The NY/NJ Metro Branch meeting of U.S. Friends of Soviet People Saturday, February 27, 2:00 – 4:00 PM LGBT Center 208 W. 13 St., Room 310 (Between 7th and 8th Ave.)
Special Guest Speaker GROVER FURR will be discussing his new book: Trotsky’s “Amalgams” Trotsky’s Lies, The Moscow Trials as Evidence, the Dewey Commission
His book normally sells for $25 plus $5 shipping but will be on sale for $20 (with no shipping) at the event. www.USFriendsoftheSovietPeople.org
StrategicCulture.org, 08.01.2016 | 00:00
|The recent declassification of over 3800 documents by the Central Intelligence Agency provides detailed proof that since 1953 the CIA operated two major programs intent on not only destabilizing Ukraine but Nazifying it with followers of the World War II Ukrainian Nazi leader Stepan Bandera.
The CIA programs spanned some four decades. Starting as a paramilitary operation that provided funding and equipment for such anti-Soviet Ukrainian resistance groups as the Ukrainian Supreme Liberation Council (UHVR); its affiliates, the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN) and Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA), all Nazi Banderists. The CIA also provided support to a relatively anti-Bandera faction of the UHVR, the ZP-UHVR, a foreign-based virtual branch of the CIA and British MI-6 intelligence services. The early CIA operation to destabilize Ukraine, using exile Ukrainian agents in the West who were infiltrated into Soviet Ukraine, was codenamed Project AERODYNAMIC.
A formerly TOP SECRET CIA document dated July 13, 1953, provides a description of AERODYNAMIC: «The purpose of Project AERODYNAMIC is to provide for the exploitation and expansion of the anti-Soviet Ukrainian resistance for cold war and hot war purposes. Such groups as the Ukrainian Supreme Council of Liberation (UHVR) and its Ukrainian Insurgent Army (OUN), the Foreign Representation of the Ukrainian Supreme Council of Liberation (ZPUHVR) in Western Europe and the United States, and other organizations such as the OUN/B will be utilized». The CIA admitted in a 1970 formerly SECRET document that it had been in contact with the ZPUHVR since 1950.
The OUN-B was the Bandera faction of the OUN and its neo-Nazi sympathizers are today found embedded in the Ukrainian national government in Kiev and in regional and municipal governments throughout the country.
AERODYNAMIC placed field agents inside Soviet Ukraine who, in turn, established contact with Ukrainian Resistance Movement, particularly SB (intelligence service) agents of the OUN who were already operating inside Ukraine. The CIA arranged for airdrops of communications equipment and other supplies, presumably including arms and ammunition, to the «secret» CIA army in Ukraine. Most of the CIA’s Ukrainian agents received training in West Germany from the US Army’s Foreign Intelligence Political and Psychological (FI-PP) branch. Communications between the CIA agents in Ukraine and their Western handlers were conducted by two-way walkie-talkie (WT), shortwave via international postal channels, and clandestine airborne and overland couriers.
Agents airdropped into Ukraine carried a kit that contained, among other items, a pen gun with tear gas, an arctic sleeping bag, a camp axe, a trenching tool, a pocket knife, a chocolate wafer, a Minox camera and a 35 mm Leica camera, film, a Soviet toiletry kit, a Soviet cap and jacket, a .22 caliber pistol and bullets, and rubber «contraceptives» for ‘waterproofing film’. Other agents were issued radio sets, hand generators, nickel-cadmium batteries, and homing beacons.
An affiliated project under AERODYNAMIC was codenamed CAPACHO.
CIA documents show that AERODYNAMIC continued in operation through the Richard Nixon administration into 1970.
The program took on more of a psychological warfare operation veneer than a real-life facsimile of a John Le Carré «behind the Iron Curtain» spy novel. The CIA set up a propaganda company in Manhattan that catered to printing and publishing anti-Soviet ZPUHVR literature that would be smuggled into Ukraine. The new battleground would not be swampy retreats near Odessa and cold deserted warehouses in Kiev but at the center of the world of publishing and the broadcast media.
The CIA front company was Prolog Research and Publishing Associates, Inc., which later became known simply as Prolog. The CIA codename for Prolog was AETENURE. The group published the Ukrainian language «Prolog» magazine. The CIA referred to Prolog as a «non-profit, tax exempt cover company for the ZP/UHVR’s activities». The «legal entity» used by the CIA to fund Prolog remains classified information. However, the SECRET CIA document does state that the funds for Prolog were passed to the New York office «via Denver and Los Angeles and receipts are furnished Prolog showing fund origin to backstop questioning by New York fiscal authorities».
As for the Munich office of Prolog, the CIA document states that funding for it comes from an account separate from that of Prolog in New York from a cooperating bank, which also remains classified. In 1967, the CIA merged the activities of Prolog Munich and the Munich office of the Ukrainian exiled nationalist «Suchasnist» journal. The Munich office also supported the «Ukrainische Gesellschaft fur Auslandstudien». The CIA documents also indicate that US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) agents may have interfered with AERODYNAMIC agents in New York. A 1967 CIA directive advised all ZPUHVR agents in the United States to either report their contacts with United Nations mission diplomats and UN employees from the USSR and the Ukrainian SSR to the FBI or their own CIA project case officer. CIA agents in charge of AERODYNAMIC in New York and Munich were codenamed AECASSOWARY agents. Apparently not all that taken with the brevity of MI-6’s famed agent «007», one CIA agent in Munich was codenamed AECASSOWARY/6 and the senior agent in New York was AECASSOWARY/2.
AECASSOWARY agents took part in and ran other AERODYNAMIC teams that infiltrated the Vienna World Youth Conference in 1959. The Vienna infiltration operation, where contact with made with young Ukrainians, was codenamed LCOUTBOUND by the CIA.
In 1968, the CIA ordered Prolog Research and Publishing Associates, Inc. terminated and replaced by Prolog Research Corporation, «a profit-making, commercial enterprise ostensibly serving contracts for unspecified users as private individuals and institutions».
The shakeup of Prolog was reported by the CIA to have arisen from operation MHDOWEL. There is not much known about MHDOWEL other than it involved the blowing of the CIA cover of a non-profit foundation. The following is from a memo to file, dated January 31, 1969, from CIA assistant general counsel John Greany, «Concerns a meeting of Greaney, counsel Lawrence Houston and Rocca about a ‘confrontation’ with NY FBI office on January 17, 1969. They discussed two individuals whose names were redacted. One was said to be a staff agent of the CIA since 8/28/61 who had been assigned in 1964 to write a monograph, which had been funded by a grant from a foundation whose cover was blown in MHDOWEL (I suspect that is code for US Press). One of the individuals [name redacted] had been requested for use with Project DTPILLAR in November 1953 to Feb. 1955 and later in March 1964 for WUBRINY. When the Domestic Operations Division advised Security that this person would not be used in WUBRINY, Rocca commented that ‘there are some rather ominous allegations against members of the firm of [redacted],’ indicating one member of that firm was a ‘card-carrying member of the Communist Party.’ The memo went on to say that Rocca was investigating the use of the individual in Project DTPILLAR concerning whether that person had mentioned activities in Geneva in March 1966 in connection with Herbert Itkin». Raymond Rocca was the deputy chief of the CIA’s Counterintelligence Division. Itkin was an undercover agent for the FBI and CIA who allegedly infiltrated the Mafia and was given a new identity in California as «Herbert Atkin» in 1972.
In 1969, AERODYNAMIC began advancing the cause of [sic] the Crimean Tatars. In 1959, owing to Canada’s large Ukrainian population, Canada’s intelligence service began a program similar to AERODYNAMIC codenamed «REDSKIN».
As international air travel increased, so did the number of visitors to the West from Soviet Ukraine. These travelers were of primary interest to AERODYNAMIC. Travelers were asked by CIA agents to clandestinely carry Prolog materials, all censored by the Soviet government, back to Ukraine for distribution. Later, AERODYNAMIC agents began approaching Ukrainian visitors to eastern European countries, particularly Soviet Ukrainian visitors to Czechoslovakia during the «Prague Spring» of 1968. The Ukrainian CIA agents had the same request to carry back subversive literature to Ukraine.
AERODYNAMIC continued into the 1980s as operation QRDYNAMIC, which was assigned to the CIA’s Political and Psychological Staff’s Soviet East Europe Covert Action Program. Prolog saw its operations expanded from New York and Munich to London, Paris, and Tokyo. QRDYNAMIC began linking up with operations financed by hedge fund tycoon George Soros, particularly the Helsinki Watch Group’s operatives in Kiev and Moscow. Distribution of underground material expanded from journals and pamphlets to audio cassette tapes, self-inking stamps with anti-Soviet messages, stickers, and T-shirts.
