American Misadventures of Putin’s Puppets

Putin Propaganda (Image Credit: PREDICTHISTUNPREDICTPAST.BLOGSPOT.COM)

Putin Propaganda (Image Credit: PREDICTHISTUNPREDICTPAST.BLOGSPOT.COM) 

2015/02/26 • Featured

Most Americans don’t associate the Kremlin with innovation in any shape or form.  They are not wrong about that. There is however one area of human activity where the Kremlin has been very successful, albeit in a deeply immoral and cynical way. We are talking about hybrid warfare: unannounced proxy wars using “rebels” and “separatists” in Ukraine, economic and energy wars with constant haggling with Europe over gas transport routes and prices, and the dirtiest of all, propaganda and disinformation attacks.  These can be used in any combination, but the goal is always the same, to destabilize the enemy, create turmoil, and most importantly, always give themselves the cover of plausible deniability.

In the propaganda proxy wars, a favorite KGB trick was to hire opinion “shapers” from the opposing side to propagate Kremlin ideology outside of Russia, especially in western countries.  Putin himself cut his teeth in the KGB’s so called Fifth Chief Directorate that was created in 1969 to counter political dissidents and other manifestations of political unreliability both domestically and abroad.  With the fall of the Soviet Union in December 1991, came the natural decline in many Soviet institutions.  The Soviet KGB ceased to exist in November 1991 and, after years of reorganization and internal wrangling re-emerged as the FSB in April 1995 under President Yeltsin.  One could argue that the FSB could never live up to the fame and glory of its creepy predecessor, in large part because they could no longer tap into the talent pool they used to take for granted in Soviet times, when Soviet people’s choices were limited and borders closed.

On a snowy Friday afternoon on February 20th in a small room at University of Wisconsin Milwaukee (UWM), a guest speaker from Russia, Boris Kagarlitsky, gave a lecture entitled “Russia, the West, and Ukrainian Crisis: Cold War simulations with no future…” to a small group of listeners. Mr. Kagarlitsky was introduced by his longtime friend and collaborator, UWM Africology professor Jeffrey Sommers, as a Russian dissident and an anti-oligarchic academic and activist. Indeed, Kagarlitsky introduced his view of the events in Eastern Ukraine as a fight between oligarchic clans both in Russia and in Ukraine.  However, in the course of Kagarlistky’s lecture it became increasingly clear that he got his “facts” from Putin’s propaganda outlets like ITAR TASS and Russia Today and the like.  Mr. Kagarlitsky concluded with the assertion that even though the Russian army is present on the territory of Ukraine, the Russian Federation should not be involved in the negotiation process, as the conflict in Ukraine is a “civil war”.  According to Kagarlitsky, the conflict in Ukraine is going to last forever and Western political powers should not intervene, as they cannot help.

When participants tried to raise questions and clarify some of the most outlandish statements, both Kagarlitsky and Sommers got visibly agitated and shut the conversation down.

This bizarre event left us puzzled.  A dissident spewing Kremlin propaganda? An American professor who deflects and avoids simple questions about the person he invited, as he put it “as a personal favor to him”.  All of this forced us to research the persona of the speaker, as well as his inviting party from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

What we found was both shocking and unsettling.

It didn’t take long to discover that Mr. Kagarlitsky is regarded as a Kremlin mole by most reputable political left leaders in Russia.  Russian journalists have established that Kagarlitsky has been working with the Kremlin since 2005, possibly earlier. His primary function has been to discredit and confuse the Russian left-wing movement outside the immediate circle of the Russian Communist Party.

Kagarlistky, who presents himself as  a political prisoner and a dissident, in fact, was a witness for the prosecution during a KGB “show” trial of Mikhail Rivkin in 1983. Kagarlitsky’s testimony served as a breaking point in the trial that allowed the court to sentence Rivkin to 7 years in a prison camp and 5 years of exile. Kagarlitsky himself only stayed in prison for a year, but was very productive during his stay and managed to get a number of his fellow students in trouble with the KGB.

Kagarlitsky’s Post Globalization Initiative (PGI), where Sommers is listed as a Research Fellow and Expert, has been receiving grants from the Russian government, at least 3 Mln Roubles in 2010, 2.5 Mln in 2012 and 3.2 Mln in 2014.

