In The Quiet Americans: Four CIA Spies at the Dawn of the Cold War – a Tragedy in Three Acts, the author quotes “The Long Telegram” sent in 1947 now known to be by George Kennan. He is regarded as an expert on the USSR. I was working with his daughter in Kiev, Ukraine on 911 when I thought my Russian would be very useful for the next few years.
Kennan’s telegram said: “We have here a political force committed fanatically to the belief that with the U.S. there can be no permanent modus vivendi, that it is desirable and necessary that the internal harmony of our society be disrupted, our traditional way of life be destroyed, the international authority of our state be broken, if Soviet power is to be secure.” These many years later, Putin has succeeded where Stalin, Khrushchev and the rest failed. Putin’s puppet has disrupted the internal harmony (such as it was), destroyed our way of life (at least turned it upside down), and broken our authority as any kind of international arbiter of human rights.
I’m not an expert on Russia, but I lived there four years and read a ton of books about it. I learned the language, have been to and worked in the various parts (European, Far East, Siberia, Arctic Circle) as well as many former satellites (central Asia, Ukraine, and several eastern European countries). While in Russia from 1998-2000, I was in 30 cities many of them more than once. The second time in Russia from 2007-2009, I lived in the Far East in Vladivostok and traveled mostly up and down the east coast including Kamchatka where I could see Sarah Palin’s house (joke). I attended countless dinners, conferences, meetings, and parties and talked to hundreds of people from cafeteria workers to diplomats, professors to military generals, office cleaners to lawyers. I am still in touch with several Russian friends.
During the first two years, I hired a lawyer from St. Petersburg who went to law school with Putin. He was made prime minister when I was there and she warned me it would not go well. She said everyone in her class hated him. They all knew he was KGB and he was a vile and cruel man. After the fall of communism, rather than democracy the country got gangster capitalism and still have it. Most Russians knew long ago that the Trump loans from Deutsche Bank were backed by Russian oligarchs. Everyone knows they are taped – very common still. I was warned and it was obvious on my phone. Russia no doubt has many tapes on Trump both video and audio.
My brother visited me once and we went on a work trip to Novocherkassk. We were followed there and back by the same agent. By the time we were returning, he knew I was not a spy and at the airport when the screener was giving my brother a hard time (he did not have his propiska (permit) stamped in Moscow before we left), the agent leaned over to the screener and told him to back off. After the security check, the agent told me the screener had wanted a bribe but the agent told him I didn’t understand what he wanted, and besides I only had foreign currency and it was illegal for Russians to have foreign currency so surely this screener didn’t want to break the law in front of a KGB agent. Seriously funny.
Russia has always played the long game. They have three times the land mass we do but not as much that is arable, one half the population with a much shorter life-span of 63, and the economy is based on the extraction industry i.e. minerals, oil, and forests. It can’t last forever. Trump was Putin’s useful fool. He did the job he was sent to do. Let’s make sure he can’t continue.