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Western Attacks On Putin And Russia: A Response (M. Raphael Johnson)

Western Attacks On Putin And Russia: A Response

M. Raphael Johnson


Russia is now front and center in the minds of American policymakers and journalists. Whether this is a good or bad thing is very difficult to say, though the sadly one sided and misinformed reporting on Putin and Russia as a whole leans more informed writers to the latter option. As always, the Anglo-American journalistic and academic establishments distort and mislead according to the interests of western economic elites. At present, the American foreign policy establishment is loudly beginning a new Cold War against Russia, for as much ideological reasons as economic ones. The war in Chechnya is a major case in point.


It has been put forth by otherwise informed pundits that Islamic movements are largely to be supported because it is precisely those movements that have been fighting for a separate Palestinian state in the Levant. In other words, anti-Zionist writers tend to see Islamic fundamentalism in a positive light, due to their war against the Zionist state. Therefore, wherever Islam rears its head, they are to be supported. The left is no different in this regard, as they quickly placed Islam high atop their “victims list” after the 9-11 disaster. This blind support of Islamicism is destructive, ahistorical and misinformed.


Islam is a political ideology and a legal theory far ahead of its claim to be a religion. It is a military and legal set of doctrines primarily, and a theology secondarily. The facts speak for themselves: wherever Islam has reached a critical mass in a population, they have risen up in armed revolt, starting bloody civil and international wars around the globe. There are no exceptions to this rule: India, Morocco, Syria, Iraq, Nigeria, Sudan, all throughout the Middle East, southern Russia, Indonesia, the Phillippines, western China, the islands of Trinidad and Tobago, Ossetia, all throughout Central Asia and much of the Caucuses. In short, wherever Islam is to be found in sufficient numbers to start a revolt that has any chance of success, a critical mass will rise in bloody warfare. The “theology” of Islam is of no consequence, it is not a particularly dogmatic community, but rather its military, political and legal doctrines that are of the highest importance.


Islam, in its manifestation in the Caucuses, has now proclaimed to the world that it will slaughter women and children in its military interests, specifically, in this instance, in the case of “Chechnya.” As some pundits have attempted to place the blame somewhere else, Shamil Basayev has already taken responsibility for the slaughter, though this has not been reported in the western press (cf. Pravda, September 16, 2004). Putin then is placed in a position where any sense of caving in to the demands of the terrorists will be seen as a sign of weakness. All polls, whether of Russian or western origin, show the vast majority of Russians in favor of stricter measures against the terrorists (cf. Interfax, September 16, 2004, Public Opinion, many others can be unearthed).


It should also not be thought that the Islamicists exist in isolated enclaves from one another. The battles from Morocco to Central Asia to Indonesia are all tightly connected, with Islamic fighters regularly travelling to the various theatres of action. For example, it is not uncommon for Russians to take POWs from Chechnya who are also veterans of the war in the Balkans, where NATO actively supported and armed Islamic terrorists there. They fund themselves through organized crime, human trafficking, drug smuggling and arms trading.


Far from supporting Putin in this war against Islamic terror, the U.S. has condemned it, for reasons most pundits have no clue about. The pathetically misinformed professor of history at Vasser College, Michaela Pohl, writes this, about the neocon controlled “American Committee for Peace in Chechnya,” a pro-Islamic group:


Criticism of Putin has been caused primarily by Putin s own actions, and neither the American government nor U.S. public have shown more than lukewarm interest in the ongoing human rights catastrophe and near-genocide that has unfolded in Chechnya over the last 10 years. Why the sudden focus on the American Committee for Peace in Chechnya (ACPC)? The ACPC is undoubtedly influential in the policy community and has helped with a number of refugee and asylum cases. But beyond organizing lectures and conferences in the Washington area it has actually been pretty ineffective in reaching out to the larger American public.


