient. And NATO nuclear threats now had to be pre-empted by conventional means – including, of course, ‘spetsnaz’.)

    At precisely the point that the Soviets had decisively abandoned ‘first use’, however, Richard Pipes and his associates (the ‘Team B’ crowd) were arguing that Soviet planners continued to believe that they could fight and win a nuclear war.

    If one took for granted that their ‘overt’ strategy, involving professions of interest in nuclear disarmament, concealed a continued ‘covert’ strategy based on nuclear pre-emption, the renewed emphasis by Soviet planners on the conventional offensive fitted neatly into the ‘escalation dominance’ interpretation.

    In the Reagan years, all this came together with claims that the Soviets were a major sponsor of international terrorism. Among energetic propagators of this theory – notably in relation to the attempt to assassinate Pope John Paul II – was Michael Ledeen, who was actively involved in using it and similar allegations in propaganda against the Italian Communist Party.

    (See https://wikispooks.com/wiki/Michael_Ledeen .)

    At the time of the ‘semibankirshchina’ it obviously suited figures like Berezovsky to adopt these familiar ‘neocon’ themes, both in their internal propaganda in Russia, and also in their dealings with their associates in the West. This was all the more so when it became clear that Putin was not going to play the role of the obedient stooge in which Berezovsky had cast him.

    Among other consequences, this created a kind of ‘echo chamber’, whereby all the most stupid prejudices of ‘neocon’ elements in the West were reinforced. And then, these arguments became involved with ‘information operations’ emerging out of Western strategies of fostering ‘jihadist’ movements in the Caucasus and Central Asia – particularly after the attack on the World Trade Center.

    In comments on another SST thread, I have dealt with the way that the highly tendentious 2005 review of Warsaw Pact documents ‘A Cardboard Castle?’, edited by Vojtech Mastny and Michael Byrne, played into the hands of Scaramella and his associates.

    (See http://turcopolier.typepad.com/sic_semper_tyrannis/2016/02/if-this-were-the-us-and-not-russia.html ; for the ‘Cardboard Castle?’ reference, see http://www.paologuzzanti.it/?p=561 .)

    In essence, Scaramella could put together actual facts about Warsaw Pact contingency plans for a conventional ‘blitzkrieg’, with disinformation about supposed Soviet planning for pre-emptive nuclear attacks, in a spectacular display of ‘mendacious fact-twisting’, designed to smear a whole range of different people.

    Out of this came the ludicrous suggestions that the FSB, and Putin personally, had been involved in using organised crime (Mogilevich) in attempts to recover nuclear weapons originally intended for a pre-emptive attack on the West and hand them over to jihadist terrorists.

    A great deal of relevant information about all this was supplied, by me, to Sir Robert Owen’s team. To see how dishonest and dishonourable they are – how completely they have betrayed the principles of the English tradition of common law – one needs only to put together Scaramella’s description of a crucial meeting on 26 July 2004 with materials from documentation circulated from that meeting.

    From the testimony given by Scaramella to the Inquiry:

    ‘Once we organised a formal meeting at the 17 International Maritime Organisation with him and other 18 people, from ECPP and from – so other senior discussant, so Oleg Gordievsky, Vladimir Bukovsky, so 20 staff at International Maritime Organisation, Mr Cohen and some senior expert of the ECPP.

    ‘So once it was just a meeting in London, just aimed to analyse Litvinenko’s statements, and other times it was just me and him, yes.’

    (See https://www.litvinenkoinquiry.org/files/2015/03/lit180315.pdf .)

    Actually, ‘Suvorov’/Rezun was also a ‘discussant’ at this meeting.

    From Scaramella’s presentation at the meeting, as incorporated in the dossier sent out from the International Maritime Organization following it – his description of the ‘threat hypothesis’:

    ‘At the end of the cold war nuclear devices were allocated by USSR in several coastal areas or dumped at sea. Also big ammount (sic) of waste to be used as weapons of mass destruction were released. Only in the Mediterranean sea more than 50 billions Curie of High Level Radioactive materials were dumped, in particular in the Sicily Street and in the Sicily Channel. Evidences confirms that telemines were dumped inside the waste material.’

    The ‘statements’ from Litvinenko were among the materials deployed to support such claims. Unfortunately, as the version of the document I have is that circulated to the ‘Mitrokhin Commission’, although some parts are in English, his contributions are in Italian. However, the titles give key information – one of central importance being ‘A Nuclear suitcase from Moskow to Zurich’.