A further piece of this stomach turning puzzle came to light when we found out that both Mr. Kagarlistky and Mr. Sommers attended a conference last July in occupied Crimea that was co-organized by PGI, Kagarlitsky’s organization, well represented by Russian fascists and nationalists and Kremlin-backed Ukrainian fringe groups.  This “international conference” entitled “The World Crisis and Opposition in Ukraine” was held in Yalta on 6 -7 July, 2014.  The stated purpose of the conference included providing additional arguments and emotional materials for western activists and intellectuals who support the anti-Ukrainian cause, demonstrating to the domestic (i.e. Russian) public the existence of powerful trends in western public opinion hostile to the current Russian campaign, and highlighting publications by conference participants in the western press and in the English-language section of the web to facilitate the dissemination of information which is positive for Russia.

Sommers and Kagarlitsky at the conference in occupied Yalta, Crimea

Sommers and Kagarlitsky at the conference in the occupied Yalta, Crimea

Both Kagarlitsky and Sommers signed the Declaration issued by this conference that states in part, that the right-wing government in Ukraine has been given extensive “financial, diplomatic and military support by the US, UK and EU governments” in part because the US wants to open Ukraine up to NATO.  In addition to the Declaration, the conference issued a Manifesto, according to which Ukraine is not a state, but a “territory between the European Union and Russia” and calling for the complete break up of Ukraine, or as they put it, “the liberation of Kyiv from the gang of pedophiles, religious sectarians and other scum which occupies it, is one of the main goals of our campaign”.

Both Kagarlitsky and Sommers failed to mention any of the aforementioned facts in their introductions or any announcements for Kagarlitsky’s recent lectures at UW Milwaukee and UW Madison.  To be fair, the lectures just like the presenters were incredibly dull and mostly went unnoticed, with hardly anyone attending. But since they were not really trying to get people in the door, the entire operation looks more like a boondoggle for a funding report rather than an attempt to change anyone’s mind.

Which brings us to the final point.  We absolutely respect the mission of American universities to promote the freedom of expression.  This is one of the key principles that separates modern America for all it’s flaws from Putin’s Russia.  So the idea is not to eliminate dissent.  On the contrary.  We believe in the principles of academic integrity, a willingness to facilitate difficult conversation and a dedication to conducting research on controversial topics with the expectation of full disclosure and transparency.

In the end, both Mr. Kagarlitsky and Mr. Sommers distorted the facts concerning the Ukrainian-Russian conflict and presented positions without disclosing their true affiliations.  What’s worse, they are not bystanders in this tragic farce of Russian propaganda wars, but active participants.  Which makes both of them nothing less than Putin’s propagandists, hiding behind the fake facades of academics and independent experts.

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  • Brent

    What slime. They should be banned for preaching hatred. Kagarlistky should be put on a terrorist watch list. He is not a U.S. citizens and not subject to the rights under the U.S. constitution.

    Sommers appears to be a U.S. citizen. I guess he has the right to say whatever stupid shit he wants….and some of his postings are typical Kremlin “useful idiot” material in sites like “Counterpunch” and ‘fringe’ sites. I wonder how much he got for his soul….

    • Milton Devonair

      “banned for preaching hatred”
      The universities in the US are almost all ran by liberal/progressive/socialists, they they are all about hate for the US, Christians, Conservatives, whites and adore all things socialist/people’s/anti-Israel.
      Our president is one of their ilk, so he’s all for helping out russian and iran.

  • jamesmace

    They no doubt deny the Holodomor genocide when Russian murdered 10 million in Ukraine in 1932. Genocide denial is a crime – lock them up.

    • Luc D.

      Communists-USSR people murdered kulaks, not “Russians”. Stalin was Georgian you know, and Khrushchev was an Ukranian….so?

      • jamesmace

        Yes, isnt that cute. Another one that believes there were no Russians in Russia in 1932.

        Do you really think people suffer your foolishness gladly?

        • Luc D.