QRDYNAMIC expanded its operations into China, obviously from the Tokyo office, and Czechoslovakia, Poland, Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia, Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, Soviet Central Asia, the Soviet Pacific Maritime region, and among Ukrainian-Canadians. QRDYNAMIC also paid journalist agents-of-influence for their articles. These journalists were located in Sweden, Switzerland, Australia, Israel, and Austria.
But at the outset of glasnost and perestroika in the mid-1980s, things began to look bleak for QRDYNAMIC. The high cost of rent in Manhattan had it looking for cheaper quarters in New Jersey.
Assistant Secretary of State for European/Eurasian Affairs Victoria Nuland, the baked goods-bearing «Maiden of Maidan,» told the US Congress that the United States spent $5 billion to wrest control of Ukraine from the Russian sphere since the collapse of the Soviet Union. With the recent disclosures from the CIA it appears that the price tag to the American tax payers of such foreign shenanigans was much higher. N. B.!
Investigative journalist, author and syndicated columnist. Has some twenty years experience in security issues. As a U.S. Naval Officer, he managed one of the first computer security programs for the U.S. Navy. He has been a frequent political and national security commentator on Fox News and has also appeared on ABC, NBC, CBS, PBS, CNN, BBC, Al Jazeera, and MS-NBC. He has been invited to testify as a witness before the US House of Representatives, the UN Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, and an terrorism investigation panel of the French government. A member of the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) and the National Press Club. Lives in Washington, D.C
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December 25, 2015
In 1990, after the fall of the Berlin Wall, U.S. president George H. W. Bush through his secretary of state James Baker promised Soviet premier Mikhail Gorbachev that in exchange for Soviet cooperation on German reunification, the Cold War era NATO alliance would not expand “one inch” eastwards towards Russia. Baker told Gorbachev: “Look, if you remove your [300,000] troops [from east Germany] and allow unification of Germany in NATO, NATO will not expand one inch to the east.”
In the following year, the USSR officially dissolved itself. Its own defensive military alliance (commonly known as the Warsaw Pact) had already shut down. The Cold War was over.
So why hasn’t NATO also dissolved, but instead expanded relentlessly, surrounding European Russia? Why isn’t this a central question for discussion and debate in this country?
NATO: A Cold War Anti-Russian Alliance
Some challenge the claim that Bush’s pledge was ever given, although Baker repeated it publicly in Russia. Or they argue that it was never put in writing, hence legally inconsequential. Or they argue that any promise made to the leadership of the Soviet Union, which went out of existence in 1991, is inapplicable to subsequent U.S.-Russian relations. But it’s clear that the U.S. has, to the consternation of the Russian leadership, sustained a posture of confrontation with its Cold War foe principally taking the form of NATO expansion. This expansion hardly receives comment in the U.S. mass media, which treats the entry of a new nation into NATO much as it does the admission of a new state into the UN—as though this was altogether natural and unproblematic.
But recall the basic history. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization was formed in April 4, 1949, initially consisting of the U.S., Canada, U.K., France, Italy, the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, Denmark, Iceland, Norway and Portugal, as a military alliance against the Soviet Union, and principally the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic.
It was formed just four years after the Soviets stormed Berlin, defeating the Nazis. (As you know, Germany invaded Russia six months before Japan attacked Pearl Harbor; the U.S. and USSR were World War II allies versus the fascists; the key victories in the European war—Moscow, Stalingrad, Kursk—were Soviet victories over the Nazis; that U.S. soldiers only crossed the Rhine on March 22 as the Red Army was closing in on Berlin, taking the city between April 16 and May 2 at a cost of some 80,000 Soviet dead. If you don’t know these things, you’ve been denied a proper education.)
In the four-year interim between Hitler’s suicide and the formation of NATO, the two great victors of the war had divided Europe into spheres of influence. The neighboring Soviet Union had contributed disproportionately to the fascist defeat: over eight million military and over 12 million civilians dead, as compared to the far-off U.S., with losses of around 186,000 dead in the European theater and 106,000 in the Pacific.
It might seem strange that the lesser hero in this instance (in this epochal conflict against fascism) gets all the goodies in the battle’s aftermath: the U.S. created a bloc including Britain, France, Italy, most of Germany, the Low Countries, Portugal, and most of Scandinavia, while the Soviets asserted hegemony—or tried to—over their generally less affluent client states. But the Soviets were not in any case interested primarily in drawing the richest nations into their fold; were that the case, they would not have withdrawn their troops from Austria in 1955.
Rather Russia, which had historically been invaded many times from the west—from Sweden, Lithuania, Poland, France, and Germany multiple times—wanted preeminently to secure its western border. To insure the establishment of friendly regimes, it organized elections in Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary and elsewhere. (These had approximately as much legitimacy as elections held under U.S. occupation in Iraq or Afghanistan in later years, or at any point in Latin America). They brought the Eastern European “people’s republics” into existence.
The U.S. and British grumbled about the geopolitical advances of their wartime ally. In March 1946 former British Prime Minister Churchill while visiting the U.S. alluded to an “iron curtain” falling across Europe. (Perhaps he was unwittingly using the expression that Josef Goebbels had used just thirteen months earlier. The German propaganda minister had told a newspaper that “if the German people lay down their weapons, the Soviets…would occupy all of Europe…An iron curtain would fall over this enormous territory…”) Very scary.
But the U.S. was working hard at the time to consolidate its own bloc in Europe. In May 1947 the U.S. CIA forced the Italian and French governments to purge Communist members of cabinets formed after electoral successes the previous year. (The U.S. had enormous clout, bought through the $ 13 billion Marshall Plan begun in April 1947, designed to revive European capitalism and diminish the Marxist appeal.)
The CIA station chief in Rome later boasted that “without the CIA,” which funded a Red Scare campaign and fomented violent, even fatal clashes at events, “the Communist Party would surely have won the [Italian] elections in 1948.” (Anyone who thinks Soviets rigged elections while the U.S. facilitated fair ones as a matter of principle is hopelessly naïve.)
Meanwhile—before the establishment of NATO in April 1949—the U.S. and Britain had been fighting a war in Greece since 1946 on behalf of the monarchists against the communist-led forces that had been the backbone of the anti-fascist movement during the World War II. The Communists had widespread support and may well have won the civil war if the Soviets had only supported them. But observing the understanding about spheres of influence agreed to at Yalta and Potsdam, Stalin refused appeals for Soviet aid from the Greek (and Yugoslav) Communists. The Greek partisans surrendered in Oct. 1949, six months after the formation of NATO. (But NATO was in fact not deployed in this military intervention in Greece, seen as the first Cold War U.S. military operation under the broadly anticommunist “Truman Doctrine.”)
Just a month after NATO was formed, the pro-U.S. leaders in west Germany unilaterally announced the establishment of the Federal Republic of Germany. (The pro-Soviet German Democratic Republic was declared only six months later. As in Korea, the Soviets promoted reunification of occupied sectors. But the U.S. was intent on establishing client states, and dividing nations if necessary to stem Soviet inroads. This was also the case with Vietnam.)
Four months after the creation of NATO the Soviets conducted their first successful nuclear test. The Cold War was underway in earnest.
NATO was thus formed to aggressively confront the USSR and exploit fears of a supposed threat of a westward Soviet strike (to impose the Soviet social system on unwilling peoples). That threat never materialized, of course. The Soviets cordoned off East Berlin from the west by the Berlin Wall in 1961 to prevent embarrassing mass flight. But they never invaded West Germany, or provoked any clash with a NATO nation throughout the Cold War. (Indeed, in light of the carnage visited on Europe since 1989, from civil wars in the Balkans and Caucasus to terrorist bombings in London, Madrid and Paris to the neo-fascist-led putsch in Ukraine last year, the Cold War appears in retrospect as a long period of relative peace and prosperity on the continent.)
Comparing U.S. and Russian/Soviet Aggression during the Cold War
NATO expanded in 1952, enlisting the now-pacified Greece and its historical rival, Turkey. In 1955 it brought the Federal Republic of Germany into the fold. Only then—in May 1956, seven years after the formation of NATO—did the Soviets establish, in response, their own defensive military alliance. The Treaty of Friendship, Co-operation, and Mutual Assistance (Warsaw Pact) included a mere eight nations (to NATO’s 15): the USSR, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, East Germany, Hungary, Poland, Romania and Albania.
Warsaw Pact forces were deployed only once during the Cold War, to crush the reform movement in Czechoslovakia in 1968. (They were not used during the suppression of the “Hungarian Revolution” of 1956, occurring five months after the founding of the alliance. That operation was performed by Soviet troops and loyalist Hungarian forces.) The Czechoslovakian intervention occasioned Albania’s withdrawal from the pact, while Romania protested it and refused to contribute troops. Thus practically speaking, the Warsaw Pact was down to six members to NATO’s 15. The western alliance expanded to 16 when Spain joined in 1982.
