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After Paris: The Kremlin’s New Message

January 8, 2015

Today, before the terrorists believed responsible have even been caught, the mainstream Russian media ran an interview in which a noted political commentator explicitly blamed U.S. intelligence for yesterday’s murderous attack on Charlie Hebdo‘s Paris office.

The extended interview with Alexey Martynov was carried on LifeNews.ru, which is not state-run but which follows the Kremlin line on most issues and has a very large audience: this is anything but a fringe network in Putin’s Russia. Martynov’s novel theory is that American intelligence was behind the attack in order to force Europe, particularly France, into closer cooperation with the United States in the name of “counterterrorism.” As for proof for this hypothesis, there is none, but Martynov claims that since the Americans are really behind the whole Islamic State thing, of course the Paris attack was really the work of the CIA … or something. This is Alex Jones-level stuff, carried on a major network with millions of viewers.

And who is Alexey Martynov? He bills himself as a political scientist and “human rights activist” — which is another of those terms that, when used in Putin’s Russia, doesn’t mean what you think it means. Martynov heads the oddly named International Institute for New States (MING, in Russian), a Moscow-based think tank that dispenses Putin-friendly propaganda posing as analysis. Before MING was founded in 2008, he headed an NGO called “For Democracy and Human Rights” which actually pushes pro-Putin messages under the “human rights” banner. He regularly gets cited in regime media for his consistently Kremlin-line take on, well, everything.

Martynov’s op-eds run the gamut of pro-Putin ramblings, mostly about the former Soviet space, but his anti-Americanism is clear; his frequent denunciations of U.S. “imperialism” and “neo-liberalism” seem to be why The Nation considers him a friendly voice. To cite only some of Martynov’s more recent rants, he praised NSA defector Edward Snowden as “a symbol of resistance to American neo-imperialism,” while talking a great deal about Ukraine which Martynov, a native of Crimea, considers to not really be an independent country but, to the extent that it is, it’s under the control of Nazis and/or Islamic extremists. Sound familiar?

Martynov’s core belief is that Russia is constantly under threat from U.S.-led “color revolutions” and, in that sense, Kremlin aggression in Ukraine isn’t aggression at all, but a legitimate and defensive act. Like jihadists, pro-Putin propagandists see their cause as under colossal, indeed existential Western threat, so any aggression they perpetrate is, cosmically speaking, defensive in nature. This is really Oliver Stone stuff, in Russian, with a faux-academic gloss.

Who is behind MING, Martynov’s think tank, isn’t exactly clear (“Funding is provided by contributions from the founders, private donations and grants”) but it proudly states, in bold, that it takes no funds from “foreign agents” — this being Putin-speak for its status as a “patriotic” outfit that’s not in bed with U.S. “neo-imperialism.” MING’s take on events can be fairly assessed as rabidly pro-Kremlin, when not slavishly so.

Martynov’s public bio is sketchy about his activities before 2007 — perhaps not coincidentally, the year Putin publicly threw down the gauntlet at America about its alleged aggressions against Russia — leading to speculation that he is a former officer of the Russian special services: of course, there is no such thing as “a former Chekist,” as Russia’s president himself has stated. Regardless of Martynov’s possible affiliations, past or present, with Russian security agencies, it’s fair to say that if the FSB were running a think tank, it would look and act a lot like MING, and it’s understood by all seasoned Kremlin-watchers that most of Russia’s “independent” pro-regime institutes actually aren’t all that independent when you examine their funding and personnel.

Yet the most interesting part of Martynov’s rant about the Paris atrocity isn’t actually his fact-free pinning it on American intelligence. He revealed what the Kremlin’s real agenda now is. He hailed Europe’s “voice of common sense, calling for the restoration of cooperation with Russia” in the face of terrorism — this being exactly what pro-Putin politicians in France like Marine Le Pen have called for — while asserting that nefarious U.S.-backed terrorism will have the opposite effect of pushing “Russia and Europe closer together in the face of common threats — terrorism and the hegemony of the United States.”

That is a perfect explanation of Moscow’s strategic aim in Europe today, as has been evident for some time to anyone with open eyes, and now Kremlin mouthpieces are saying it openly. As someone who has repeatedly warned Europeans that their rising right-wing is being co-opted by Moscow against NATO and the West, it’s an unpleasant surprise when the Russians are this unsubtle about it. Clearly Putin is feeling confident despite Russia’s dire economic predicament. Watch Paris and Madame Le Pen for the next move.

42 Comments
  1. Nariman Namazov permalink

    Lifenews allegedly has *very* close ties to FSB.