          James, it was a reaction on the sentence “Russian murdered…”. You know well that what happend in that period it is not so simple as you state. As a professional historian I know the history of Ukraine between the 2 wars very well.
          And please, in a discussion give meaningfull remarks and arguments instead of attacking people who have another opinion than yours.. Thanks in advance.(see also my other more general remark a little more down this page)

          • jamesmace

            You flatter yourself – pop quiz time.

            1) How much did the Ukrainian Amish pay Stalin to be able to leave Ukraine.

            2) When did they leave?

            3) Including the Amish, how many German Ukrainian Colonists were murdered by the Russians by 1939?

            4) When were these colonists first targeted?

            5) What are the two estimates that Duranty provided for the number of murders during the Holodomor

            6) What is the name of the document in which Duranty admits that the NY Times and Russia had a secret agreeement to report only Russian propaganda.

            7) What is he ficticious name of the KGB lackey that duped Hearst into a series of fraudulent articles that discredited prior Holodomor eye witnesses.

            8) What animal represents the Ukrainians during the Holodomor in Orwell’s “Animal Farm”?

            Ten seconds, Bob.

          • Brent

            I don’t think he’s a ‘professional’ PhD type like he claims. He even thinks Kruschev was a Ukrainian. Either he got his PhD in the mail or he’s a troll

            I’ve been keeping track of his own hateful comments and he clearly hates Ukrainians. He criticizes others for making comments that he himself makes much worse ones. I think his hatred is that he got rejected by a potential bride…

          • Oknemfrod

            He is just one of primitive putinoid trolls. His quotes you’ve collected (thanks!) are telling enough. Bestowing degrees on themselves to use the logical fallacy of appeal to authority is common practice among them – straight from the putinoid troll manual.

          • Milton Devonair

            “what happend in that period”
            is interesting to chat about over breakfast or coffee at a shop, but really has little relevance to the resurection of soviet russia and their dreams of constructing another evil empire built on the bodies of humans they consumer.

          • Nomid

            History is an excuse…

            But an important one at that…

            Being a pragmatist shouldn’t give you illusions about the fact that the reasoning for some peoples acions are buried in history..

            There wouldn’t be no ressurrection of “soviet Russia” if it wasn’t for some peoples historical ideas of a “soviet russia”….

          • Milton Devonair

            So a rapist’s excuse is that women fear being raped?

            when the ussr collapsed, it was still a prisoner of itself, with generations of corrupt and criminal people manning all the institutions. Their military always has been little more than trash. The only somewhat competent (in what they do) institution was the kgb. That’s why putin and his kgb took over as they were the only power/control still standing.

            Soviet russia destroyed themselves.
            And they are on the path to going back to the nostalgic comfort of their soviet past. At least then, there wasn’t chaos and (in their minds/propgaganda), they were a great nation and a great people.

          • Nomid

            I got no excuse for Russias actions, i condemn them thoroughly..

            I just pointed out that for some people, history can be used as an excuse for their current actions

            Because you said: “what happend in that period” is interesting to chat about over breakfast or coffee at a shop, but really has little relevance to the resurection of soviet russia.”

            And now you say: “And they are on the path to going back to the nostalgic comfort of their soviet past. At least then, there wasn’t chaos (in their minds/propgaganda)”

            So in that regard, history and the details arguably does have relevance no? No matter if the current idea they have of the old “soviet Russia” is a somewhat watered down and fictive idea abused and distorted by Putins regime, it could be said to be one of the driving forces?
            And in that case, the undiluted and real historical facts might be even more important? (and Nope, I don’t think Luc there is the one providing any)

          • Brent

            Professional historian!!! And someone who criticizes the remarks of others as being ‘attacking’.

            So what hateful person would have made these comments?

            “Here in Europe we are already overflown with ukranian “fortune hunters” who want to escape their country”

            “What I read here from Ukranian people is always hate, hate, and hate”

            “By the way, are you the Chocolate King? :-)”

            “Kiev shelled Donetsk, not the rebels”

            “My friend, the humanitarian convoys are controlled at the border by Ukrainaian forces, or you don’t know that?”

            “For Crimea, Russia gives the example of Kosovo, Timmy. And they are pretty right about that”

            “Benjamin, look at the facts. Russia organized a referendum in Crimea because with a majority of 70% ethnic Russians they knew the outcome of the voting in advance. So the “under the barrel of a gun” story was simply propaganda talk coming from Kiev.”