    As this material was submitted by me to Sir Robert Owen’s team back in September 2012, it certainly should have been presented at the Inquiry.

    At the time he collaborated in this whole venture with Scaramella, as we now know, Litvinenko was an agent, as distinct from an informant, of MI6.

    Do the members of that organisation believe this BS – or are they engaged in cynical ‘information operations’?

    You tell me.

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  6. rkka,

    I looked again at the documentation from the 26 July 2004 meeting at the IMO. A section in which both ‘Suvorov’/Rezun, and Gordievsky, are quoted, is close to high comedy. It reads:

    ‘ – The Senior Discussant (Bukovskiy, Gordievskij, Palumbo) outlined, upon the legal basis of the documents presented by Mr. Suvorov (Rezun) and by ECPP, the links among the strategy of GRU, Namangani (Al Quaida), Basaev (Chechen Leader Terrorist) and Saddam Hussein Special Forces. Attacks with BRV as Weapons are known in Washington D.C. (2002) and Moscow (2005).

    ‘ – The threat hypothesis is confirmed by the discussant: The use of nuclear material to be used as dirty bombs in the Mediterranean was largely adopterated (sic) as well as the allocation of nuclear mines in the fiords of the Baltic and the north sea.

    ‘ – Mr. Gordievskij reports about first hand information on the massive dumping of radioactive material in Mediterranean from both the Naval Intelligence of GRU and KGB to produce a public scandal against the US Navy indicated by the (KGB infiltrated) green parties and organizations as responsible.’

    This is the kind of horseshit which Litvinenko – then, as we now know, a MI6 agent – was involved in disseminating.

    And he is treated as an heroic ‘whistleblower’ in the ‘Guardian’, and the ‘New Statesman’.

    (See http://www.newstatesman.com/culture/books/2016/03/putins-breadcrumbs-tracing-last-days-alexander-litvinenko .)

    As the title of a notable Jacobean play has it – ‘A Mad World, My Masters’.

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  7. Leeden? Is that the guy with the Leeden doctrine “Every ten years or so the United states throws one random country to the wall to show the rest we mean business?”

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    1. A.I. Schmelzer,

      At the risk of being prolix, your two observations seem to merit a response.

      With ‘information operations’, it is not uncommonly difficult to know how far those involved are simply engaged in disingenuous propaganda, how far they actually believe the nonsense they disseminate, and how far they come to believe their own propaganda. Commonly, the answer is different with different people.

      In relation to ‘neoconservatism’ in Britain, a crucial organisation is the so-called ‘Henry Jackson Society’, founded in 2005. It is worth looking at its ‘Statement of Principles’, and also the ‘Signatories’ to this and the list of ‘International Patrons’ of the organisation. Among the ‘Signatories’ is Sir Richard Dearlove, who was head of MI6 between 1999 and 2004.

      (See http://henryjacksonsociety.org/about-the-society/signatories-to-the-statement-of-principles/ .)

      Leaving aside the inanity of the ‘Statement’, a critical fact is that when it came to Soviet military capabilities and intentions, Senator Jackson managed to get practically everything wrong: he was enthusiastic propagandist of ludicrous claims first about a non-existent ‘bomber gap’, and then an equally non-existent ‘missile gap’. This kind of hysterical alarmism was well satirised in the film ‘Dr Strangelove’.

      Moreover, Jackson was instrumental in making possible the rise to influence of those two even more spectacular bunglers, Richard Perle and Paul Wolfowitz, who deployed the same habits of fear-mongering in relation to Iraqi capabilities and intentions, with disastrous consequences. As you will be aware, Michael Ledeen is simply a yet more ‘off-the-wall’ representative of this strand of opinion.

      So to have a former head of MI6, who also played a leading role in the corruption of intelligence which made possible our disastrous invasion of Iraq, associating himself with a society named after Senator Jackson is remarkable. At the risk of being frivolous, one might hark back to another Peter Sellers film, and suggest that it is rather as though a former head of Counter Terrorism Command identified himself with a ‘Jacques Clouseau Society’.

