Monday, January 15, 2018

Moscow has Long History of Interfering in US Elections, Archival Documents Show



Paul Goble

            Staunton, January 15 – In the new issue of the Moscow journal Ogonyek, Russian historian Leonid Maksimenkov draws on documents from the Russian state archives to show that, despite official denials, the Kremlin has a long history of interfering in American presidential elections.

            Maksimenko provides details from the Russian State Archive of Social-Political History about the Soviet involvement with and promotion of the candidacy of Henry Wallace in 1948. Much of what he says will be familiar to Western readers but perhaps less so to Russian ones – and has seldom if ever been discussed in such a popular form (kommersant.ru/doc/3514697).

            The specific exchanges between Moscow and the Progressive Party candidate are of historical interest, but three characteristics of the Kremlin’s involvement then and later are worth mentioning in the light of more recent events. First, decisions about the development of such relations were taken at the highest levels.

            Second, Moscow sought out those who would be likely to support many of its positions rather than trying to turn someone who was opposed into a supporter by gaining compromising information about him, although interest in such information or its creation was never entirely absent from Russian calculations.

            And third, as Maksimenko notes, Stalin was very clear: Moscow must never “show all its cards” to those it hoped to promote and exploit or assume that gaining serious influence over any single individual abroad would be sufficient to achieve Moscow’s goals. More people had to be targeted, and the game was never going to be declared over.

The Quarter of Russians who Believe Their Country is Surrounded by Enemies Need Psychological Help, Expert Says



Paul Goble

            Staunton, January 15 – A Levada Center poll which found that 66 percent of Russians believe their country has enemies and 23 percent say that it is surrounded by enemies on all sides has disturbed psychologists who say that such attitudes have a negative impact on many areas of life and that those who believe there are enemies everywhere need psychological help.

            Petr Bychkov, a psychologist at St. Petersburg State University, says that the reason Russians think that way is not to be found in any special national “mentality” but rather in “the information which Russians receive” from the time they are in school until their deaths (profi-forex.org/novosti-rossii/entry1008311449.html).

                “From childhood on, Russian citizens are told that Russia is a country which always defeats everyone in an honest battle, never conducts wars of conquest, and sets exclusively positive tasks for its intelligence arm. Also in childhood Russians are told that with regard to their country others always play dishonestly and that the English, Germans, French and other peoples always seek to conquer Russian territory,” the psychologist says. 

            There is, of course, some support for some of these propositions and that makes it easier to sell them to the population, Bychkov continues. And the view that the surrounding world is inherently hostile to Russia and Russians becomes “an alienable part of the worldview of the average Russian citizen.”

              “The consequences of this view of reality in fact are much more serious than a first glance might suggest.” They negatively effect “the psychological health of the nation,” he says. And “the 23 percent who suppose their country is entirely surrounded by enemies” are “absolutely unhealthy” as far as their mental state is concerned.

                This affects their views and behaviors in a wide variety of contexts, Bychkov continues.  “People who constantly live with a sense of being surrounded by enemies cannot feel good by definition.” They thus sink into conspiracy thinking and simultaneously assume that they are the last defenders of the only good country on earth.

            That affects not only their ability to live in the world but “to create a healthy family or raise children normally,” the psychologist says.  Their productivity suffers and they don’t take the steps needed to overcome technological backwardness. Moreover, “without trust in life and the people around them” they can’t establish new projects or build successful businesses.”

            Bychkov says that because these consequences are so negative, “the 23 percent of the residents of Russia” who believe there are enemies all around “need therapeutic psychological help.” Getting such help, he argues, is “in no way horrible or shameful.” It is for the good of the individual and the good of the state too.

            In fact, he suggests, rather more than the 23 percent need such assistance. “About 40 percent” of the Russian population suffers from one or another psychological problem and needs the help of doctors.  But few seek such help, and few are urged to seek it by others. And the situation is made worse by the role of “charlatans” who claim to provide help but don’t.

Russian Injustice for the Bitkovs Continues in Guatemala



Paul Goble

            Staunton, January 15 – Igor Bitkov, a Russian industrialist who fell afoul of oligarchs linked to Vladimir Putin and was forced to flee to Guatemala was sentenced on January 10 to 19 years in prison there for hiding his identity and ordered to sell off all his assets to pay a claim by the VTB bank which played a key role a decade ago in seizing his company for the oligarchs.

            In addition, his wife was also sentenced to 19 years in prison and his daughter 14 years behind bars.  Others, including Guatemalan officials, who helped the Bitkovs protect their identity, were also sentenced to long prison terms.  And under Guatemalan law, if his appeals fail, he will not be able to be paroled before completing his entire sentence.

            The Guatemalan court also said it would bring a second case against Bitkov for money laundering to which he could be sentenced for an additional term as well   Not surprisingly the Russian bank involved is delighted, but those concerned about justice and the reach of Russian private and often illicit power abroad shouldn’t be (kommersant.ru/doc/3516412).

            Spokesmen for the VTB bank said they would aggressively pursue anyone who has what they believe are their assets illegitimately regardless of what country they are located it, an indication that the numerous Russian businessmen who have been forced into emigration are likely to find themselves even more at risk after the Bitkov verdict than before.

            But even more troubling than that is that this entire case trumped up by the oligarchs and their bankers against Igor Bitkov is really yet another aspect of the Putin regime’s efforts to suppress all criticism and opposition and its willingness to bend or ignore the law in the pursuit of wealth by its supporters.