Tag: KGB

Once upon a time in a land called Venezuela

Tuesday, 10 March, 2015 0 Comments

My, my, a lot can change in a short time. Back on 13 December 2012, famed Hugo Chávez bot Richard Gott reflected on the state of Venezuela in the Guardian. Was he alarmed, dismayed, perturbed? None of it. In fact, he painted an idyllic picture with phrases such as “huge oil revenues”, “competent team of ministers”, “running the country quite happily”, “no immediate crises”, “economy is purring along quite well” and the oleaginous “engaging and collegiate leader” for Comrade Maduro. Snippet:

Chavez “After 14 years of considerable institutional change, huge oil revenues now pour into the alleviation of the acute poverty suffered by a large percentage of the country, and there is a rock-solid base of chavista support that will take decades to erode. Chávez also leaves a competent team of ministers at the top, most of whom have been running the country quite happily in recent years. They share the radical vision of Chávez, and in Maduro they have an engaging and collegiate leader. There are no immediate crises in sight and, in spite of alarmist reports in the foreign press, the economy is purring along quite well. After more than a decade on a political roller-coaster, the country will return to a more normal profile.”

And today? Dissent, inflation and shortages of basic goods dominate the agenda. “President Nicolas Maduro’s socialist government this week launched a 70 percent devaluation via a new ‘free floating’ currency system known as Simadi” reported Reuters last month. “‘They’re doing this because they don’t have any money,’ said a man who gave his name only as Felix, and who said he was 83.”

Note: Richard Gott was once the literary editor of the Guardian, but he resigned from the post in 1994 after it was alleged in The Spectator that he had been a KGB “agent of influence”. He rejected the claim, arguing that “Like many other journalists, diplomats and politicians, I lunched with Russians during the Cold War”. With the Russians said to be looking for lunch partners again, Richard Gott need never dine alone.


Afghanistan 1977: Haven of Peace and Tranquility

Wednesday, 26 March, 2014 0 Comments

Reuters: “Afghanistan accused Pakistan’s intelligence service on Monday of staging last week’s attack on a hotel in Kabul in which nine people including foreigners were shot dead by militants.”

CNN: “The number of people killed when militants stormed an election commission office in the Afghan capital Tuesday has risen to five, a spokesman for the Afghan Interior Ministry said.”

That’s how it is today in Afghanistan, but if we go back to 1977, we find the country’s national airline, Ariana, transporting passengers to a promised land of peace and tranquility. All that ended on 25 December 1979 when Soviet Airborne Forces landed in Kabul. Two days later, KGB and GRU operatives dressed in Afghan uniforms occupied major military and media buildings, attacked the Tajbeg Presidential Palace and killed President Hafizullah Amin. Within two weeks, Soviet forces in Afghanistan exceeded 100,000 personnel. What followed was a decade of barbarism, followed by retreat and the collapse of the Soviet Empire. Ariana is flying again, but peace and tranquility remain a mirage for Afghanistan.

Ariana


Valeri Volodin sounds like Vladimir Putin

Tuesday, 18 March, 2014 0 Comments

“The Russian Federation invaded its sovereign neighbour on the first moonless night of spring. By dawn their tanks ground westward along the highways and backroads as if the countryside belonged to them, as if the quarter-century thaw from the Cold War had been a dream.” So begins the second chapter of Command Authority, the final novel by the late Tom Clancy, which was published in December last year. Those Russian tanks are rolling into the Baltic states. “This was not supposed to happen here. This was Estonia, after all, and Estonia was a NATO member state. The politicians in Tallin had promised their people that Russia would never attack them now that they had joined the alliance.”

The leader of this outrageous invasion is Valeri Volodin, a KGB veteran bent on reviving the former Soviet Empire, but as this is a work of fiction characters are a product of the author’s imagination and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental. Anyway, after Estonia, Putin, sorry, Volodin turns his evil eye on the troubled Ukraine. “Any hopes the police might have had that the situation would defuse itself went away when tents started to be erected on both sides, and nationalists and Russian Ukrainians began clashes that turned more and more violent.”