            “Who burned Russian speaking UKRANIAN people alive in Odessa? And slaughtered those who tried to escape the fire through the windows?”

            “Do we have to respect a gouvernment that kills its own people? That says that the Ukranians who are living in the east of the country are subhumans?”

            “Ukraine seems to forget that 40% of Ukranians are ethnic Russian.”

            ANY GUESSES WHO MADE ALL OF THOSE HATEFUL COMMENTS, “Professor”????

            Yes, all made BY YOU.

            More like a professional hatemongerer

          • Oknemfrod

            >More like a professional hatemonger<

            … and a primitive putinoid troll to boot.

      • Milton Devonair

        “so?”
        So russia seems to be the place where sick people go in order to control an army of apes as that geographic area up there historically is full of very ignorant people, easily trained and brainwashed.

        “so?”
        So they need to continue to be killed when they go into other people’s countries, places where humans live, so they can rape, loot, kidnap and murder. Then claim it as property of russia.

        “so?”
        So humans need to provide Ukraine with lots of weapons, especially anti air and long range rocketry. Best to kill russians and their pets from a distance as they really stink as they are a pretty primitive specie.

      • Brent

        Krushschev WAS NOT Ukrainian. he was born in Kalinovka, Kursk oblast. To Russian parents.

        For a PhD in history, you are woefully ignorant of truth.

  • canuke

    When such lectures and symposiums take place, each institution much demand full disclosure of each participant. In the medical world, for example, lecturers must list every company or agency that the speaker has worked for, or has received funding. This is to show the audience, and each can make up his/her own mind, whether there is a bias present. Similar disclosures would have quickly revealed the true motives of these two individuals. Revealing this after the fact, unfortunately, is a little too late. The damage has already been done, making the job of exposing the truth that much more difficult.

    • Milton Devonair

      US universities are ran by liberal/progressive/socialists…and closet communists.
      They don’t allow conservatives to speak there unless they are bashing whites, conservatives, heterosexuals, etc.
      They will give you money if you come there and speak about how bad the US is, how evil whites are, etc.

  • Dirk Smith

    Anyone able to find this clown’s speaking schedule?

  • Jeffrey Sommers

    Greetings. I found several aspects of this commentary unsettling.

    1) Boris Kagarlitsky was a strong critic of the Putin government’s war in Chechnya and organized conferences in support of the Chechens during that conflict.

    2) Boris Kagarlitsky, unlike most of us, has been an actual political prisoner and beaten up by the authorities in both the Soviet and Post-Soviet (Russian) state. Most recently (2012), he had his apartment searched by the state after he led protests against Putin’s neoliberal cuts to social spending.

    3) I have no doubt that the now dormant PGI received state funding. Little that happens in Russia seems to evade this reality. Among its many “experts” are the Nobel economist Joseph Stiglitz, along with world renowned scholar such as Susan George, Immanuel Wallerstein, James Galbraith, et al. I was never on any payroll and I am confident the above have not been either.

    4) I attended the referenced conference in Crimea. It contained a bizarre catch-all cast of characters from far-right nationalists, oligarchs, FSB agents (from what I surmised), established academics, democracy activists and a veritable Noah’s Ark of every imaginable political faction. It was very instructive on the score of getting a look at Crimea and the separatist forces in Ukraine (good, bad & ugly). Was delighted to have the opportunity to see it 1st hand.

    5) I completely oppose the war in the Donbass. I think Russia should leave immediately and that the Ukrainian government establish a referendum on the status and type of rule in the region within Ukraine. I understand others feel differently, but this is my view.

    6) The guests of event described above were given every courtesy and consideration, including taking the majority of time allotted for questions and answers. In fact, so much time was given to them that we ran the even for a half hour over its planned time.

    7) I am delighted to see this statement above from the blog post: “We absolutely respect the mission of American universities to promote the freedom of expression.” Good, let’s hope it never perishes.

    Regards,

    Jeffrey Sommers

    • Luc D.

      Thanks for this information, Jeffrey.

    • Milton Devonair

      “We absolutely respect the mission of American universities to promote the freedom of expression.”

