Friday book #36: Blowing up Russia

This week’s book is a fairly infamous one. Originally written in 2003, it was banned from publication in Russia. This English-language edition was published shortly after Litvinenko’s death from polonium poisoning in November 2006.

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3 thoughts on “Friday book #36: Blowing up Russia”

  1. Interestingly, no one is commenting – no one wants to remember these events? One of the strongest records of that time is the Независимое расследование: «Рязанский сахар» report that “earned” NTV future change of ownership and take over that turned it into what it is today. In that 2000 program you can actually see FSB director famously claiming that they evacuated several hundred people, including disabled ones, and kept them outside overnight just because of a few bags of sugar.

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    1. “Interestingly, no one is commenting – no one wants to remember these events?”

      Personally, I usually allow various shit-eaters with penchant for Russophobia and conspiracy theories to be first. Poor things, they have so little joys in life!

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  2. Paul,

    I think recent events make it possible to see the ‘Blowing Up Russia’ book in better context.

    You will be aware of Maria Zakharova’s remarks after the ‘coalition’ air strikes at Deir ez-Zor, following on from the wrangles over the failure of the U.S. and its allies to, as she put it, ‘separate the terrorists from the so-called moderate opposition.’

    From her statement on 18 September:

    ‘If earlier we had suspicions that al-Nusra was being protected like this, after today’s strikes against the Syrian army, we could reach a really frightening conclusion with global implications: the White House is defending ISIS. There is no doubt left.’

    (See http://www.mid.ru/en/foreign_policy/news/-/asset_publisher/cKNonkJE02Bw/content/id/2444387 .)

    In the television programme marking the fifteenth year of his leadership, in April last year, Putin for – as far as I know – the first time brought charges about Western support for ‘terrorists’ in the Caucasus out into the open. His remarks are I think interesting.

    ‘Once our special services detected direct contacts between militants from the North Caucasus and representatives from a US special service in Azerbaijan. They were actually simply helping, even with transport. When I told this to the incumbent president of the United States, he replied: Well, I – forgive me but I’ll be blunt – I’ll kick their ass [end of quote]. In 10 days’ time, however, our people, my subordinates, the FSB leadership, got a letter from their counterparts in Washington: We have maintained and will continue to maintain relations with all the opposition forces in Russia, and we think that we have the right to do it and we will continue to do it in the future.’

    Ironically, one useful thing that Sir Robert Owen’s inquiry into the Litvinenko mystery has done is to provide additional evidence that on this matter Putin may not have been simply fabricating.

    A critical part of the background to the affair, meanwhile, clearly has to do with a central contention Putin has repeatedly made – that the notion that one could use jihadists as an instrument of one’s foreign policy goals, without risking catastrophic ‘blowback’, is bunkum.

    The argument that this has been precisely the premise underlying Western policy in Syria, as elsewhere, and that it has been a catastrophic error of judgement, is one that has failed to gain much traction with Western governments. However, it has with some significant elements in national security bureaucracies in the United States, Europe, and also Israel.

    Actually, a particularly interesting – sympathetic – recollection of a confidential presentation of the Russian position, from the period immediately following the invasion of Iraq, came in a December 2015 article in the ‘Guardian’ entitled: ‘Russia is right: fighting Isis is the priority for us all’ by Giora Eiland, the former chief of Israel’s National Security Council.

    ‘About a dozen years ago, [Eiland writes] the head of a Russian thinktank visited Israel. As head of the National Security Council, I met him, along with several other senior defence officials, and we heard him say that the greatest threat to world peace was Islamic State. True, the name “Isis” wasn’t mentioned then, but the phenomenon that it represents was predicted with astounding accuracy. The Russian official warned about the formation of an Islamic caliphate in Iraq, which was in the process of disintegrating; he warned that this caliphate would try to take control of the Middle East and, from there, would send its long arms northward, via the Islamic former Soviet republics. At the same time, it would try to take advantage of the weakness of the west and would turn its attention to Europe. His conclusion was that Russia, the western powers and Israel shared a common enemy and it was in their utmost interests to join forces to defeat it. I heard similar messages when I met other Russian officials over the years. They also criticised the US’s war in Iraq – which they described as “imbecilic” – and which they said would only accelerate the arrival of a caliphate.’

    (See https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/dec/01/russia-fighting-isis-moscow-turkey .)

    What is now clear is that Litvinenko was a pivotal figure in a number of overlapping ‘information operations’ networks. One, in which he was involved with Akhmed Zakayev, had to do with Chechnya and the Caucasus, and was centered around the ‘Chechenpress’ website.

    Another, in which was involved with Alexander Goldfarb, Yuri Felshtsinky, and Yuri Shvets (all U.S.-based), had to do with Ukraine, and was centred around the ‘Melnichenko tapes’ and the ‘Fifth Element’ websites.

    Yet another, which developed after ‘Suvorov’/Rezun introduced Litvinenko to Mario Scaramella, linked those other networks to the Italian ‘Mitrokhin Commission’, which was dedicated to ‘information operations’ against the political enemies of Berlusconi.

