I was struck by a recent headline that read “Most Russians Believe USA Wants to Turn Russia into Second-Rate Country.” If it were truly America’s goal to diminish, debase, and ultimately destroy Russia, then how, indeed, would Washington go about it? With that question in mind, consider the following story.
The text below, which appears to date from early 2015, seems to be an e-mail between two U.S. government officials identified only by pseudonyms, presumably codenames. Its authenticity cannot be confirmed; readers should judge for themselves how closely it tracks with reality.
My Dear Wormwood,
As you prepare to draft the annual Report to Congress on the Destruction of Russia, I wanted to outline for you the most significant accomplishments of our Interagency Working Group for the Destruction of Russia over the past year. A general point worth emphasizing to Congress is that, in the age of Wikileaks, we’ve managed to keep our work secret. True, many Russians believe that the United States is out to destroy their country. But only a handful of Russian patriots has begun to suspect just how we’re going about it.
Thanks to our activities, Russia is careening toward total collapse. Domestically, corruption continues unabated, and Russia’s appalling business reputation acts both as a brake on foreign investment and a stimulus to capital flight. The sclerosis created by “managed democracy” appears effectively irreversible.
The big news for 2014, of course, was the invasion of Ukraine. While the war is in one sense the logical culmination of years of patient work by our agents in Russia, the suddenness and scale of events have presented us with an unimagined windfall. The thoroughgoing alienation of a kindred nation, a quantum leap in the growth of Moscow’s burden of empire, the unsustainable militarization of Russia, estrangement from Europe and most of the post-Soviet space, repeated body blows to Russia’s sputtering economy—really, what’s not to love? The crowning touch is that our people in Russia have contrived to put the country in a hopeless no-win situation. Moscow has blown any chance of getting Ukraine to align with Russia voluntarily, while Russia lacks the wherewithal to subdue and occupy Ukraine by force but is much too deeply invested in the conflict to cut its losses and get out. The Donbass is a festering wound that threatens to infect the entire Russian body politic. High-fives all around!
The war in Ukraine, of course, is just a part of our broader campaign throughout the post-Soviet space. “Our guys” have been trumpeting the idea of a Eurasian Union, which Russia’s neighbors can only see as a threat to their sovereignty and an attempt to use them as fodder for Russia’s geopolitical machinations. “Gas wars”, “milk wars”, or “phytosanitary” restrictions, ostensibly adopted to “persuade” reluctant states to join the Eurasian Union, are of course having the opposite effect. In addition, our agents of influence have ensured that the average CIS guest worker in Russia will be ruthlessly exploited by his employer, shaken down by the police, and threatened by racist thugs. Indeed, Moscow’s migration policy is tailor-made to inflict maximum damage—it does not seriously inhibit immigration of CIS guest workers, but ensures that the immigrants and their co-nationals at home develop the worst possible impression of Russia. Over time, these two phenomena—ham-handed pressure for Eurasian integration combined with mistreatment of CIS guest workers—will alienate both elites and ordinary people throughout Russia’s “near abroad.” With a little help from our friends in Russia, we can look forward even to Belarus’ eventual accession to NATO. Moreover, the massive energy subsidies needed to entice reluctant neighbors and keep them in the Eurasian Union will hasten Russia’s bankruptcy.
Outside the post-Soviet space, our people have directed Russia further down the blind alley of unquestioning support for the most odious regimes around the world. In Syria the Russians have firmly lashed themselves to the mast of Assad’s ship, and. in so doing, Russia has outraged and alienated Europe and much of the Arab world. It is fitting that Russian analysts are calling for Moscow to defend its final stronghold in the Middle East. Thanks to the work of our agents of influence, Syria is set to become Russia’s Last Stand in the region. Even the short-term survival of the Assad regime only works to deepen the bitterness the Sunni majority feels toward Russia. Indeed, Russia’s identification with Shi’a forces—Iran, Assad, and Hizballah—ensures the wider alienation of Russia from the 90 percent of the world’s Muslims who are Sunni. As we’ve already seen in Libya, the inevitable collapse of Assad and other retrograde client states elsewhere will ultimately deprive Russia of the billions of dollars it invested there, and leave Moscow increasingly isolated and disliked internationally.
And don’t forget to mention the salutary role of “our guys” in raising alarm about America’s supposed greed for Russia’s natural resources. We continue to reap enormous dividends from our disinformation efforts, especially the phony quotation of Madeleine Albright supposedly casting a lustful eye at the riches of Siberia. We’re incredibly fortunate that Russian officials and journalists can’t be bothered to verify their sources, since even the most basic fact-check would have revealed the quote as fraudulent! But then, amazingly few Russians realize that hydrocarbons are simply commodities that can be bought any number of places at prices set by the market; in this respect, a barrel of oil is no different from a can of soup. True, the enormous revenues generated by the hydrocarbons it sells us could help remedy many of Russia’s ills. Fortunately, our agents of influence have ensured that most of this revenue is stolen, squandered, or returned to the West via capital flight, shoring up our banks and our property markets. The irony is sweet—not only do we get Russia’s hydrocarbons, but most of the money we pay for them comes back to us as well! Why, indeed, would we need to take what Russia is giving us already?
But the most delicious irony is that, while Russians obsess about hydrocarbons, we’re quietly plundering Russia’s true treasure: her human capital. Unlike oil, talented people cannot simply be bought. Being patriots, most educated Russians would prefer to realize their potential in their homeland, for the good of Russia. But thanks to the efforts of our agents, the most gifted Russians are increasingly driven to seek their fortune in the West. The value to us of Russia’s brain drain is incalculable and dwarfs whatever benefit we could gain even from outright ownership of Russia’s hydrocarbons.
As you know, all our efforts nearly came to naught several years ago, when something like an “orange” revolution threatened to undo years of work. Had our people in Russia lost their heads, all might have come to nothing. However, they kept their cool and hit upon a strategy of unparalleled genius: anti- Americanism. By whipping up hatred of America for supposedly opposing Russian policy, they completely blinded Russians to the fact that we’ve actually been guiding Russian policy. Moreover, our agents of influence hit upon a brilliant stratagem to silence those Russians who refused to fall for this ruse. They have ensured that most Russians currently mistake knee-jerk great-power chauvinism for patriotism, while genuine Russian patriots, who strive for justice and a better life for their countrymen, are reviled as traitors. The Russian masses are scrambling like lemmings toward the cliff’s edge, while a few of their saddened, embittered compatriots pack their bags and quietly leave the country. At the rate things are going, I daresay that in a few more years our work will be complete, and we can wind up the Committee and head off to a well-deserved retirement.
Oh, and don’t forget to remind Congress that all these achievements come at no cost to the American taxpayer. Our agents in Russia continue to do our bidding for free!