      And if you believe that’s actually what happens at american universities, you’re either a liberal/progressive/socialist or don’t know anything about them.

    • Brent

      Can you ‘clarify’ some of he following comments you have made?

      1) “The Crimea has been part of Russia for over 300 years”
      >actually, 171 years.. From 1783 when it was conquered to 1954.
      >maybe this is a small issue, but many Putinpologists try to exaggerate the length of Russia’s occupation and historical ties to justify its alleged Russian sanctity and birthright

      2) “It is populated overwhelmingly by Russian speakers, who watch with alarm the rightwing nationalist violence in Kiev, all the more as many of its leaders are establishing symbolic and outright ideological ties with the old German Nazis”
      >Can you be so kind to cite some of the ‘right wing nationalist violence in Kiev” and “outright ideological ties with the old German Nazis” you speak of?
      >considering the persecution ongoing against ethnic Tatars in Crimea by Russia’s state sponsored Crimean ‘defence militias’, considering the high number of Russian neo-Nazi groups openly operating in Donbass and Putin allowing them to flourish in Russia, and considering Russia’s sponsorship and fostering of favor of many right wing extremist ultra nationalists throughout Europe, I find it intriguing that you speak only of such groups allegedly in Kyiv when the only other source for those types of statements has been the Kremlin and Russian leaders. Can you cite some examples of these ‘rightwing nationalists in Kyiv and the ‘violence’ they committed?

      3)” The Crimean population has reason to fear that their elected President was illegally deposed not for his kleptocracy, but as part of a regional and ethnic identity politics of the sort that the Americans are sponsoring throughout the world”

      >their democratically elected President (I presume you refer to Yanukovcyh) in 2010 ran on a platform of change and moving Ukraine closer to the EU. His government worked on this for almost two years, and were selling to the Ukrainian citizens it was pretty much a done deal. Then when it came to sign the deal, he made some eye opening demands of larger compensation, changed his mind, and took an offer of smaller ‘compensation’ from Putin
      >Yanukovych also drastically changed the powers of the Ukrainian President during his 3+ years in power, and effectively took control of the country away from the parliament and into his own hands.
      >I would love to see your proof of American’s sponsorship of regional and ethnic identity politics’ in Ukraine. I’m going to forewarn you about even trying to cite the $5 billion in aid the U.S. government gave to Ukraine since 1991 to foster democracy as some alleged sponsorship of the CIA overthrowing the Ukrainian government as so many trolls like to claim.

    • canuke

      Is this conference available on-line? I’ve just watched an extensive collection on YouTube from the Ukraine Russia Peace Conference at the University of Toronto (22 Feb 2015). The viewer can judge for themselves the bias of participants. My comment above, however, still stands. Is there not a requirement for full disclosure at these conferences, as is mandatory at medical conferences?

    • Antonio Barbosa

      How is it possible that someone classifies a war as “civil war” when one of the 2 main forces in the conflict is an external power?

      How can people accept the annexation of Crimea and have such events in what is conquered territory of a sovereign nation in contradiction of the Helsinki accords of 1975 (mostly sought by the former USSR). How can someone allow to be used to show “business as usual” in an occupied region of Ukraine when 6,000 people were killed? And are still being killed by the army of the Russian Federation? What is the price of that? What is the price to ignore that this attack on Ukraine has killed the nuclear non-proliferation efforts? No one EVER will relinquish its weapons like Ukraine did.

      Who does, or attends, an event in a conquered land and turn a blind eye to the process of annexation with a “referendum” which was held after ten days (!!!) and with all opposition to it being silenced with guns and violence?

      Shame on you.

      • Jeffrey Sommers

        It’s a civil war with the intervention of external powers (e.g., Russia, but also the US in some small measure).

        The annexation of Crimea is largely a realpolitik consequence of NATO’s encroachment on Russia’s borders (I’m not endorsing it, but merely stating a fact). A potentially hostile alliance advanced to the US border with Mexico would produce a similar result.