Between 1945 and 1991 (when the Warsaw Pact and the USSR both dissolved themselves), the U.S. had engaged in three major wars (in Korea, Vietnam, and the Persian Gulf); invaded Grenada and Panama; and intervened militarily in Guatemala, the Dominican Republic, Lebanon, Cuba, Cambodia, Laos, Nicaragua, Haiti and other countries.
During that same period, the Soviets invaded eastern European nations twice (Hungary in 1956 and Czechoslovakia in 1968), basically to maintain the status quo. Elsewhere, there was a brief border conflict with China in 1969 that killed around 150 soldiers on both sides. And the Soviets of course invaded Afghanistan in 1979 to shore up the secular regime faced with Islamist opposition. That’s about it. Actually, if you compare it to the U.S. record, a pretty paltry record of aggression for a superpower.
That Islamist opposition in Afghanistan, as we know, morphed into the Taliban, al-Qaeda, and the group founded in Iraq by one-time bin Laden rival Abu Musab al-Zarqawi that’s now called ISIL or the Islamic State. Referred to—almost affectionately—by the U.S. press in the 1980s as the “Mujahadeen” (“those engaged in jihad”), these religious militants were lionized at the time as anti-communist holy warriors by Jimmy Carter’s National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski.
Brzezinski told the president six months before the Soviets sent in troops that by backing the jihadis the U.S. could “induce a Soviet military intervention.” The U.S., he declared, had “the opportunity of giving the USSR its Vietnam War” and could now “bleed” the Soviets as they had bled the U.S. in Vietnam.
(Linger for a moment on the morality here. The Soviets had helped the Vietnamese fight an unpopular, U.S.-backed regime and confront the horrors of the U.S. assault on their country. Now—to get back, as Brzezinski out it—the U.S. could help extreme Islamists whose minds are in the Middle Ages to “induce” Soviet intervention, so as to kill conscript Soviet boys and prevent the advent of modernity.)
The anti-Soviet jihadis were welcomed to the White House by President Ronald Reagan during a visit in 1985. Reagan, perhaps already showing the signs of Alzheimer’s disease, trumpeted them as “the moral equivaent of America’s founding fathers.” This is when the great bulk of U.S. (CIA) aid to the Mujahadeen was going into the coffers of Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, a vicious warlord now aligned with the Taliban. One of many former U.S. assets (Saddam Hussein included) who had a falling-out with the boss, he was the target of at least one failed CIA drone strike in 2002.
Thus the Soviets’ one and only protracted military conflict during the Cold War, lasting from December 1979 to February 1989 and costing some 14,000 Soviet lives, was a conflict with what U.S. pundits have taken to calling “Islamist terrorism.”
The Soviets were surely not facing anticommunists pining for “freedom” as this might be conceptualized in some modern ideology. The enemy included tribal leaders and clerics who objected to any changes in the status of girls and women, in particular their dress, and submission to patriarchal authority in such matters as marriage.
The would-be Soviet-backed revolutionaries faced religious fanatics ignorant about women’s medical needs, hostile to the very idea of public clinics, and opposed to women’s education, (In fact the Soviets were able to raise the literacy rate for women during the 1980s—a feat not matched by the new occupiers since 2001—but this was mainly due to the fact that they maintained control over Kabul, where women could not only get schooling but walk around without a headscarf.)
Those days ended when the Soviet-installed regime of Mohammad Najibullah was toppled by Northern Alliance forces in April 1992. Things only became worse. Civil war between the Pastun Hekmatyar and his Tajik rivals immediately broke out and Hekmatyar’s forces brutally bombarded the capital—something that hadn’t happened during the worst days of the Soviet period.
As civil war deepened, the Taliban emerged, presenting itself as a morally upright, Sharia-based leadership. Acquiring a large social base, it took Kabul in September 1996. Among its first acts was to seize Najibullah, who had taken refuge in the UN compound in the city three years earlier, castrate him, and hang him publicly, denying him a proper Muslim burial.
Just as the neocons were crowing about the triumph of capitalism over communism, and the supposed “end of history,” the Frankenstein’s monster of Islamism reared up its ugly head. There were no tears shed in western capitals for Najibullah. But the Taliban were viewed with concern and distaste and the UN seat remained with the former Northern Alliance regime controlling just 10% of the country.
How the Cold War Encouraged “Radical Islam”
Surely the U.S.—which had packed up and left after the Soviet withdrawl, leaving the Pakistanis with a massive refugee problem and Afghanistan in a state of chaos—had bled the Soviets, and anyone daring to ally with them. And surely this experience contributed to the realization of Brzezinski’s fondest wish: the collapse of the Soviet Union.
But it also produced Islamist terrorism, big time, while the U.S.—having once organized the recruitment and training of legions of jihadis from throughout the Muslim world to bleed the Soviets—was and is now obliged to deal with blow-back, and in its responses invariably invites more terror.
Is it not obvious that U.S. military actions against its various “terrorist” targets in the “Greater” Middle East, including Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Yemen and Libya have greatly swelled the ranks of al-Qaeda branches as well as ISIL?
And does not the course of events in Afghanistan—where the Kabul government remains paralyzed and inept, warlords govern the provincial cities, the Supreme Court sentences people to death for religious offenses, much of the countryside has been conceded to the Talibs and the militants are making inroads in the north—convince you that the U.S. should not have thrown in its lot with the jihadis versus the Soviet-backed secular forces thirty-five years ago?
In a 1998 interview by Jeffrey St. Clair and Alexander Cockburn Brzezinski was asked if he regretted “having given arms and advice to future [Islamist] terrorists.”
Brzezinski: What is most important to the history of the world? The Taliban or the collapse of the Soviet empire? Some stirred-up Moslems or the liberation of Central Europe and the end of the cold war?
Q: Some stirred-up Moslems? But it has been said and repeated: Islamic fundamentalism represents a world menace today.
Brzezinski: Nonsense! It is said that the West had a global policy in regard to Islam. That is stupid. There isn’t a global Islam. Look at Islam in a rational manner and without demagoguery or emotion. It is the leading religion of the world with 1.5 billion followers. But what is there in common among Saudi Arabian fundamentalism, moderate Morocco, Pakistan militarism, Egyptian pro-Western or Central Asian secularism? Nothing more than what unites the Christian countries.
In other words, winning the contest with Russia—bleeding it to collapse—was more important than any risk of promoting militant Islamic fundamentalism. It is apparent that that mentality lingers, when, even in the post-9/11 world, some State Department officials would rather see Damascus fall to ISIL than be defended by Russians in support of a secular regime.
NATO to the Rescue in the Post-Cold War World
Since the fall of the USSR, and the disappearance of the Warsaw Pact, what has NATO been up to? First of all, it moved to fill a power vacuum in the Balkans. Yugoslavia was falling apart. It had been neutral throughout the Cold War, a member of neither NATO nor the Warsaw Pact. As governments fell throughout Eastern Europe, secessionist movements in the multiethnic republic produced widespread conflict. U.S. Secretary of State Baker worried that the breakup of Yugoslavia’s breakup would produce regional instability and opposed the independence of Slovenia.
But the German foreign minister, Hans-Dietrich Genscher, and Chancellor Helmut Kohl—flushed with pride at Germany’s reunification and intent on playing a more powerful role in the world—pressed for Yugoslavia’s dismantling. (There was a deep German historical interest in this country. Nazi Germany had occupied Slovenia from 1941 to 1945, establishing a 21,000-strong Slovene Home Guard and planting businesses. Germany is now by far Slovenia’s number one trading partner.) Kohl’s line won out.
Yugoslavia, which had been a model of interethnic harmony, became torn by ethnic strife in the 1990s. In Croatia, Croatians fought ethnic Serbs backed by the Yugoslav People’s Army; in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bosniaks, Croats and Serbs quarreled over how to divide the land. In Serbia itself, the withdrawal of autonomy of the provinces of Kosovo and Vojvodina produced outrage among ethnic Albanians. In 1995 images of emaciated Bosniak men and boys in Serb-constructed prison camps were widely publicized in the world media as Bill Clinton resolved not to let Rwanda (read: genocide!) happen again. Not on his watch. America would save the day.
Or rather: NATO would save the day! Far from being less relevant after the Cold War, NATO, Clinton claimed, was the onlyinternational force capable of handling this kind of challenge. And thus NATO bombed, and bombed—for the first time ever, in real war—until the Bosnian Serbs pleaded for mercy. The present configuration of Bosnia-Herzegovina, a dysfunctional federation including a Serbian mini-republic, was dictated by U.S. Secretary of State Warren Christopher and his deputy Richard Holbrooke at the meeting in Dayton, Ohio in November 1995.