Something tells me that Ms Pohl’s appointment to Vassar was based on something other than intellectual merit. Of course, she leaves out the membership of the “American Committee” organization, that, far from diverging from American policy in the Caucuses, in fact is American policy in the Caucuses. Its members include: Richard Pearle, Elliott Abrams, Kenneth Adelman, Midge Decter, Frank Gaffney, Bruce Jackson, Michael Ledeen, and R. James Woolsey (thanks to Justin Raimondo for this information). These are the most powerful men in Washington. This proves without question that the U.S. neocon establishment is supportive of Islamic terror in Chechnya, but condemns it when practiced against Israel. Of course, the professorette refuses to actually deal with the meat of Laughlin’s article (the piece she is trying to refute) which she lambasts, largely because he gets to the heart of modern academic corruption, typified by Pohl’s slavish repetition of the Gusinsky line. Laughlin writes,


There have been numerous editorials encouraging us to understand – to quote the Sunday Times – the “underlying causes” of Chechen terrorism (usually Russian authoritarianism), while the widespread use of the word “rebels” to describe people who shoot children shows a surprising indulgence in the face of extreme brutality. On closer inspection, it turns out that this so-called “mounting criticism” is in fact being driven by a specific group in the Russian political spectrum–and by its American supporters. The leading Russian critics of Putin’s handling of the Beslan crisis are the pro-US politicians Boris Nemtsov and Vladimir Ryzhkov–men associated with the extreme neoliberal market reforms which so devastated the Russian economy under the west’s beloved Boris Yeltsin – and the Carnegie Endowment’s Moscow Centre. Funded by its New York head office, this influential thinktank–which operates in tandem with the military-political Rand Corporation, for instance in producing policy papers on Russia’s role in helping the US restructure the “Greater Middle East”–has been quoted repeatedly in recent days blaming Putin for the Chechen atrocities. The centre has also been assiduous over recent months in arguing against Moscow’s claims that there is a link between the Chechens and al-Qaida.


The very fact that the Rand Corporation or the Carnigie Institute fund a sizable portion of American academic research (as well as the Ford and Rockefeller Foundations, both with identical takes on the Chechen scene) might uncover a hidden motive for the unprofessional yelps from the likes of Pohl. It will be a cold day when the kept partisans of American academia take on the connections of the CIA, the Islamicists in Chechnya, Bosnia and Kosovo with international drug smuggling, forced prostitution and gun running. These, in turn are connected with big oil and American military interference in Central Asia and the Caucuses.


The recent and sudden turning against Edvard Schevernadze in Georgia was a crude power play over oil. Once Schevernadze favored Russian investors in the major company Frontier Oil over American ones, suddenly, and without warning, Schevernadze, formerly the darling of American policymakers, was a “dictator” who needed to be overthrown. The CIA then invented his opposition which, coincidentally, was extremely pro-American and handed over ownership of Frontier to American investors and thus to the Mossad and CIA.


The Asia Times newspaper (September 9, 2004) has written extensively about these connections:


The interest of the US in the Caucasus is control over oil supplies from the Caspian Sea, which involves securing compliant regimes in the southern Caucasus, including Azerbaijan, where the oil is extracted, and Georgia, through which the Baku-Ceyhan pipeline will pass. As a consequence of this dominant interest, the US is also committed to thwarting any attempt by Russia to expand its influence in the Caucasus. From the American viewpoint, Russian failure in Chechnya is welcome, as long as it does not get to the point that Chechnya becomes a base for Islamic revolution worldwide.

In the current strategic environment, the US is constrained to give public support to Russian efforts to curb terrorism, but that does not mean that it takes Russia’s side in practice. Not only did the US criticize the August 29 election as being “neither free nor fair”, but it has granted asylum to Ilyas Akhmadov, the foreign minister of Maskhadov’s opposition government, leaving him free to pursue diplomacy aimed at winning international support for Maskhadov’s Republic of Ichkeria. The Putin regime has complained of an American “double standard” in the “war on terror”, but has been powerless to stop the American support of the opposition.


Terror in the Caucuses is useful for the U.S. because it challenged Russian hegemony over the massive oil and gas deposits there. Neil Mackay, writes in the Sunday Herald:


Why would a group of leading American neo-conservatives, dedicated to fighting Islamic terror, have climbed into bed with Chechen rebels linked to al-Qaeda? The American Committee for Peace in Chechnya (ACPC), which includes Pentagon supremo Richard Perle, says the conflict between Russia and Chechnya is about Chechen nationalism, not terrorism.

The ACPC savaged Russia for the atrocities its forces have committed in the Caucuses, said President Vladimir Putin was “ridiculous”, claimed Russia was more “morally” to blame for the bloodshed than Chechen separatists and played down links between al-Qaeda and the “Chechen resistance”.

The ACPC’s support for the Chechen cause seems bizarre, as many of its members are among the most outspoken US policymakers who have made it clear that Islamist terror must be wiped out. But the organisation has tried to broker peace talks between Russia and Chechen separatists.