  2. Reblogged this on mrmeangenes and commented:
    I wondered-earlier today-who would be first to blame the USA for the ISIS massacre in Paris. Putin’s agents ! What a “surprise” !

  3. Martin Sattler permalink

    As you indicate, this effort to wean the Europeans from the US was predictable, especially given Putin’s intel ties into Europe and his personal dislike of Obama. He is comfortable with European sensibilities and can play segments of Eurpean political society off against the US. Obama and Kerry are not schooled at all in this sophisticated game and certainly do not think in covert-action terms. Appreciate you following this so closely; it is terribly important.

  4. Blackshoe permalink

    One day, Russia’s going to have to open up all it’s history. I’ll be amused to watch the weeping and gnashing of teeth from large chunks of the Western media/public as they try to explain why they never bothered to figure out just how deep the elements of state control are (as an example, I once tried to explain how the ROC was thoroughly controlled by the KGB from the 1940s on and still cannot be considered a truly independent organization that comes to its own thoughts, and he couldn’t even comprehend what I was saying).

  5. Mr. Schindler,

    While I don’t mean to suggest that Putin is some sort of friendly fellow we should have over for tea, is there some truth to the idea that Putin and his ilk are “under fire’ from these “color revolutions?”

    On some level, it certainly seems like all the actors are playing a game of realpolitik: Putin wishes to extend his influence, we wish to extend our influence, these things naturally come into conflict. Granted Putin seems a bit more of a jerk, esp. as regards murdering his opponents, but is the notion of Russia on the defensive entirely fabricated, or is there some shred of truth to this?

    • Good disinformation must contain some truth to be plausible. See: Active Measures.

      • The “under fire from colour revolutions” claim is fairly bogus. First, what’s wrong with tyrants being under fire from social movements? And what’s wrong with the US using its tax dollars to help democratic movements abroad who will some day be our allies, like the government of Estonia or Ukraine? Nothing at all. No shame in it, and no one should be ducking.

        But here’s the thing — the aid isn’t anywhere near enough to matter, ever, and it isn’t a factor in making and sustaining social movements — which if you are honest, you’ll concede have failed largely because of the Soviet legacy, not the US “kiss of death.”

        And there’s the readiness of the pro-Kremlin sources making this claim of “under fire from colour revolutions” to spout blatant falsehoods, such as that “Victoria Nuland says the US gave $5 billion to fund the coup” — when $5 billion is ALL aid to Ukraine for 20 years including to the governments, including to Yanukovych — and also includes the US paying its own consultants, which include people like the pro-Kremlin former USAID contractor in Kiev who constantly attacks Kremlin critics on Linked-In. Fortunately, Politfact has debunked this canard handily — and I wish they’d do more of that on the Kremlin’s lies: http://www.politifact.com/punditfact/statements/2014/mar/19/facebook-posts/united-states-spent-5-billion-ukraine-anti-governm/

        If you make even a cursory study of the Orange Revolution, you’ll note the most salient fact about it: it failed. All the US and Soros grants thrown at it made not a whit of difference because politics, not some grant to an NGO or corrupt local municipality make a difference. You’d also have to concede that the Kremlin’s gray cardinal of that era, Gleb Pavlovsky, did a lot of sabotaging and disinformation about the Orange Revolution on Moscow’s behalf that a) helped along its failure and b) tried to discredit it as a Western project and c) represented the considerable power of the Kremlin to meddle and pay for its own candidates in any revolution.

        By the time you got to Maidan, Soros was burned from the Orange Revolution and the vicious attempt to accuse him of colour revolutions that actually bore no relationship to the facts, and the US had a much smaller budget for any kind of aid. Maidan was made by hard-hatted coal miners willing to withstand beatings and even shootings, from the provinces, not affluent US grant recipients who sit at NGO conferences abroad. The actual grants to NGOs from Westerners, including the often-slammed Pierre Omidyar, are trivial in the large scheme, and the NGOs who got these grants are not central to Maidan. Those who were central and also happened to have some US relationship exist as indigenous actors with real constituencies, not mere grantees. Those who take out their microscopes to look at Western grants to Ukraine are never willing even to take out a telescope for Moscow’s aid to the other side — which can be seen more clearly after Yanukovych fled and his ill-gotten gains in part from corrupt trade with Russia were on display.

        Go over to any other “colour revolution” you see in this region. Um, did they succeed? If they did, didn’t Moscow undermine them soon after? If they didn’t, was that about insufficient US aid and political cover, in fact — and also about the far greater capacity of Moscow? Then let’s look at things like the overthrow of Bakayev in Kyrgyzstan. Where did those protesters get their bazookas, out of the tulip beds?