Russia, the traditional ally of the Serbs, was obliged to watch passively as the U.S. and NATO remapped the former Yugoslavia. Russia was itself in the 1990s, under the drunken buffoon Boris Yeltsin, a total mess. The economy was nose-diving; despair prevailed; male longevity had plummeted. The new polity was anything but stable. During the “Constitutional Crisis” of September-October 1993, the president had even ordered the army to bombard the parliament building to force the legislators to heed his decree to disband. In the grip of corrupt oligarchs and Wild West capitalism, Russians were disillusioned and demoralized.
Then came further insults from the west. During Yeltsin’s last year, in March 1999, the U.S. welcomed three more nations into: Czechoslovakia (later the Czech Republic and Slovakia), Hungary, and Poland. These had been the most powerful Warsaw Pact countries aside from the USSR and East Germany. This was the first expansion of NATO since 1982 (when Spain had joined) and understandably upset the Kremlin. What possible reason is there to expand NATO now? the Russians asked, only to be assured that NATO was not against anybody.
The Senate had voted to extend membership to Poland, Hungary and Czechoslovakia in 1998. At that time, George Kennan—the famous U.S. diplomat who’d developed the cold war strategy of containment of the Soviet Union—was asked to comment.
“I think it is the beginning of a new cold war,” averred the 94-year-old Kennan. “I think the Russians will gradually react quite adversely and it will affect their policies. I think it is a tragic mistake. There was no reason for this whatsoever… It shows so little understanding of Russian history and Soviet history. Of course there is going to be a bad reaction from Russia, and then [the NATO expansion advocates] will say that we always told you that is how the Russians are–but this is just wrong.”
NATO Versus Serbia
In that same month of March 1999, NATO (including its three new members) began bombing the Serbian capital of Belgrade, the first time since World War II that a European capital was subjected to bombardment. The official reason was that Serbian state forces had been abusing the Albanians of Kosovo province; diplomacy had failed; and NATO intervention was needed to put things right. This rationale was accompanied by grossly exaggerated reports of Serbian security forces’ killings of Kosovars, supposedly amounting to “genocide.”
This was largely nonsense. The U.S. had demanded at the conference in Rambouillet, France, that Serbia withdraw its forces from Kosovo and restore autonomy to the province. Serbian president Slobodan Milosevic had agreed. But the U.S. also demanded that Belgrade accept NATO forces throughout the entire territory of Yugoslavia—something no leader of a sovereign state could accept. Belgrade refused, backed by Russia.
A “senior State Department official” (likely U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright) boasted to reporters that at Rambouillet “we intentionally set the bar too high for the Serbs to comply. . . . The Serbs needed a little bombing to see reason.”Henry Kissinger (no peacenik) told the press in June: “The Rambouillet text, which called on Serbia to admit NATO troops throughout Yugoslavia, was a provocation, and excuse to start bombing. Rambouillet is not a document that an angelic Serb could have accepted. It was a terrible diplomatic document that should never have been presented in that form.”
The U.S. had obtained UN approval for the NATO strikes on Bosnia-Herzegovina four years before. But it did not seek it this time, or try to organize a UN force to address the Kosovo problem. In effect, it insisted that NATO be recognized as the representative of “the international community.”
It was outrageous. Still, U.S. public opinion was largely persuaded that the Serbs had failed to negotiate peace in good faith and so deserved the bombing cheered on by the press, in particular CNN’s “senior international correspondent,” Christiane Amanpour, a State Department insider who kept telling her viewers, “Milosevic continues to thumb his nose at the international community”—because he’d refused a bullying NATO ultimatum that even Kissinger identified as a provocation!
After the mass slaughter of Kosovars became a reality (as NATO bombs began to fall on Kosovo), and after two and a half months of bombing focused on Belgrade, a Russian-brokered deal ended the fighting. Belgrade was able to avoid the NATO occupation that it had earlier refused. (In other words, NATO had achieved nothing that the Serbs hadn’t already conceded in Rambouillet!)
As the ceasefire went into effect on June 21, a column of about 30 armored vehicles carrying 250 Russian troops moved from peacekeeping duties in Bosnia to establish control over Kosovo’s Pristina Airport. (Just a little reminder that Russia, too, had a role to play in the region.)
This took U.S. NATO commander Wesley Clark by surprise. He ordered that British and French paratroopers be flown in to seize the airport but the British General Sir Mike Jackson wisely balked. “I’m not going to have my soldiers start World War III,” he declared.
I think it likely this dramatic last minute gesture at the airport was urged by the up-and-coming Vladimir Putin, a Yeltsin advisor soon to be appointed vice-president and then Yeltsin’s successor beginning in December 1999. Putin was to prove a much more strident foe of NATO expansion than his embarrassing predecessor.
Cooperation Meets with Provocation
Still, recall how two years later—after 9/11, 2001, when the U.S. invoking the NATO charter called upon its NATO allies to engage in war in Afghanistan—Putin offered to allow the alliance to transport war material to Afghanistan through Russian territory. (In 2012 Foreign Minister Lavrov offered NATO the use of a base in Ulyanovsk to transport equipment out of Afghanistan.) This Afghan invasion was only the third actual deployment of NATO forces in war, after Bosnia and Serbia, and Moscow accepted it matter-of-factly. It even muted its concerns when the U.S. established military bases in the former Soviet Central Republics of Uzbekistan and Kirghizia.
But in 2004, NATO expanded again—to include Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, all of which had been part of the USSR itself and which border Russia. At the same time Bulgaria, Romania and Slovenia were admitted, along with Slovakia, which had become separate from the Czech Republic. Russians again asked, “Why?”
In 2007 the U.S. began negotiating with the Poles to install a NATO missile defense complex in Poland, with a radar system in the Czech Republic. Supposedly this was to shoot down any Iranian missiles directed towards Europe in the future! But Moscow was furious, accusing the U.S. of wanting to launch another arms race. Due largely to anti-militarist sentiment among the Poles and Czechs, these plans were shelved in 2009. But they could be revived at any time.
In 2008, then, the U.S. recognized its dependency Kosovo, now hosting the largest U.S. Army base (Camp Bondsteel) outside the U.S., as an independent country. Although the U.S. had insisted up to this point that it recognized Kosovo as a province of Serbia (and perhaps even understood its profound significance as the heartland of Serbian Orthodoxy), it now (through Condoleezza Rice) proclaimed Kosovo a “sui generis” (one of a kind) phenomenon. So forget about international law; it just doesn’t apply.
In this same year of 2008, NATO announced boldly that Georgia and Ukraine “will become members of NATO.” ThereuponGeorgia’s comical President Mikheil Saakasvili bombarded Tskhinvali, capital of the self-declared Republic of South Ossetia that had resisted integration into the current Republic of Georgia since the break-up of the Soviet Union in 1991. In this instance Russia defended South Ossetia, invading Georgia. It then recognized the independence, both of South Ossetia and of the Republic of Abkhazia, from Georgia. (This may be seen as a tit-for-tat response to the U.S.’s decision to recognize Kosovo’s independence from Serbia six months earlier.)
It was a six-day war, resulting in about 280 military fatalities (including 100 on the South Ossetian-Russian side) and about 400 civilian deaths. And there has been no Russian war since. Crimea was not “invaded” last year but simply seized by Russian forces in place, with general popular support. And there’s little evidence that the regular Russian military is confronting Ukrainian state forces; ethnic Russians are doing so, receiving no doubt support from cousins across the historically changeable border. But the charge of a “Russian invasion of Ukraine” is a State Department talking point—propaganda automatically parroted by the official press sock-puppet pundits, not a contemporary reality.
Georgia’s Saakasvili perhaps expected the U.S. to have his back as he provoked Moscow in August 2008. But while he received firm support from Sen. John McCain, who declared “We are all Georgians now,” he received little help from the George W. Bush State Department wary of provoking World War III. Georgia was not yet a NATO member able to cite the NATO charter’s mutual defense clause
Saakasvili left office in 2010 and is now under indictment by the Georgian courts for abuses in office. After a brief stint at the Fletcher School of International Law and Diplomacy in 2014, he acquired Ukrainian citizenship—losing his Georgian citizenship as a result—and (as one of many examples of how crazy the current Kiev leadership including Yatsenyev and Poroshenko can be) was appointed governor of Odessa last May!
Given the debacle of 2008, countries such as Germany are unlikely to accept Georgian admission any time soon. They do not see much benefit in provoking Russia by endlessly expanding the Cold War “defensive” alliance. Still, Croatia and Albania were added to NATO in 2009, in the first year of the Obama administration—just in time to participate in NATO’s fourth war, against Libya.
Again there was no reason for a war. Colonel Gadhafy had been downright cordial towards western regimes since 2003, and closely cooperated with the CIA against Islamist terrorism. But when the “Arab Spring” swept the region in 2011, some western leaders (headed by French president Nicolas Sarkozy, but including the always hawkish Hillary Clinton) convinced themselves that Gadhafy’s fall was imminent, and so it would be best to assist the opposition in deposing him and thus get into the good graces of any successors.