Putin’s response to the massive acts of terror from Islamicists has been nothing short of radical, and nothing short of amazingly popular. He has decided to replace single member districts with Italian style proportional representation and has replaced the direct election of regional governors with appointees subject to ratification by the regional legislators. The purpose of this is to further centralize national policy, as well as to combat the legendary corruption of local élites. George W. Bush said this in a recent press conference in response to this:


I’m also concerned about the decisions that are being made in Russia that could undermine democracy in Russia; that great countries, great democracies have a balance of power between central government and local governments, a balance of power within central governments between the executive branch and the legislative branch and the judicial branch. As governments fight the enemies of democracy, they must uphold the principles of democracy.


This from a man whose electoral victory in the 2000 elections is questionable at best. He has eroded constitutional liberties through the so-called Patriot Act, and oversees a massive federal apparatus that leaves little freedom to its member states, in spite of Constitutional protections so given. The condemnations of Putin here have been vicious and nearly psychotic. They have also been hypocritical in the extreme. Russia scholar Vlad Sobell writes:


Russia has clearly been no exception [to the rule that war created national cohesion], with the (supposedly cowed!) media having a field day, unsparingly attacking the security organs–widely seen as corrupt and incompetent–and ridiculing the misleading early official accounts of the atrocity. But it has also displayed the opposite, with the population ready to accept President Putin’s interpretation of the situation and his response: chiefly the measures to strengthen the country’s cohesion as the basic condition for further development of the defenses against terrorism. A poll taken after Beslan revealed that over 70% of those questioned believed that Putin should remain president, with only 16% saying he should resign. A Moscow rally organised by the Yabloko opposition party to protest President Putin’s changes in the political system reportedly attracted a mere handful of some 30 participants.



Western media sources almost completely use the despised, pro-western, CIA funded Yabloko supporters are their source of information about Russia. Putin’s personal popularity and a powerful economy have driven the westernizers from power in Russia, the same westernizers who engineered the oligarchical takeover of Russia in the early to mid 1990s. The Russian media is generally anti-Putin, led by the western owned Moscow Times and St. Petersburg Times, as well as Russian editions of Newsweek  and CNN. Hundreds of Russian owned media and television sources exist free from state control. This is a far cry from the tightly controlled American press, who, in the Russian case, has been uniformly anti-Russian and anti-Putin. Putin’s cracking down on “independent’ (meaning pro-western) media is pure myth, repeated uncritically by western pundits and academics in order to discredit Putin’s popularity and massive electoral victories. Western reporting on Russian is almost complete disinformation and fraud. Academic blatherings on the matter as just as dishonest and uncritical.


It is the case that western reporting about the Chechen conflict is fraudulent, and that the tightly controlled western media outlets are basically aware of their compromised position. The facts of the Chechen conflicts speak for themselves:


  1. a.        Chechnya is not a nation in any useful sense of the word. It is a clan-based society going back centuries. It is often the case that the clans unite against a common enemy, but Russia is not one of them.
  2. b.       Two of the three major Chechen clans have publicly given their support to Moscow.
  3. c.        The Islamicists imported from elsewhere practice types of Islam alien to the Chechen experience.
  4. d.       The terrorists have long sent thousands of pro-Moscow Chechens into exile.
  5. e.        The terrorists have closed down all secular universities in the region, and exiled Chechen intellectuals, who were generally pro-Moscow.
  6. f.         The war is far from a desire to see an independent Chechnya, but rather to sink the country into a larger Islamic militant movement including Azerbaijan and Iran.
  7. g.        The most recent elections in Chechnya–universally condemned by the American press–was declared “free and fair” by the OSCE as well as the Organization of the Islamic Conference and the Arab League. The pro-Moscow candidate won handily.
  8. h.        Chechnya, after the fall of Marxism, enjoyed wide autonomy, far wider than American states enjoy in relation to Washington. The imported terrorists put an end to that by fomenting war.
  9. i.          The terrorists, in a completely unreported story, ethnically cleansed thousands of Russians from Chechnya, Russians that had been living in the region for generations.
  10. j.         Chechen rebels, in the second Chechen war, began using chemical weapons against Russian troops. Another development no western media outlet would touch.
  11. k.       The Zurich based Center for Security Studies, in one of its white papers, had this to say about Chechen terror: “A special target of Chechen terror are Muslim religious leaders of Chechnya who do not support the separatist cause. Muslim cleric Umar Idrisov was shot and killed on 16 June in Urus-Martan, in the southwest of the republic, only hours after he urged for peace in Chechnya.” More examples of this could be added.
  12. l.          Russia has permitted foreign observers into Chechnya during both wars, as well as permitting monitoring organizations to oversee Chechen elections. The U.S. would refuse any such monitoring, regardless of regular reporting of voting irregularities in the U.S.
  13. m.      Much of the phony “atrocity stories” about the Chechen campaign came from the media empire founded by oligarch-in-exile Vladimir Gusinsky. He has, according to the Eastern European Constitutional Review, forced his reporters to drastically inflate casulty figures for the Russian side and Gusinsky fired his NTV station’s head, Oleg Dobrodeev, for being insufficiently critical of the Russian Chechen campaign.
  14. n.        A major base for the Chechen terror movement is in the Pankisi Gorge in Georgia. The trouble is that Georgia has a very pro-U.S. government and hosts thousands of American troops. The fact that the Gorge is not being rooted out in the “war on terror” gives further credence that the U.S. is basically on the side of Islamic terror in Russia.
  15. o.       The British newspaper The Guardian, in its special report on Chechnya, published on August 31, 1996, wrote, “Half of Chechnya has supported the Russian military invasion launched in December 1994.”