Cut to an up-market Moscow restaurant where Stanislav Biryukov, director of the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service, is having supper with a British businessman. “Russia will invade Ukraine, probably within the next few weeks,” says Biryukov, sipping his chacha, a Georgian brandy. “They will annex Crimea. From there, if they meet no resistance from the West, they will take more of the country, all the way to the Dnieper River. Once this is achieved, I believe Volodin will set his eyes on making beneficial alliances from a position of power, both in the other border countries and in the former nations of the Warsaw Pact. He believes he can return the entire region to the central control of the Kremlin. Poland, Czech Republic, Hungary, Bulgaria, Romania. They will be the next dominos to fall.”

But this is just fiction, right? And our dear leaders don’t read fiction.


Putin’s Rasputin

Tuesday, 4 March, 2014 0 Comments

At the end of January last year, Charles Clover, then Moscow bureau chief of the Financial Times, asked “How much influence does Father Tikhon Shevkunov have over the Russian president?” The question was posed in a lengthy portrait titled “Putin and the monk“. Snippet:

Father Tikhon Shevkunov “Father Tikhon wields influence in the church far above his modest rank of Archimandrite, or abbot, due primarily to his contacts in the Kremlin. The story that travels with him, which he will neither confirm nor deny, is that he is the confessor to Vladimir Putin. The only details he gives is that Putin, sometime before he became president at the end of 1999 (most likely while he was head of Russia’s FSB security service from 1998 to 1999) appeared at the doors of the monastery one day. Since then, the two men have maintained a very public association, with Tikhon accompanying Putin on foreign and domestic trips, dealing with ecclesiastical problems. But according to persistent rumour, Tikhon ushered the former KGB colonel into the Orthodox faith and became his dukhovnik, or godfather.”

Father Tikhon’s other claim to fame, as Charles Clover points out, is a film entitled Gibel Imperii (The Fall of the Empire), which he produced, and in which he argued that the Byzantine Empire fell, not as the result of assaults by the Ottoman Turks, but because its rulers and elites unwisely copied Western social, economic and political models. Worse, the West, especially Venice, supported separatist movements and central government in Byzantium was weakened. Worse again, young scholars went to the West to study and came back with outlandish notions such as individualism, free enterprise and common markets. Thus, was corrupted the soul of the East to the point where its merchants were ruined and the Empire fell.

Gibel Imperii was ridiculed by historians as a crude attempt to fabricate history and create false parallels with Putin’s imperial Russia. The faithful didn’t care, however. Father Tikhon is now the ex-colonel’s dukhovnik and there can be no doubt about what he’s been whispering in his master’s ear.


Kasparov checkmates Putin pawn Snowden

Friday, 4 October, 2013 0 Comments

It’s heartening to see that the grandmaster Garry Kasparov has more than 50,000 “likes” on Facebook. Not surprising, though, when one considers the quality of his posts. Take the 1 October one about the repulsive fact that the leaker and fugitive Edward Snowden has been shortlisted for the Sakharov Prize by the European Parliament. As Kasparov points out: “…his providing cover to the Putin regime should disqualify him from any award bearing the name of the great Soviet dissident Andrei Sakharov.” And for the useful idiots in Brussels and across the West in denial about Putin’s police state, Kasparov adds: “The next day, the Russian Communication Minister announced that the Russian FSB (KGB) can listen to ANY conversation, read any email or text or any other form of communication with no warrant or special permission. I imagine Snowden will have some strong comments about this!” Doubt it. Pawns don’t speak.

https://www.facebook.com/GKKasparov/posts/10151918633533307

Note: The word “pawn” is often used to mean “one who is sacrificed for a larger purpose”. Because the pawn is the weakest piece on the chess board, it is often used metaphorically to indicate outright disposability: “He’s only a pawn in the game.”