        The referendum held by Russia in Crimea is not legitimate. Conversely, I have little doubt that a referendum held there would produce a result in Russia’s favor, if the recent polling done is accurate. In short, it’s complicated whether we like it or not…

        The situation calls for dialogue with all parties to resolve. Russia cannot simply annex territory it sees in its national (and perceived vital) interests. Conversely, ignoring Russian interests on its borders is a sure way of getting the results we’ve seen the past year.

        More sensible policy is needed….

        • Antonio Barbosa

          A sensible reply but I do have two comments.

          The first regarding the results of the referendum. I also agree it is illegal but not so sure about the results. The person now heading the local government had circa 4% of the votes in the previous elections. Even if they had a several fold increase it would be difficult to see Crimeans voting majoritarily for annexation into Russia.

          The second is regarding the encroachment. NATO created the Russia-NATO Council with a permanent ambassador, had Russia as an ally and had them in the Partnership for Peace. The first Russia-NATO joint military operation was due to be carried out in Syria. NATO removed plans for a missile defence system close to Russia, there are circa 1/3 of American troops in Europe, there were no forward bases in the new countries in Eastern Europe, the EU was doing $500bn trade with Russia and had sponsored their entry into the WTO, G20 and G7, And had been quite ok with the extension of the lease of the Black Sea port to Russia until 2042, etc…

          It is just an excuse used. He is developing clear signs of being a despot losing touch with reality and people by staying in power so long and all the wealth he has accumulated. He doesn’t want to let go at any cost.

  • Luc D.

    In all the discussions in Ukraine about Ukriane there are always a lot of accusations. The main problem however is that presumptions are proclaimed as facts and red as facts. The problem is situated at two sites: writer and reader. The writer has his own believes and writes only what he believes and thinks what is true. He even puts aside sources and information that not correspond with his own opinion. A “news” article becomes also an “opinion” article. In a further stade the journalist simply follows the mainstream. He writes only the things he knows, his readers will like.
    The same for the other actor; the reader. He reads only the information he wants to see, because it corresponds with his own opinion. Other news can simply not be true. In his eyes other facts, even proven, are “propaganda” and are put aside.

    • jamesmace

      No, not at all.

      In general, there are those leftists, Russians, and Russophiles who wish to keep communist genocide swept under the rug and shoved down the memory hole.

      And then there are those who are succeeding in uncovering the infamy.

      • Luc D.

        James,historians know very well what happend in Katyn, the Soviet famine 1932-1933, the Geat Purgen the gulags etc… The Russians today have nothing to do with what went wrong under communisM, just as Germans now are not responsable for what Nazi’s have done.
        My father and grandfather fought in WWII-WWI against the Germans. Higly decorated! Do I hate Germans for this today? Not at all… it are not the same people.

        • jamesmace

          Wrong again.

          It was genocide and not a famine.

          And modern Germany is paying reparations for nazi crimes, something the Russians will be doing once Putin implodes

        • Brent

          Interesting how you absolve Russians and Germans of their countries past atrocities and vilify Ukrainians for theirs.

          Is that part of you curriculum, “Professor”?

          • canuke

            Good point, Brent. Isn’t that what we hear over and over and over again. How, somehow, we continue to be associated with events in Ukraine from generations ago, and yet, as you say, the Russian apologists are conveniently absolved of any such association.

      • Luc D.

        James,historians know very well what happend in Katyn, the Soviet famine 1932-1933, the Geat Purgen the gulags etc… The Russians today have nothing to do with what went wrong under communisM, just as Germans now are not responsable for what Nazi’s have done.
        My father and grandfather fought in WWII-WWI against the Germans. Higly decorated! Do I hate Germans for this today? Not at all… it are not the same people.

    • Milton Devonair

      Well, I guess we’d not be having these discussions if russia would stop invading other countries for their rape/loot/kidnap/murderfests.
      They didn’t let Chechnya leave and chose to destroy it instead.
      They invaded and stole a part of Georgia.
      They invaded and stole Crimea.
      They invaded and are trying to steal a large chunk of Ukraine.

      russia is a disease that no human would care about if they’d just stay in their own country and beat each other up in drunken fits. But they just….cannot……stop…..going into other countries to steal, rape, loot, murder.
      It’s who they are. they are russians. in russia. And when they leave, they are ebola, a terminal, parasitic disease upon mankind.

      • George Peters

        BINGO!!!!