The UN Security Council approved a resolution to establish a no-fly zone for the protection of civilians from Gadhafy’s supposedly genocidal troops. But what NATO unleashed was something quite different: a war on Gadhafy, which led to his brutal murder and to the horrible chaos that has reigned since in Libya, now a reliable base for al-Qaeda and ISIL. Russia and China both protested, as the war was still underway, that NATO had distorted the meaning of the UN resolution. It’s unlikely that the two Security Council permanent members will be fooled again into such cooperation.
We can therefore add the failed state of Libya to the dysfunctional states of Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kosovo and Afghanistan, to our list of NATO achievements since 1991. To sum up: Since the collapse of the USSR, the U.S. and some allies (usually in their capacity as NATO allies) have waged war on Bosnian Serbs, Serbia, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya, while striking targets in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and elsewhere with impunity. Russia has gone to war precisely once: for eight days in August 2008, against Georgia.
And yet every pundit on mainstream TV news tells you with a straight face that Putin’s the one who “invades countries.”
What Is the Point of NATO Expansion?
So while NATO has expanded in membership, it has showing a growing proclivity to go to war, from Central Asia to North Africa. One must wonder, what is the point?
The putative point in 1949 was the defense of “Western Europe” against some posited Soviet invasion. That rationale is still used; when NATO supporters today speak in favor of the inclusion of Lithuania, for example, they may state that, if Lithuania had remained outside the alliance—the Russians would surely have invaded by now on the pretext of defending ethnic Russians’ rights, etc.
There is in fact precious little evidence for Russian ambitions, or Putin’s own ambitions, to recreate the tsarist empire or Soviet Union. (Putin complained just a few days ago, “We don’t want the USSR back but no one believes us.” He’s also opined that people who feel no nostalgia for the Soviet Union—as most citizens of the former USSR young enough to remember it say they do—have no heart, while those who want to restore it have no brains.)
As NATO expanded inexorably between 1999 and 2009, Russia responded not with threats but with calm indignation.
Putin’s remarks about the dissolution of the Soviet Union being a “geopolitical tragedy,” and his occasional words addressing the language and other rights of Russians in former SSRs, do not constitute militarist threats. As always the neocons cherry-pick a phrase here and there as they try to depict Putin as (yet) “another Hitler.” In fact the Russians have, relatively speaking, been voices of reason in recent years, Alarmed at the consequences of U.S. actions in the Middle East, they have sought to restrain U.S. imperialism while challenging Islamist terrorism.
In August 2013 Obama threatened to attack Syria, ostensibly to punish the regime for using chemical weapons against its people. (The original accusation has been discredited by Seymour Hersh among others.) Deft intervention by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, and the refusal of the British House of Commons to support an attack (insuring it would not, like the Iraq War, win general NATO endorsement), and domestic opposition all helped avert another U.S. war in the Middle East.
But it’s as though hawks in the State Department, resentful at Russia’s success in protecting its Syrian ally from Gadhafy’s fate, and miffed at its continued ability to maintain air and naval facilities on the Syrian coast, were redoubling their efforts to provoke Russia. How better to do this than by interfering in Ukraine, which had not only been part of the Soviet Union but part of the Russian state from 1654 and indeed was the core of the original Kievan Rus in the tenth century?
NATO had been courting Ukraine since 1994—five years before the alliance expanded to include Poland, Hungary and Czechoslovakia. Kiev signed the NATO Membership Action Plan in 2008 when Viktor Yushchenko was president, but this was placed on hold when Viktor Yanukovych was elected in 2010. Enjoying the solid support of the Russian-speaking east, Yanukovich won what international observers called a free and fair election.
Yanukovich did not want Ukraine to join NATO: he wanted a neutral Ukraine maintaining the traditional close relationship between the Ukraine and Russia. This infuriated Victoria Nuland, the head of the Eurasia desk at the State Department, who has made it her life’s project to pull Ukraine into NATO. This would be NATO’s ultimate prize in eastern Europe: a country of 44 million well-educated people, the size of France, strategically located on the Black Sea historically dominated by the Russian Black Sea Fleet. An ethnically divided country, with a generally pro-Russian and Russian-speaking east, and a more western-oriented Ukrainian-speaking west with an unusually vigorous and fiercely anti-Russian neofascist movement—just there waiting to be used.
Nuland, a former Cheney aide whose neocon worldview drew Hillary Clinton’s favorable attention, resulting in her promotion, is the wife of neocon pundit and Iraq War cheerleader Robert Kagan. (Kagan was a founding member of the notorious Project for a New American Century “think tank”.) The couple represents two wings of incessant neocon plotting: those who work to destroy Russia, and those who work to destroy the Middle East, consciously using lies to confuse the masses about their real goals.
At the National Press Club in December 2013, Nuland boasted that the U.S. (through such “NGOs” as the National Endowment for Democracy) had spent $ 5 billion in Ukraine in order to support Ukraine’s “European aspirations.” This deliberately vague formulation is supposed to refer to U.S. support for Kiev’s admission into the European Union. The case the U.S. built against Yanukovich was not that he rejected NATO membership; that is never mentioned at all. She built the case on Yanukovich’s supposed betrayal of his people’s pro-EU aspirations in having first initialed, and then rejected, an association agreement with the trading bloc, fearing it would mean a Greek-style austerity regime imposed on the country from without.
From November 2013 crowds gathered in Kiev’s Maidan to protest (among other things) Yanukovich’s change of heart about EU membership. The U.S. State Department embraced their cause. One might ask why, when the EU constitutes a competing trading bloc, the U.S. should be so interested in promoting any country’s membership in it. What difference does it make to you and me whether Ukraine has closer economic ties to Russia than to the EU?
The dirty little secret here is that the U.S. goal has merely been to use the cause of “joining Europe” to draw Ukraine into NATO, which could be depicted as the next natural step in Ukraine’s geopolitical realignment.
Building on popular contempt for Yanukovich for his corruption, but also working with politicians known to favor NATO admission and the expulsion of Russian naval forces from the Crimean base they’ve had since the 1780s, and also including neo-fascist forces who hate Russia but also loath the EU, Nuland and her team including the ubiquitous John McCain popped up at the Maidan passing out cookies and encouraging the crowd to bring down the president.
It worked, of course. On Feb. 22, within a day of signing a European-mediated agreement for government reforms and new election, and thinking the situation defused, Yanukovich was forced to flee for his life. The neofascist forces of Svoboda and the Right Sector served as storm troops toppling the regime. Nuland’s Machiavellian maneuverings had triumphed; a neocon Jew had cleverly deployed open anti-Semites to bring down a regime and plant a pro-NATO one in its place.
It seemed as though, after 14 years of expansion, NATO might soon be able to welcome a huge new member into its ranks, complete the encirclement of Russia and, booting out the Russian fleet, turn the Black Sea into a NATO lake.
Alas for the neocons and “liberal interventionists”—the new regime of Nuland’s chosen Arseniy Yatsenyuk and his Svoboda Party allies immediately alienated the eastern Russian-speaking population, which remains up in arms making the country ungovernable, even as its economy collapses; and the notion of expelling the Russians from Sevastopol has become unimaginable.
But what do NATO planners want? Where is all the expansion and reckless provocation heading?
Russia: an “Existential Threat”?
First of all, the NATO advocates, however often they repeat that “We’re not against Russia, this isn’t about Russia,” do indeed posit an enduring Russian threat. Thus General Sir Adrian Bradshaw, the most senior British officer in NATO, stated last February that Russia poses “an obvious existential threat to our whole being.” Gen. Joseph Votel, head of the U.S. Special Operations Command told the Aspen Security Forum in July that “Russia could pose an existential threat to the United States.”
House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) warned Obama to sign a military appropriations bill because Russia poses “an existential threat” to the U.S. Philanthropist George Soros (who likes to finance “color revolutions”) wrote in the New York review of Books in October that “Europe is facing a challenge from Russia to its very existence.”
These are wild, stupid words coming from highly placed figures. Isn’t it obvious that Russia is the one being surrounded, pressured and threatened? That its military budget is a fraction of the U.S.’s, its global military presence miniscule in relation to the U.S. footprint?
But anyone watching the U.S. presidential candidates’ debates—and who can perceive the prevalence of paranoia about Russia, the unthinking acceptance of the “Putin as Hitler” theme, and the obligatory expression of determination to make America more “strong”—can understand why the expansion of NATO is so horribly dangerous.
People who do not think rationally or whose minds are twisted by arrogance can look at the maps of NATO expansion and think proudly, “This is how it should be! Why would anyone question the need for nations to protect themselves by allying with the United States? It’s alliances like NATO that preserve peace and stability in the world.”