Even elite sources such as the Council on Foreign Relations have been forced to admit the international Islamic movement’s role in Chechnya. The CFR states, in answering a question concerning the foreign connection to the Chechnya conflict:


*         The late Chechen warlord Khattab, a Jordanian-born fighter who was killed in Chechnya in April 2002, and Osama bin Laden. Khattab apparently first met bin Laden while both men were fighting the 1979-89 Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. The U.S. ambassador to Russia, Alexander Vershbow, said shortly after September 11, “We have long recognized that Osama bin Laden and other international networks have been fueling the flames in Chechnya, including the involvement of foreign commanders like Khattab.”

*           Individuals connected to the September 11 attacks and Chechnya. A Moroccan man charged with abetting the hijackers told a German court in October 2002 that the plot’s ringleader, Muhammad Atta, initially planned to join the fight in Chechnya.

*           Zacarias Moussaoui, whom U.S. authorities have charged with being the “20th hijacker” in the September 11 attacks, was reported by the Wall Street Journal to be formerly “a recruiter for al-Qaeda-backed rebels in Chechnya.”

*           Chechen militants reportedly fought alongside al-Qaeda and Taliban forces against the U.S.-backed Northern Alliance in late 2001. The Taliban regime in Afghanistan was one of the only governments to recognize Chechen independence.


The westernizers, such as Dr. Pohl from Vassar, have refused to believe the obvious about Russian politics: that Putin is generally popular, has lowered inflation, has increased wages and general standards of living, and this, in turn fed the electoral sucesses of Putin’s party as well as other assorted nationalists. The westernizers, who define “democracy” solely as the state of affairs when pro-western parties are elected, immediately see this electoral victory as some defeat for “democracy.” It is old news that the western use of the term “democracy” is arbitrary and is based solely around the manifestation of American power abroad. The squealings of Ms Pohl show a complete lack of even elementary critical skills, a state of mind that is a prerequisite for promotion in academia. Ms Pohl simply repeats the editorial page rantings of the Washington Post (which, by the way, is a major investor in Russian media) and refers to it as “criticism.” The matter is simple: western élites do not like Putin because he is a nationalist who places Russian interests over the interests of the Empire, and, further, has the ability to fight back if threatened.


It should also be noted that Chechnya is a rather complex society. It is not at all clear, for those who wish to open negotiations, who to open them with. There are many clan leaders and militia commanders who command a very small part of Chechen attention. After the fall of the Soviet state, Chechnya, in its autonomous phase, quickly descended into clan warfare. The government was a kleptocracy, and ruling parties were clan based. The Kadrov family, for instance, commands the largest militia in Chechnya, with about 3,000 armed fighters at their command. This is a pro-Moscow militia, there are numerous smaller ones, but still, intelligence is stubbornly difficult to achieve in any sure form. The numerous different groups operating in Chechnya, whether they be pro-Moscow, pro-independence, pro-autonomy or fully Islamic fundamentalist, will immediately begin fighting each other again if the Russians were to pull out. For those who believe negotiating with “moderate separatists” is a good idea have had a hard time figuring out who is who, and what sort of following (armed and otherwise) they include.


