Global Analysis




The Man Who Warned Congress

by J. R. Nyquist

Weekly Column Published: 02.27.2009


On 25 February Andrei Illarionov testified before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. The hearing was titled “From Competition to Collaboration: Strengthening the U.S.-Russia Relationship.” Illarionov is a Russian citizen presently employed by the Cato Institute. He began his testimony with a brief explanation: “For a number of years I worked at different posts in the Russian government and Administration of the Russian President.” According to Illarionov the Russian regime is a KGB regime, and the United States policy toward this regime is worse than appeasement. It is best characterized as retreat.

Since the collapse of the USSR all American efforts to improve relations with Russia have come to nothing, says Illarionov, and new initiatives from President Obama are doomed; this is because the Americans fail to recognize the nature of the Russian regime. There is an unwillingness to grasp “the internal logic and intentions of the Russian leadership.” It seems that the free world is unable to deal with powerful authoritarian regimes. In order to deal with Russia, certain facts must be admitted. First, Russia is not a democracy, the Russian people are not free, and the “central place in the Russian political system is occupied by the Corporation of the secret police.”

The secret police of Russia compose a brotherhood, and a system of order. This brotherhood, says Illarionov, is highly disciplined and enforces loyalty with “the ultimate penalty.” They readily use violence against others, and are ruthless in the pursuit of power. They dominate and bully ordinary Russians, who cannot oppose them. They dominate the state apparatus, holding 77 percent of the top 1,016 government positions. There is virtually no independent mass media in Russia, and the level of anti-U.S. propaganda is greater now than in Soviet times.

Even more frightening, the Russian government has killed tens of thousands people, jailing dissidents on trumped-up charges, arranging terrorist “events” to advance its agenda. Many journalists and independent-minded politicians have been assassinated. The Kremlin also threatens its neighbors using energy exports as weapons of coercion, actively engaging in cyber warfare. The Russian invasion of Georgia last August, says Illarionov, was prepared “at least since February 2003.”

The secret police are supreme in Russia. With regard to previous police states, the ruling party or dictator held absolute authority. But the Russian secret police are themselves in control – answering to no one. “The political regime in today’s Russia is therefore quite unique,” noted Illarionov, “since so far there was probably no country in world history … where a secret police organization [captured] all political, administrative, military, economic, financial, and media powers.” This also gives the regime staying power. Since elections are rigged, no opposition can ever take control of the government.  

Unless the supremacy of the Russian secret police is acknowledged and understood, the United States will not be able to deal with the regime in Moscow. According to Illarionov, the American side has retreated “on almost all” bilateral issues. If the Americans are alarmed by any development in Russia, whether it is the violation of human rights or the muzzling of the mass media, the Kremlin simply suggests that the Americans shut up and mind their own business. The West has refused to penalize or confront Russia’s destructive behavior. “There were no sanctions whatsoever for any behavior of the Russian authorities,” noted Illarionov. “The recent suggestion ‘to reset the button’ in U.S.-Russia relations and ‘to start over with a blank slate’ is met with poorly hidden joy and satisfaction on the part of the Russian Chekists.”

The KGB regime now believes the American side is acquiescing to Moscow’s assertion of hegemony over the former Soviet space. “It is a surrender of the hopes and efforts of the Russian democrats as well as peoples of the post-Soviet states who dreamed to get out of the system that controlled and tortured them for almost a century,” said Illarionov. “But it is even more. It is a clear manifestation to all democratic and liberal forces in Russia and in the other post-Soviet states that on all internal and external issues of their struggle … the United States now abandons them and takes the position of their deadly adversaries and enemies. And therefore it is an open invitation for new adventures by the Russian Chekists’ regime….”

As if to scold the U.S. Congress itself, Illarionov noted that the Committee hearings were dedicated to “collaboration” with the secret police of Russia. According to Illarionov, “the term chosen for the agents of the U.S. administration’s policy … is ‘collaborationists.’ Collaboration between the two governments today could only be on the Russian regime’s terms and for fulfillment of the Russian government’s goals.” The United States, in effect, has chosen something worse than appeasement. It has chosen the path of outright surrender. “We know the consequences of the collaborationist policy,” warned Illarionov. “Those who retreat and surrender will not get peace, but war – war with unpredictable and nasty results.” The situation is reaching critical mass. The United States is no longer a superpower in terms of its thinking. It no longer opposes totalitarianism. A time of troubles is approaching. “When the world gets there,” said Illarionov, “we need to remember that we had a warning.”

  To read the full text of the Testimony of Andrei Illarionov