(Some are able to believe that, perhaps, but the fact is the world has become less peaceful and far less stable than it was during the Cold War when the two superpowers checked one another’s moves. Thereafter the U.S. emerged as what a French diplomat has called an “hyper-puissance” or hyper-power intervening with impunity in multiple countries and producing new, often ugly forms of resistance.)
People looking at the NATO map of Europe can mentally color in Montenegro too. A tiny republic on the Adriatic with under 650,000 people, it was formally invited by NATO to submit its membership application on December 2. What other countries have yet to sign?
As mentioned, in 2008 NATO announced that Georgia and Ukraine would join. But their cases actually seem to be on hold. Belarus, wedged between Poland and Russia, has been under the self-styled “authoritarian” President Alexander Lukashenko since 1994. The regime, considered close to Moscow, was targeted by an abortive U.S.-funded “color revolution” in March 2006. The U.S. favored Mikhail Marynich, a former ambassador to Latvia and proponent of NATO membership. (He participated in a closed-door NATO “War and Peace” conference in Riga in November 2006.)
Then there is Moldova, the former Moldavian Soviet Socialist Republic located between Rumania and Ukraine. To its east is the breakaway republic of
Transnitria, where ethnic Moldovans are a minority and Russians and Ukrainians make up almost 60% of the population. It is a “frozen conflict” zone. The neocon dream is to ultimately change all their regimes and draw them all into the warm embrace of NATO.
One ring to rule them all, one ring to find them
One ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them
in the Land or Mordor where the shadows lie
What do you do after you complete the western encirclement of Russia? Why, you destabilize the country itself, hoping to slice it up! Russia remains a multi-ethnic, multi-cultural nation. There are tensions and secessionist movements to exploit in the Caucasus particularly, but also on the Karelian Peninsula and in Siberia.
If Russia is an existential threat, its own existence is a threat, right? So why not cut it up?
Doesn’t the logic of NATO expansion require an enemy, and doesn’t America lead the world in defeating enemies?
Or if not, isn’t NATO itself the real threat? (After all, didn’t it, in its last major project, totally wreck the modern state of Libya, and as a result destabilize Mali?)
Shouldn’t we welcome tensions within NATO, and failures of member states to devote the required 2% of GDP to military expenses? Shouldn’t we welcome resistance to further expansion, complaints about U.S. arm-twisting, and calls for cooperation with Russia rather than confrontation and destruction?
Khrushchev’s revisionism refers to claims by Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev that:
• Socialism can be brought about by peaceful, constitutional means within capitalist democracies.
• Socialist and capitalist countries can coexist peacefully.
Was he right? Did he really believe these claims?
Socialism, if it is understood as a publicly owned, planned economy, has yet to be brought about through peaceful, constitutional means within capitalist democracies, or elsewhere, and it is difficult to imagine conditions under which it ever could be. In order for socialism to be achieved at the ballot box, the wealthy and powerful who dominate the state, including its police, security, and military apparatus, would have to stand idly by as their private productive property—the basis of their wealth and privileges—was denied them and brought under public control. This is unrealistic. We cannot imagine slave owners peacefully standing by, as their slaves set themselves free, nor feudal lords peacefully accepting their serfs’ expropriation of their estates. Unless we believe that capital-owners are somehow unique, we should not imagine that they would be any less likely than other ruling classes to use the repressive apparatus of the state to preserve their privileges and beat back challenges from a subordinate class that seeks to abolish private productive property.
Did Khrushchev really believe what he was saying? Perhaps. But his arguments may have had less to do with what is true, and more to do with what suited the interests of the Soviet Union at the time (and some might also say what Soviet leaders believed was best for advancing the interests of the international working class given the formidable obstacles in its path.)
The USSR desperately needed space to develop its economy, free from the continual threat of military aggression from the United States and its NATO allies. For his part, Stalin had dissuaded communists in France and Italy from making insurrectionary bids for power at the end of WWII, when communism’s reputation was strong and war-torn Europe leaned toward socialism. He also refused aid to the Greek communists in their guerrilla struggle against British occupation. These efforts to put the brakes on communist advance in the West were taken in order to maintain friendly relations with the USSR’s wartime allies and also because Soviet-supported revolutions in France and Italy would likely have been crushed by the Americans and British, who would have then turned their guns on the Soviet Union. Stalin’s understanding was that a quid-pro-quo had been worked out with his wartime allies. He would not interfere in Western Europe and in return, they would allow him to establish friendly “buffer” states in Eastern Europe as a safeguard against another invasion of the USSR from the west. Likewise, Stalin exercised extreme caution in helping Kim Il Sung in the Korean civil war for fear of being drawn into war with the United States. The Soviet Union could ill-afford a war with the Americans, and Stalin therefore refused to support revolutionary movements in his allies’ sphere of influence and acted with caution in supporting revolutionary movements elsewhere. There is a considerable continuity in Stalin’s efforts to keep the hostility of capitalist powers at bay, and Khrushchev’s call for peaceful coexistence.
Since it was Khrushchev who proposed peaceful co-existence, he had to offer an incentive to interest the Americans. The incentive was the idea of a peaceful transition to socialism—in effect, a promise that communist parties in advanced industrialized countries would work within the rules of capitalist democracies, and renounce violent, extra-constitutional bids for power. To put it another way, they would surrender any possibility of being a threat. This was very much like the bargain Stalin tried to strike with his wartime allies. Refrain from interfering in my sphere and I will refrain from interfering in yours.
While it irked some communists in the West, peaceful transition was a concession of little significance. Most communist parties, most of all those in North America, Western Europe and Japan, were not in a position to make violent, extra-constitutional bids for power. Therefore, if the Americans took the bait, Khrushchev would get space to continue to build socialism for the small price of giving up revolution in the advanced countries, which was not on the radar anyway.
Was this a betrayal of the working class outside the Soviet sphere? It depends on what you think the chances of revolution were in the advanced, industrialized countries. After the failure of a revolution to come off in Germany following the Bolsheviks’ seizure of power in Russia—a revolution Lenin and his followers had fervently hoped for and expected, even depended on—the Soviets were never again sanguine about the prospects of the working class in the West overthrowing its capitalist masters. Therefore, beginning with Stalin, the Soviet Union redefined the idea of internationalism to recognize this depressing reality. Moscow would refrain from vigorously supporting working class struggles in the West, first because the pay-off was likely to be slim to non-existent, and second because the costs were too high, namely the risk that Germany, Britain and France, and later the United States, would retaliate and threaten the USSR’s very existence.
Instead, the Soviets turned their gaze to seemingly more promising and safer horizons, one on their periphery and the other in the national liberation movements. They would expand socialism gradually, by drawing more and more of these countries and movements into their orbit. Meanwhile, the appeal of socialism in the industrialized countries would be heightened by creating within the Soviet Union a living, breathing, example of socialism. If the Soviet Union could overtake the United States economically, and produce a society of plenty with a growing array of publicly provided goods and services delivered according to need, workers in the West might be galvanized to overthrow the capitalist class, which stood in the way of their achieving the same. However, the only way that this could be brought about would be to set the US-USSR relationship on a footing of peaceful co-existence and economic, rather than military, competition, allowing Moscow to divert capital and manpower from the military to the civilian economy so that it could advance toward a society of plenty.
Khrushchev’s revisionism, then, can be seen as a clever detour around hazards that blocked the Soviet Union’s path toward building a stronger socialism, and eventually, socialism on a global scale. Clever as it was, it had a fatal flaw: it was too successful. Peaceful co-existence and detente gave the Soviets space to do two things:
• Beat the United States into space.
• Produce economic growth so rapid that the United States believed it would be overtaken economically.
Alarmed, the Americans resolved to deny the Soviet Union the space it needed to continue along this path. Eventually, Washington used an arms race to severely retard growth in the Soviet economy, and force the USSR into submission.
To sum up: There is no substance to the idea that capitalism can be abolished within capitalist institutions while capitalists stand by idly and allow their property to be expropriated. Nor is it reasonable to suppose that capitalist powers are prepared to co-exist peacefully with socialist ones on a permanent basis. They may do so for a time, if the costs of war are too high, but they will be forever driven to capture the economic space socialist countries deny them. All the same, Khrushchev’s peaceful co-existence proposal was less a statement of fact and more a proposal for a modus vivendi—you let us be, and we will let you be. The merits of the proposal can be evaluated on the grounds of whether it achieved what it was supposed to achieve. It did, for a time, reduce tensions between the two powers, but failed inasmuch as the United States eventually abandoned detente. Still, we need to ask whether the alternative—allowing tensions to escalate and trying to foment revolutions in the West—would have worked out better. This seems unlikely. While the Soviet military was formidable, the economy of the USSR was still smaller than that of the United States and was therefore incapable of supporting Soviet participation in the Cold War indefinitely. Eventually the Cold War took a heavy toll on the Soviet economy. Moreover, workers in the West showed no strong inclination to overthrow their capitalist masters.