    And both Litvinenko’s oligarch patron Berezovsky, and the Menatep oligarchs, in particular Nevzlin, were also intimately involved in these operations.

    Part of the comedy of Owen’s report and inquiry has been the spectacle of his acting as stenographer to this bunch of ‘information operators’, and simply ignoring the flagrant contradictions in what they have claimed about the life and death of Litvinenko.

    What however has happened is that the claim by Andrei Lugovoi that Litvinenko was an agent, as distinct from informant of MI6, has been conceded. The date in which he became involved with them has been pushed back, by Goldfarb, to early 2003.

    I think this is still too late. The passport in the name of ‘Edwin Redwald Carter’ he used is dated 8 February 2002, and I strongly suspect that both he and Berezovsky were cooperating with the British and Americans before they left Russia.

    From the ‘Wikipedia’ entry on ‘Blowing Up Russia’:

    ‘According to an interview, Yuri Felshtinsky started collecting materials about the Russian apartment bombings in 2001, not thinking that the FSB had anything to do with the terrorism acts. He was deeply disturbed after discovering that the bombings were in fact committed by the FSB. He consulted with Viktor Suvorov, a writer and former GRU officer. When asked: “Would you personally blow out the building with innocent people after receiving the order?”, Mr Suvorov replied: “Of course I would. That is our job. We always follow the order”. Felshtinsky contacted Alexander Litvinenko who became a coauthor of the book. Mr Felshtinsky had known Mr Litvinenko since 1998.’

    (See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blowing_Up_Russia .)

    It then becomes relevant to bring into the picture an alternative view of the apartment block bombings, which was argued by Robert Bruce Ware – who has some expertise on the Caucasus – in an article in 2005 in the ‘Journal of Slavic Military Studies’ entitled ‘Revisiting Russia’s Apartment Block Blasts’. Unfortunately, it is behind a subscription wall, but some of his analysis is available at http://www.russialist.org/archives/8021-14.php.

    From the conclusions to the article:

    ‘Hence, the simplest, clearest explanation for the apartment block blasts is that they were perpetrated by Wahhabis from Dagestan, and perhaps elsewhere in the region, under the leadership of Khattab, as retribution for the federal attacks on Karamakhi, Chabanmakhi, and Kadar. If the blasts were organized by Khattab and other Wahhabis as retribution for the federal attack on Dagestan’s Islamic Djamaat, then this would explain the timing of the attacks, and it would explain why there were no attacks after the date on which the insurgents were driven from Dagestan. It would explain why no Chechen claimed responsibility. It would explain Basayev’s reference to Dagestani responsibility, and it would be consistent with Khattab’s initial vow to set off “bombs everywhere . . . blasting through their cities.” Yet if Khattab and other Wahhabis were responsible for the blasts then this would mean that the Chechens were blamed unfairly, and this injustice would have contributed to many injustices that followed.’

    The question as to whether both the CIA and MI6 were either actively involved with the Saudis in sending jihadists like Khattab to fight in Syria or at least complicit is a contentious one. Commenting on Putin’s claims after they were made, another American Caucasus expert, Gordon Hahn, reviewed some relevant evidence.

    (See https://gordonhahn.com/2015/05/06/putin-u-s-intell-assisted-chechnyas-chri-in-the-early-2000s/ .)

    Here, the contribution of ‘Suvorov’/Rezun becomes of particular interest.

    In the ‘Thirties, as I understand it, MI6 was of the view that the ‘overt’ strategy of the Soviet Union, advocating ‘common security’ against Nazi Germany, concealed a ‘covert’ strategy, whose goal was to finesse that country and the democracies into a disastrous fratricidal war.

    This was the view defended by ‘Suvorov’/Rezun in the ‘Icebreaker’ study which we discussed on this blog some time back. Its adoption by the Chamberlain government help destroy such chances as there were of avoiding the Second World War.

    When the Russian government was suggesting a kind of strategy of ‘common security’ against jihadism, based on the kind of anticipations which the Russian thinktank head put to Giora Eiland, it seems that ‘Suvorov’/Rezun was once again actively engaged in suggesting that this ‘overt’ strategy concealed a ‘covert’ one.

    In this, the jihadists were not really threatening to blow up Russia – attacks were ‘false flags’ orchestrated by the FSB. And the culmination of course came with the extraordinary farrago according to the notorious Ukrainian mobster Semyon Mogilevich, while acting as an agent for the FSB and under Putin’s personal “krysha”, was attempting to obtain a ‘mini nuclear bomb’ for Al Qaeda.

    (See https://www.litvinenkoinquiry.org/files/2015/04/INQ018922wb.pdf .)

    It seems eminently possible that in these activities ‘Suvorov’/Rezun was acting as an agent of MI6.

    As Sir Robert Owen was finalising his report the jihadists were indeed turning their attention towards Europe, just as the Russian thinktank head had predicted: in November 2015 they were gouging out the eyes, and slicing up the genitals, of some of their victims in the Bataclan.

    And yet, to Owen, the people who had done everything possible to thwart effective cooperation with Russia against the jihadist threat were heroes.

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