The fact that the Chechen terrorists are from abroad is proven here, from the Public Affairs Journal:


3 September 2004: Russia has found new evidence of Pakistan-based Al-Qaeda cadres having links with Chechen terrorists operating in the southern Caucasus region.

Russia’s security service, the Federal Security Bureau, has traced money-laundering activities of two Chechen rebels who have frequently visited Karachi from Bangkok.

Russia has a direct air service to Bangkok, while PIA operates from Bangkok to Karachi.

Diplomats said that the two Chechen rebels, Askamadov Islam and Ijaz Turkyoduv, are the main conduits for receiving funds and are principal recruiters of hardcore Chechen terrorists.

Nearly twenty per cent of Chechen rebels now under Russian military custody have admitted that they were based in the FATA tribal areas of Pakistan since the Taliban were ousted from Afghanistan.


Famed writer Mikhail Chossudovsky writes, given further background to the murky world of Islamic and Chechen politics, quoted at length:


The history of the drug trade in Central Asia is intimately related to the CIA’s covert operations. Prior to the Soviet-Afghan war, opium production in Afghanistan and Pakistan was directed to small regional markets. There was no local production of heroin. In this regard [Professor] Alfred McCoy’s study confirms that within two years of the onslaught of the CIA operation in Afghanistan, ‘the Pakistan-Afghanistan borderlands became the world’s top heroin producer, supplying 60 per sent of the U.S. demand.

With the disintegration of the Soviet Union, a new surge in opium production has unfolded. (According to UN estimates, the production of opium in Afghanistan in 1998-99 — coinciding with the build up of armed insurgencies in the former Soviet republics — reached a record high of 4600 metric tons. Powerful business syndicates in the former Soviet Union allied with organized crime are competing for the strategic control over the heroin routes.

“The ISI’s extensive intelligence military-network was not dismantled in the wake of the Cold War. The CIA continued to support the Islamic “jihad” out of Pakistan.

The Golden Crescent drug trade was also being used to finance and equip the Bosnian Muslim Army (starting in the early 1990s) and the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA). In the last few months there is evidence that Mujhideen mercenaries are fighting in the ranks of the KLA-NLA terrorists in their assaults into Macedonia.

With regard to Chechnya, the main rebel leaders Shamil Basayev and Al Khattab were trained and indoctrinated in CIA sponsored camps in Afghanistan and Pakistan. In this regard, the involvement of Pakistan’s ISI and its radical Islamic proxies are actually calling the shots in this war.

Russia‘s main pipeline route transits through Chechnya and Dagestan. Despite Washington’s perfunctory condemnation of Islamic terrorism, the indirect beneficiaries of the Chechen war are the Anglo-American oil conglomerates which are vying for control over oil resources and pipeline corridors out of the Caspian Sea basin (cf.


The war in Chechnya, Putin’s popularity and the situation concerning the Russian media are three topics western pundits have simply lied about. When Bill Clinton, after the Oklahoma City bombing, said that political dissidents should be “more disciplined” in their criticism of his administration, the liberal media had no difficult, and supported his statement with gusto. When Putin says similar things, in relation to a bloody war that is being distorted by the western press in Russia, he is universally condemned.


The Russian political system is in need of radical reform, and it is unfortunate that the reality dictates that it be a statist and centralized sort of reform. This is the consequence of being ringed with enemies and facing the potential of fighting grinding wars on numerous fronts. The plan to appoint regional governors rather than have them elected is both a traditional Russian sort of arrangement as well as a plan supported by the majority of the governors themselves, those with the most to lose from this arrangement. Statist economies have proven themselves to be able to produce huge leaps in GNP growth, with Taiwan, South Korea, Japan or China as just a few examples. As Putin has promised to double the GNP of Russia in 10 years, a centralized state apparatus is necessary to guide the economy to invest in the most profitable sectors, as the Japanese MITI organization has successfully done for decades. States in the throes of dislocation do not have the luxury of an untrammeled free market, a “market” that produced the oligarchs in the first place. To “permit” the market to rule alone is simply another way of saying that the oligarchs should have a free hand in ruling Russia, which, by the way, is the position of Ariel Cohen at the neocon Heritage Foundation.


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