        Most of the aid we have given this region is trivial, spent largely on ourselves with “technical assistance” consultants with high per diems, and wasted. It’s also largely irrelevant to domestic processes. No, the West didn’t give “bad advice” to Yeltsin and “cause” an economic collapse; the Soviet legacy of communism did and lack of political will to try to crimes of the Communist Party and free enterprise and defend civil rights. Clinton advised Yeltsin not to try to Communist Party’s high crimes. And now here we all are. This debate is hobbled by people who warble on about “neo-liberal policies” and “global capital” and there is no critic of the other big aid giver and saboteur in this equation — Russia.

      • Exactly, exactly so!

    • You must be more involved than news about something. Then you can come to such conclusions as I in this comment about “color revolutions”:

      I (Haydy do Baydy) give another example, which disproves popular conspirative theories about Ukraine.
      The best example gives the Orange Revolution itself.
      So the czar-handled press in the Russian Federation and the monological conspiracy centers in the West like David Icke, Alex Jones, which are regular guests by “Russia Today”, say, that the Orange Revolution is a so-called color Revolution, or colour Revolution like they write in England through a French influence.
      But if you not ideologically blinded then you would better inform yourself before you repeat any propaganda regarding to an event.
      If so, then you can easily learn, that in Russia exist such things like Gazprom.
      Yeah, a monopoly, which bends the rule of the WTO!
      In this way works such “journalism” like from Oliver Stone. If you don’t like the WTO, then this fact will be redirected against Ukraine.
      So you are blinded by this and you can’t anymore diagnose that Putin himself has given the reason for the Orange Revolution, because he has the Ukraine cut off from direct gas trades with Turkmenistan.
      This has shaken the post-Soviet economy of Ukraine, weakening the position of the former corrupt dictator-president Kuchma.
      Only through Putin’s weakening of Kuchma could happen the Orange Revolution in such a way.
      And Kuchma by himself was a puppet of the Russian Gazprom in Ukraine. Only through the support of Gazprom has he become twice president of Ukraine.
      Thus, it doesn’t wonder, that from the Orange Revolution hasn’t profited the people of Ukraine, but corrupt machinations with Gazprom through middlemen like Firtash / Фірташ. So, this would be an indicator that even the former president Yushchenko / Ющенко is rather a spy of the Kremlin.

      2:)
      It’s clear that Oliver Stone in his response shows a lack of understanding how the free world actually works.
      If US politicians meet with politicians of Ukraine, then this is, after the propaganda of the Kremlin, a sign of US secret services’ involvement, while under a dictator nobody has the right to make your own decision, like in the structure of a Stone-Aged household, where the dictatorial patriarch allows or disallows contacts.
      Instead of facts and arguments you show only a picture with a US politician, which meets with other politicians, doing his work. It is like by a jealous husband, who sees in all actions of his wife a betrayal. So, it is more a case for a psychiatrist and not for a journalist, while he hasn’t learned to respect the freedom of others, seeing them as a subject of his ownership.
      Thus, it’s clear, that for the Kremlin should a country in its “zone of influence” not meet with foreign leaders. That’s why the “mighty” Lukashenko of White Russia shows up only with Putin or only with the permission of Putin.
      That’s why only Moscow must have the right to establish foreign relations, otherwise you are a subject for elimination.
      This is a dictatorial pattern, like in a dictatorial household, where only the patriarch meets with other people, the other members are only serfs of his arbitrariness. That’s why in the Russian Federation not only doesn’t exist a free press, but also doesn’t exist an independent judicature.
      In the mafia exists also such a structure.
      On the same basis has Putin all organizations of a free society in the Russian Federation declared as foreign spy organizations and eliminated a free press. That’s why Oliver Stone represents himself as a poodle of Putin. Otherwise, he wouldn’t have a place in the dictatorial court of Putin.
      So, in this context is Oliver Stone a supporter of state’s terrorism against a free society. His advocacy for “poor people” is only a Bolshevik technique, justifying an enslavement, taking away everybody’s freedom.

  6. Guns permalink

    And the new head of Nato, previous prime minister of Norway with a history of “Irregular” contacts with the KGB as a junior politician (code name “Steklov”) is ready for intimate anti terror cooperation with Putin, according to Bloomberg:

    “That’s the reason why we still strive for a more cooperative and constructive relationship with Russia,” Stoltenberg said today in the Bavarian town of Kreuth. “We think it is important that Russia, which is our biggest neighbor in Europe, and NATO are able to work together on important issues like, for instance, fighting terror.” NATO and Russia “have for many years worked together” on the issue, he said.”

    http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2015-01-08/nato-cites-russia-as-anti-terror-ally-after-paris-attack.html

  7. Srose permalink

    So, commentator’s in Ru. and the U.S. both theorize that the other had a direct or indirect hand in this. And the wheel keeps spinning.
    Btw, I don’t understand why those who train/fight for foreign forces who are in overt war with Western countries are even allowed back into the West. Their citizenship and passports should be forfeit. If that leaves them stateless, tough.