      To work out what was going on, one has to try and make some sense of the complexities of British intelligence history. As regards MI6, it was in its origins an essentially anti-Bolshevik organisation, many of whose members strongly supported ‘appeasement’. It also was from the outset as much a ‘covert operations’ and ‘political warfare’ organisation as an intelligence-gathering one.

      By contrast, in both world wars British naval intelligence was relentlessly focused on the problem of how to defeat the adversary. If one wants to do this, it is necessary to get inside his head, and make sure he does not get inside one’s own head. The point is not to play ‘George Smiley’ spying games: it is rigorously to exploit every available source of evidence, in order to gain an accurate assessment of an adversary’s capabilities and intentions.

      A problem is that, in peacetime, the immediate enemy for the Royal Navy, as of other services, was less the Soviet Union than the Treasury and rival services, in the competition for resources (this is liable to be a general problem with military intelligence in peacetime.)

      However, in some key figures the wartime ethos survived – and here, Michael MccGwire, to whose key 1987 ‘Genesis of Soviet Threat Perceptions’ paper I have linked, was critical.

      Having graduated as chief cadet captain at the naval college at Dartmouth, MccGwire had gone to sea as a 17-year midshipman in May 1942. After the war, he had opted for Russian language training, and ended up at GCHQ, working on Russian submarine programmes.

      By the end of the ‘Fifties, he had realised that the general assumption that these were primarily aimed at attacking NATO’s sea lines of communication did not fit the facts. If you build submarines without air defenses, and with an 100mm gun, and station them in the Black Sea, your likely purpose is not to attack NATO convoys, but to counter the demonstrated Western capability for large-scale amphibious operations.

      Once you get this far, you start asking all sorts of awkward questions – a lot of them, such as what actually was involved in Western strategies of ‘containment’, particularly in relation to places like Ukraine, of continuing relevance.

      After ending his 25-years’ service as head of the Soviet naval section of the Defence Intelligence Staff, MccGwire did a degree as a mature student and turned academic. In his early scholarly writings on Soviet naval strategy, one finds a complete contempt for all the talk of a ‘bomber gap’ and ‘missile gap’ with which Senator Jackson was identified.

      In these early writings, a concern of MccGwire’s was that people like Jackson were actually inadvertently ending up doing the Soviets’ propaganda job for them, and also risking tempting these to military adventurism. By the closing years of the Cold War, he had come to think that this kind of ‘threat inflation’ actually greatly increased the dangers of us all blundering into a nuclear war.

      Why is this long digression relevant to the questions you raise?

      As you will see, if you read MccGwire’s ‘Genesis’ paper, a crucial argument to which it leads is that, to understand what was at issue in Gorbachev’s ‘new thinking’, it was necessary to go back to the early Cold War, and realise that some of the conventional Western wisdoms were wrong.

      (The questions involved here, it is important to note, had only a limited amount to do with one’s own politico-philosophical views. It is important to remember that the most incisive sceptic about conventional wisdoms about the ‘Soviet threat’ among British politicians was the maverick Tory Enoch Powell, who was very much on the right of the party. But Powell had been a figure of consequence in military intelligence during the Second World War, both in the Middle East and South Asia. When it came to technical military analysis, he knew what he was talking about.)

      In the event, however, those who became ‘neoconservatives’, confronted by their total failure to anticipate the changes in Soviet policy following Gorbachev’s accession, simply accommodated these into the ‘Procrustean bed’ of their existing conceptions. And they were successful in generating widespread acceptance for their delusional readings of recent history. (Tragically, they are as competent at ‘information operations’ as they are incompetent at intelligence analysis.)

      And this brings me back to ‘Suvorov’/Rezun. In a lecture published in 2000, dealing with the role of the security agencies in modern British society, Robin Ramsay, who runs a magazine called ‘Lobster’, had interesting things to say about ‘Suvorov’.

      (See http://www.lobster-magazine.co.uk/articles/security.htm .)

      Among other questions raised, I think, is that of how the different involvements of ‘Suvorov’ – both with attempting to resurrect the view of Stalin’s diplomacy held by the ‘appeasers’, and also involvement in the kind of ‘information operations’ in which Scaramella was involved – reflect the current culture of MI6.

      If as I suspect they do, the kind of hallucinations visible in the documentation from the 26 July 2004 meeting may reflect an unscrupulous willingness on the part of that organisation to distort the truth in the interests of propaganda, which is however superimposed on genuinely delusional readings of history.

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