We should be clear, too, that Khrushchev represented no discontinuity with Stalin. Stalin too was interested in a live-and-let-live foreign policy if it contained tensions and allowed the USSR breathing room to grow stronger. There were, then, good reasons why the Soviet Union should have worked for detente, and Moscow’s demanding that communist parties in advanced industrialized countries adopt a non-revolutionary politics for non-revolutionary times was hardly a high price to pay.
A final point. The problem with the idea of “non-revolutionary politics for non-revolutionary times” is that revolutionary times can creep up unannounced, creating missed opportunities for parties that are contingently practicing non-revolutionary politics, or have institutionalized them. The trick, obviously, is to avoid either of the following errors:
• Practicing non-revolutionary politics in revolutionary times.
• Practicing revolutionary politics in non-revolutionary times.
Of the two, the first, of course, is the gravest error. It could be said that Khrushchev’s revisionism guaranteed that if any error were to be made, it would be this one.
From early vanguard constructivist works by Alexander Rodchenko and El Lissitzky, to the modernist images of Arkady Shaikhet and Max Penson, Soviet photographers played a pivotal role in the history of photography. Covering the period from the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution through the 1930s, this exhibition explores how early modernist photography influenced a new Soviet style while energizing and expanding the nature of the medium — and how photography, film, and poster art were later harnessed to disseminate Communist ideology. The Power of Pictures revisits this moment in history when artists acted as engines of social change and radical political engagement, so that art and politics went hand in hand.
Film Screenings: Daily Schedule
Mondays and Fridays
11:15 am: Mother (89m)
12:45 pm: Salt for Svanetia (55m)
1:45 pm: October (103m)
3:30 pm: Storm Over Asia (125m)*
*Due to Sabbath observance, on Fridays after October 16 there is no 3:30 pm screening.
Tuesdays and Saturdays
11:15 am: The Fall of the Romanov Dynasty (87m)
1:00 pm: Turksib (57m)
2:00 pm: Man with a Movie Camera (68m)
3:30 pm: Aelita: Queen of Mars (111m)
Thursdays* and Sundays
11:15 am: By the Law (83m)
1:00 pm: Battleship Potemkin (71m)
2:30 pm: The House on Trubnaya (64m)
4:00 pm: The Overcoat (66m)
*The entire film slate will rotate on Thursday evenings throughout the duration of the exhibition.
In a country where 70% of the population was illiterate, photographic propaganda often was more valuable than newspaper editorials. Lenin himself declared that the camera, as much as the gun, was an important weapon in “class struggle.” Recognizing that images had the power to transform society, Lenin put photography at the service of the Revolution — thereby serving as a historical demonstration of how artistic and political ambitions can coalesce and fortify one another. The Power of Pictures will illustrate that this work encompassed a much wider range of artistic styles and thematic content than previously recognized.
The exhibition makes clear that the artists who comprised the group Oktober, led by Alexander Rodchenko and Boris Ignatovich, and the photojournalists associated with the Russian Association of Proletarian Photographers (ROPF), such as Arkady Shaikhet and Georgi Zelma, were significantly influenced by avant-garde esthetics and by film in particular. The goal of Oktober was to create images that would force the viewer to see society in a new way, whereas ROPF — which included the majority of prominent Jewish photojournalists — championed a coherent and comprehensive documentation of reality.
In an intimate screening room within the exhibition galleries, films by major directors of the era, including the seminal Sergei Eisenstein film Battleship Potemkin, will be shown. Despite Eisenstein’s relative fame, many of these filmmakers have been overlooked or excised from the history of the medium. More than a dozen films will be screened in their entirety on daily rotations throughout the run of the exhibition.
In addition to a stunning collection of photographic and cinematic works, The Power of Pictures features a rich array of film posters and vintage books that employ radical graphic styles with extreme color, dynamic geometric designs, and innovative collages and photomontages. Also presented are examples of periodicals in which major photographic works were published.
Susan Tumarkin Goodman
Senior Curator EmeritaJens Hoffmann
Deputy Director, Exhibitions and Public Programs#JMPowerOfPictures
The Power of Pictures: Early Soviet Photography, Early Soviet Film is made possible by the Eugene and Emily Grant Family Foundation, The David Berg Foundation, Andrew and Marina Lewin Foundation, the Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation, and the Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation Exhibition Fund.
The catalogue is supported with endowment funds from the Dorot Foundation.
Special thanks to: Likhachev Foundation, St. Petersburg, Russia; Memorial Foundation for Jewish Culture, New York
In the Press
…photography doing one of the things it does best: editing reality.
…stunning photography from the 1920s and ’30s…showcases outstanding artistic accomplishments…
The films…reveal the struggle between artistic invention and state control…[they] remain a testament to cinema’s radical possibilities.
Power of Pictures – The Films
12 groundbreaking films, shown on a rotating schedule, demonstrate how Soviet filmmakers understood the power of the screen and the moving image as few others have done. Included are Sergei Eisenstein’s Battleship Potemkin, and Dziga Vertov’ s Man With a Movie Camera, as well as works by lesser known filmmakers such as Grigory Kozintsev and Yakov Protazanov, who have been previously overlooked or excised from the history of the medium.
- Aelita: Queen of Mars Directed by Yakov Protazanov 1924, USSR, 111 min.The early Soviet science fiction film Aelita tells the story of Los, an engineer who becomes obsessed with a cryptic radio message from Mars. As he builds a spaceship that will take him to the red planet, he is observed through a giant telescope by the Martian Queen Aelita, daughter of the totalitarian ruler Tuskub. When Los and his companions arrive on Mars, Aelita and Los fall in love. The Russians incite the downtrodden Martian slaves to rise up in rebellion. Aelita at first offers to lead the revolution but then forms her own totalitarian regime. Los, disillusioned, tries to stop her, only to wake up and discover that it was all a dream. Widely acclaimed—if hardly understood—upon its release, the film was eventually banned by Stalin’s censors. Based on a novel by Alexei Tolstoy, it has remarkable Constructivist sets and elaborate costumes for the scenes on Mars, designed by Alexandra Exter.
- Battleship Potemkin Directed by Sergei Eisenstein 1925, USSR, 71 min.Eisenstein’s masterpiece commemorates the Revolution of 1905, and, indirectly, that of 1917. Conditions on board the armored cruiser Potemkin are deplorable, conveyed by shocking close-ups of maggots infesting the ship’s meat. Enraged, the loyal crew contemplates the unthinkable—mutiny. They seize control of the ship and raise the red flag of revolution; their revolt becomes the rallying point for a Russian populace crushed beneath the heels of the tsar’s Cossacks. When the ruthless tsarist soldiers arrive to suppress the rebellion, a massacre ensues on the grand Odessa Steps leading to the city’s port. The scene is one of the most famous and most-quoted sequences in cinema history for its pioneering use of montage.
- ?By the Law, or Dura Lex Directed by Lev Kuleshov 1926, USSR, 83 min.Based on Jack London’s novel The Unexpected, By the Law is Kuleshov’s “Constructivist Western” about five prospectors searching for gold in the remote Yukon. The laborer Dennin, whose job it is to manage the camp, discovers gold, but the other four continue to assign him domestic duties. Dennin snaps and kills two of his companions. The remaining two, a husband and wife, debate how they should deal with him, and eventually decide, strictly “by the law,” that they must hang him for his crime. This allegory on the hypocrisy of capitalistic and bourgeois life was made on a very small budget but had great international success, although it was not shown in English-speaking countries until the late 1930s.
- Man with a Movie Camera Directed by Dziga Vertov 1929, USSR, 68 min.Man with a Movie Camera is one of the most innovative and influential films of the silent era. Startlingly modern, it features a groundbreaking style of rapid editing, done by Elizaveta Svilova, Vertov’s collaborator and wife, and incorporates innumerable other cinematic effects to create a work of great power and energy. Shot in Odessa, Kiev, and Kharkiv over three years, the film captures twenty-four hours in the life of a Soviet city. It presents urban Russian life as a dizzying montage of people at work and play, and the machines that endlessly whirl to keep the metropolis alive. It is also a film about the artifice of filmmaking: Vertov shoots scenes of the cameraman—his brother Mikhail Kaufman—shooting scenes, scenes of film being edited, and even scenes of a film audience. There are recurring shots of an eye seen through a camera lens. Man with a Movie Camera was Vertov’s first full-length film, and despite these complexities, his approach is simple, functional, and descriptive. In assembling these fragments of reality he aims to depict deeper ideas than can be seen with the eye alone.