  8. Andrew permalink

    It’s somewhat odd that Putin’s mix of Orthodoxy and nationalism hasn’t led to a burgeoning copycat movement in the Orthodox countries of the EU. In Romania, for example, which I believe is the most Orthodox country on a per capita basis, just elected a center-right evangelical Lutheran (of German ethnicity) as president.
    As for France, I doubt Le Pen will be fortunate enough to face Hollande in a run-off. It’s just as likely that she will face a UMP candidate–possibly Sarkozy–in a replay of Chirac vs Papa Le Pen back in 2002, with the Socialists rallying to the UMP candidate as before. Similarly, the current mainline left-right coalitions in Germany and Sweden may emerge in other countries as a firewall against any potential electoral success of right-wing and euro-skeptic parties (at least in Western Europe). Putinism will, among other things, force the European Social and Christian Democrat-type parties into more of these types of governing arrangements.

    • Romanian far-rightists never been big on Russia, FYI.

      • Andrew permalink

        Historically, yes. But you of all people can appreciate the region’s capacity for changinng alliances/sympathies on a dime. In Romania, the leader of the largest far-right party, PRM, who was also in a presidential run-off back in 2000, is now actively courting Putin.

      • Indeed I do….we are living in interesting times.

  9. guiscard permalink

    The US embassy has many close relationships with Muslim organizations in Paris and pushes for multiculturalism and increased immigration. American NGO’s work with Muslim groups in France. The US supports Sunni Islamism all over the world, from Syria to Chechnya to Bosnia. So what conclusions do you want traditionalist Europeans to draw from this? When will you learn 20committee that the things you care about are being undermined by the US govt. you served, which is now an aggressive left wing regime that spreads degeneracy around the world.

    The same people through which Nuland funneled $5 billion to destabilize Ukraine are at work in Western Europe promoting 3d world immigration, gay rights, etc.

    • Blackshoe permalink

      Marine Le Pen? Is that you?

  10. 4MK permalink

    Lets just face up to it the terror attacks are being instigated by Moscow,We might as well have it out here as were all saying it behind closed doors its all so convenient,

  11. Dimitri permalink

    Dr. Schindler,

    Thank you for a very interesting blog. I’d like to use the opportunity and ask a few questions if you allow. Will appreciate any answer. Thanks, and sorry in advance for a lengthy post.

    1. It appears that Putin is following the old Soviet playbook in focusing on the main task of splitting the NATO along the US/UK vs continental Europe lines. This time around, he seemed to have more on his side, though, than the USSR ever had: EU’s dependence on Russian oil/gas; extensive network of ‘agents of influence’ (e.g. ex-chancellor of Germany on Gazprom payroll); significant European investments in Russian economy and access to markets; weak (arguably) US President and dysfunctional Congress; internal EU struggles (as it is pitting Britain against France/Germany); a rainy day fund of several hundred billion dollars; no crass communists in power to scare the average Westerner, etc…it all seemed sure to work out in Putin’s favor and fracture EU-US-UK relations for certain if not break them outright. Yet, that didn’t happen – in fact, the opposite thing happened: EU/UK/US all came out against Putin and the NATO appears to be strengthening, not fracturing. Why do you think that is so?

    2. Are you familiar with Andrei Piontkovsky’s suggestion that Putin’s last resort will be nuclear blackmail (e.g., in English: http://www.interpretermag.com/putin-believes-he-can-win-a-war-with-nato-piontkovsky-says/)? I’ve been noticing lately the talk of an imminent nuclear conflict between Russia and the US, actively discussed on Russian social media (of more “intellectual” flavor than, say, Twitter/Facebook, or similar). Should we in the West be worried now?

    3. Are you familiar with a bizarre, yet persistent theory of USSR/Russia being what they call a “crypto-colony” of Britain, i.e. it being an “instrument” with which Britain maintains balance of power in Europe and keeps the US “in check”? Again, this is something discussed in more “intellectual” circles of the Russian social media, with “exposés” of “British connections” of Soviet and now Russian leaders. Through their prism, most of the events in the 20/21st centuries are manifestations of the covert struggle between the hegemon of the past (British Empire, transformed into the Commonwealth, plus USSR/Russia) and the present-day hegemon (USA). What, would you guess, this idea stems from?

    • Thanks, much to discuss there: briefly — I think VVP is playing from a late-Soviet Chekist playbook, the one written by Andropov,and nuclear blackmail cannot by any means be ruled out. I don’t think that UK has any special influence in Moscow, or ever has.

  12. Pierre permalink

    It certainly doesn’t reflect very well on them, on the other hand didn’t you suggest some links between Moscow and the attackers yourself?

    • I speculated in real time, no more. The problems of real-time commentary based on fragmentary information are what they are.

  13. Guy Montag permalink

    It’s too bad that the assailants of the recent Charlie Hebdo massacre are now dead. Otherwise the authorities would’ve arrested and interrogated them, before they are sent to court to be tried. But I am intrigued with the suggestion that the hand of Russian intelligence may be involved somehow with this whole operation, although I’m no conspiracy theorist myself. Such involvement should be further substantiated with credible information to come to any conclusion, but this is more likely to be another lone wolf operation.

  14. Guy Montag permalink

    In a follow up to my previous post, I would like to make a correction. It appears that the Charlie Hebdo massacre wasn’t a lone wolf operation as I’ve originally asserted, but rather a claimed operation by the Yemen branch of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula according to this article: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2903970/Yemen-branch-al-Qaeda-claim-directed-attack-office-Charlie-Hebdo-kosher-grocery-store-killer-said-fighting-Islamic-State-wanted-kill-Jews.html

    I wonder if the Islamic State supporters are competing with their Al Qaeda counterparts for who will stage the most terrorist attacks that may also be the most ‘spectacular’ in the west?

  15. Guthlac permalink

    You may also be interested in this:

    http://www.voltairenet.org/article186408.html

    Meyssan is of course not a avowed Kremlin stooge, but he’s using quite the same rhetoric as the Kremlin-bots
    and media, with additional and not unsurprising references to the dismemberment of Yugoslavia, NATO false
    flag operations and of course the ongoing Ukraine crisis (there’s also a mention of the OAS, which is quite
    funny).

    Also this, the RT-equivalent of the lifenews stuff you described:

    http://rt.com/op-edge/220959-charlie-hebdo-france-shooting/

      • Guthlac permalink

        De rien !

        BTW, Le Pen, as her father, sang her usual self-victimizing tune yesterday concerning the
        demonstrations taking place in Paris tomorrow, to which (according to her) she was not officially invited
        (but to which she could nevertheless go, following some kind of lame political bickering from part of
        the ruling parties). As a result, she will demonstrate in a town run by an FN mayor.

        Also, Lavrov is due to come tomorrow in Paris to take part in those (as Poroshenko,
        Merkel et al.):

        http://itar-tass.com/en/russia/770620

        How surprising!

      • Quelle surprise!

  16. Dimitri permalink

    Three tweets from Vladislav Surkov (Kremlin’s éminence grise) made on Jan. 7:
    “So, Marine Le Pen is the next French president, huh?”
    “While 2 Christian superpowers, Russia and the US, are tearing each other apart because of a corrupt half-state, their real enemy is shooting Paris…”
    “And just yesterday France thought its biggest problem was whether to sell the Mistrals to Russia…”

  17. Andrei Illarionov, former adviser to Vladimir Putin, currently senior fellow at Cato Institute,
    warned in an interview for TV Republika in Warsaw Poland by the end of November 2014 about a possible Arab Spring exploding in Western Europe in 2015 – which would keep the European leaders busy and allow Vladimir Putin to go on with his imperial plans in Ukraine and the rest of Eastern Europe.
    You can watch the interview here (in English).

  18. Reblogged this on Andreas Umland.

  19. Guthlac permalink

    A few additional tidbits:

    Kiselyov-style investigative journalism.
    Did the Americans stage the attacks? Sure they did.

    However, according to this:

    http://www.themoscowtimes.com/opinion/article/russias-foreign-policy-is-full-of-contradictions/514190.html

    RT’s Margarita Simonyan says that the “West” and Russia are in it together.

    I feel safer already!

  20. From Moscow permalink

    Retired general Ivashov says that this terrorist act was organised by USA and Israel to destroy Islamic culture. It was carried out by mercenaries.

    http://www.dynacon.ru/content/articles/4586/

    Kremlin connected Nikolai Starikov speculates that whole thing was organised by Europeans themselves, maybe.

    http://svpressa.ru/politic/news/109612/

  21. The LifeNews holding is like The Daily Mail or The News of the World, plus a TV channel, all in Putin’s service. Russia’s official news channels have also gone tabloid of late. All of them are intended for domestic consumption but Alexey Martynov probably sings the same tune to all interviewers, be it LifeNews or RT or The Nation.

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