- Mother Directed by Vsevolod Pudovkin 1926, USSR, 89 min.Mother, based on a novel by Maxim Gorky, depicts a woman’s fight against tsarist rule during the 1905 Revolution. She is not, at first, politically aware, but becomes involved in the struggle when her husband and son take opposite sides during a workers’ strike. Her husband dies in the strike; her son is arrested, summarily tried, and sentenced to hard labor in a prison camp. Awakened, she joins the revolutionaries, who attempt to free the camp’s prisoners. In the climax, tsarist troops suppress the uprising, and both mother and son are killed. Pudovkin uses crosscutting to enhance his narrative, in contrast to Eisenstein, who employs the technique to achieve dissonance. Mother was the first of Pudovkin’s trilogy of Revolution-inspired films, followed by The End of St. Petersburg and Storm over Asia (also screening).
- October, or Ten Days That Shook the World Directed by Sergei Eisenstein 1927, USSR, 103 min.Officially produced to commemorate the tenth anniversary of the Russian Revolution, October traces the fall of the tsar, the rise of Lenin, and the triumph of the Bolsheviks. As in Battleship Potemkin (also screening), Eisenstein experimented in film technique, using explosive montage to evoke the spirit of revolution—in this case, the events in St. Petersburg during the months leading up to the Bolshevik revolt—and deploying space, shadow, movement, and rhythm to convey mood and meaning. A workers’ rebellion in the streets, followed by the raising of bridges to isolate their neighborhood, becomes a visual symphony of panic.
- Salt for Svanetia Directed by Mikhail Kalatozov 1930, USSR, 55 min.Criticized when first released for its hyperbole and naturalism, Salt for Svanetia is now regarded as one of Kalatozov’s best films. A drama about the struggle for survival of a small, isolated community in the Caucasus, the film is shot in a documentary, ethnographic style. The daily work of the villagers is recounted, and their ancient ways of farming recorded. High in the mountains, the people lack salt until the Soviet government builds a road to reach them. The camera becomes part of the story through dynamic movement, a characteristic of Kalatozov’s later films. The director traveled to Svanetia to shoot another film, The Blind Woman, which was never released because it was accused of formalism. Today that film is lost, but Salt for Svanetia is composed of discarded footage from it.
- Storm Over Asia Directed by Vsevolod Pudovkin 1928, USSR, 125 min.In Storm Over Asia, the last film in Pudovkin’s trilogy on the Revolution, an ailing Mongolian hunter sends his son to a trading post to sell a valuable silver fox fur. When a British trader cheats him out of the fur, the young trapper fights back and is forced to flee. He joins a band of Bolshevik partisans fighting the occupying British army. He is captured and sentenced to death, but a document found in an amulet around his neck leads his captors to think that he is a descendant of Genghis Khan. The British hope to install him as a puppet ruler, but he rebels and leads his people to victory over their oppressors. The film was shot largely on location in Mongolia, with panoramic views of vast landscapes, and has a documentary feel, despite its melodramatic plot. Several scenes featuring the historically inaccurate British occupation of Mongolia were cut from the original film print.
- The Fall of the Romanov Dynasty Directed by Esfir Shub 1927, USSR, 87 min.Shub is perhaps the best known among the women filmmakers of the Soviet avant-garde. The Fall of the Romanov Dynasty is a powerful documentary of tsarist Russia from just before World War I until the 1917 Revolution. Her technique is itself revolutionary: the film is stitched together from archival and found footage, including selections from forgotten films she discovered in storerooms and cupboards all over the Soviet Union. She tracked down footage that had been sold to the United States, as well as newsreels and home movies made by the tsar’s film crew. These are interspersed with long intertitles that link the fragments of film and place them in historical context. A pioneer of editing, Shub spliced key images and fragments to contrast the privileged life of the imperial family with the backbreaking labor of the masses.
- The House on Trubnaya Directed by Boris Barnet 1928, USSR, 84 min.This comedy follows the trials and tribulations of Parasha, a healthy peasant girl who finds romance and political consciousness after moving to Moscow. Six screenwriters collaborated on the film, considered among the best of the Soviet silent comedies. As the film begins, Parasha, clutching a duck, is searching for an address, only to be led in all the wrong directions by passersby. The duck escapes and our flustered heroine takes after it. Moscow is a maze of tramlines, and the duck, standing in the middle of the tracks, faces imminent danger. But an intertitle interrupts the scene with the words “Freeze frame!” and the film jumps back in time to a country railway station, where the girl is boarding a train for the city. Another intertitle tells us that she intends to stay in Moscow with her uncle, but as the girl bids farewell to her mother and her train departs, another arrives, and the uncle alights. Barnet fuses the popular with the avant-garde while satirizing Moscow life during the NEP period in a series of comic scenes that verge on the absurd.
- The Overcoat Directed by Grigory Kozintsev 1926, USSR, 66 min.The Overcoat is based on Nikolai Gogol’s tragicomic story of the same title. It was produced by the experimental collective FEKS (Factory of the Eccentric Actor), known for its stylized acting and expressionistic cinematography, which turns the overcoat itself into a main character. An impoverished clerk in the tsarist government, Akaky Akakievich Bashmachkin, embarrassed by the threadbare condition of his overcoat, saves his pennies to have a fine new one made. One evening a group of thugs attacks him and steals it, leaving him desolate. He seeks help from the bureaucracy, but is rejected. His world collapses and he begins to lose his grasp on reality. The film is distinctive for the use of enveloping shadows, strong contrasts, silhouettes, and radical camera angles.
- Turksib Directed by Viktor Turin 1929, USSR, 57 min.A stirring chronicle of the building of the Turkestan–Siberia railway, Viktor Turin’s Turksib had a major influence on British and American documentary films in the 1930s. The film recounts the construction of this important transportation link, one of the Soviet Union’s earliest grand construction and modernization projects. In addition to camerawork with an epic sweep, Turin incorporates newsreel footage and stock shots from previous Soviet propaganda films into his documentary. Memorable scenes include a harrowing sandstorm, filmed at great personal risk to the camera crew. The M.I.T.-educated Turin learned the movie business at the Vitagraph Studios in Hollywood and became a fan of westerns before returning to the Soviet Union to direct this career-defining film..
Last night was killed our dear comrade Filip Trajkovski in the attack on the airport. Our gunner with the callsign “Pancho”. In loving memory of you Sergey! You will remain forever in our hearts!!!!!!
October 23, 15:43 UTC+3
VIENNA, October 23. /TASS/. The military of Russia and Jordan will coordinate their antiterrorist actions through a working mechanism in Amman, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said on Friday after a meeting with his Jordanian counterpart Nasser Judeh.
“It is necessary to step up efforts towards the launch of a political process of the Syrian settlement on the basis of the Geneva communique,” he said. “It means the launch of large-scale talks between representatives of the Syrian government and the entire spectrum of the Syrian opposition, both internal and external, with active support from international players.”
Taking part in efforts to create conditions for such a process, Moscow stands for involving Jordan in those efforts. “We believe Jordan is playing is very important role, bearing in mind the historic factor and the principled position the kingdom is sticking to on the regional problems,” Lavrov said.
He said anti-terrorist cooperation between Russian and Jordan would be much closer. “Simultaneously with the political process, we are certain that it is necessary to drastically intensify efforts in the fight against the Islamic State [terrorist organisation outlawed in Russia] and other terrorist groups in Syria,” Lavrov said. “Making a contribution to the fulfilment of this task, under an agreement between President Vladimir Putin and King Abdullah II, the Russian and Jordanian military have agreed to coordinate their efforts, including the air force operations over Syrian territory, through the working mechanism in Amman.”
“We believe that other states participating in the antiterrorist struggle can also join this mechanism,” the Russian foreign minister said.
Unsettled Palestinian problem plays into terrorists’ hands
The Russian foreign minister stated that the unsettled Palestinian problem is playing into the hands of terrorists in the Middle East.
“It is our firm conviction that the decades-old unsettled Palestinian problem is one of the most considerable factors that lets terrorists recruit youth,” he said.
The Russian top diplomat said both sides “expressed serious concern over growing strains in relations between Israel and Palestine, especially aggravated tensions at Holy Site in East Jerusalem.
“Russia strongly insists that all agreements on the status of the Holy Sites fixed in the peace treaty between Jordan and Israel and Jordan’s historic role in what concerns the status of the Holy Sites be observed strictly by all parties,” Lavrov stressed, adding that efforts towards easing the current situation in Jerusalem were to be accompanied by steps towards resumption of large-scale talks on comprehensive Middle East settlement, “whatever difficult it might be.”
Russia FM notes importance of Geneva communique in Syria settlement efforts
The minister also noted the importance of stepping up efforts on settlement in Syria on the basis of the Geneva communique.
“Our common position is that it is important to step up efforts in launching a political process of Syrian settlement on the basis of the Geneva communique,” the foreign minister said.
The Geneva communique “envisages the start of large-scale negotiations between the government and all representatives of the Syrian opposition – both internal and external – with the support of international players, Lavrov added.