How Putin Outwitted the Russian Oligarchs

The Rise and Fall of the Russian Oligarchs

Directed by Alexander Gentelev (2006)

Film Review

The Rise and Fall of the Russian Oligarchs focuses on the scandalous period after the collapse of the Soviet Union, in which 100 opportunist oligarchs destroyed the economy of a relatively wealthy country (with the help of the CIA, USAID, the IMF and the World Bank) by seizing $20 billion of assets for roughly a billion dollars. The admitted goal of these Russian oligarchs (and their CIA supporters) was to privatize as many industries as possible behind the scenes before the Communist majority in the Russian parliament could consolidate power and stop them. The documentary’s overarching theme concerns Putin’s rise to power in 1999, which is credited for saving the Russian economy via his shrewd confrontation and defeat of these oligarchs.

This Russian-made documentary focuses on three specific oligarchs: Mikhail Chernoy, who now lives in exile in Israel; Theodore Gusinski, who now lives in exile in Spain, and Boris Beresovksy, who now lives in exile in London. It’s divided into two parts.

Part 1

Part 1 describes how these men used privatization schemes introduce by the last Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev (under Perestroika – 1985-1991) to acquire a variety of Russian assets for pennies on the dollar. With the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, many state-owned factories were threatened with closure, the Russian government initially privatized them through an ill-conceived voucher scheme. Ownership in the factories was broken up into millions of shares in the form of vouchers distributed to all Russian citizens. Because they had no other source of income, many were forced to sell their vouchers cheaply for food. Others were tricked into “investing” them in phoney investment schemes as their owners sold on their hoard of vouchers and pocketed the proceeds.

Chernoy wound up with hundreds of thousands of these vouchers, which he used to buy up Russia’s aluminum industry.

Using western financing, Gusinski would form Russia’s first commercial TV network in 1993. In 1994 Berezovsky (again with the help of western financing) would buy Russian state TV for a few million dollars. Joining with other oligarchs, they skillfully used their media monopoly to promote their privatization agenda.

Part 1 also covers the 1991 attempted coup against Gorbachev (a desperate attempt by the Communists to reverse rapid privatization); Yeltsin’s successful (CIA-backed) coup in 1993, in which he used the military to attack the Russian parliament, effectively dissolving parliament and the constitutional court; and the vast human misery caused by the “shock therapy” Wall Street imposed Russia as they looted their economy. This, in turn, would lead to escalating mass protests demanding a return of the Communists to power.

Part 2

Part 2 focuses on the oligarch (and CIA) financed and controlled election of Boris Yeltsin in 1996 – as well as the direct role the oligarchs assumed in government following Yeltsin’s victory against his more popular Communist opponent.

The Russian economy reached breaking point in 1998. By then, the Russian government had lost so main state-owned industries (75%) that it could no longer pay its debts and Russian banks froze depositors assets.

This, along with Yeltsin’s failing health, would lead to a political crisis, resulting in Vladimir Putin’s appointment as acting president initially supported by the oligarchs – in 1999. Following Putin’s election in 2000, he quickly turned on oligarch supporters, who expected to control his government as they had Yeltsin’s.

Then, as now, he excelled at media manipulation, capitalizing on popular fear of Chechen terrorism to heighten his popularity. He also shrewdly confronted individual oligarchs for tax evasion and other financial crimes during televised cabinet meetings.

This was followed up by security raids and harassment, arrest – and in some cases imprisonment – to encourage numerous oligarchs to relinquish their ill-gotten shares to state control.

In this way, Putin essentially ended Wall Street’s wholesale exploitation of the Russian economy and the Russian people – and Wall Street and the US military-intelligence complex have never forgiven him for it.

The documentary’s main weakness is its failure to explore the major role Wall Street and US intelligence played in the destruction of the Russian economy between 1991-2000. Good background on this at the following links:

The Harvard Boys do Russia

US Meddling in 1996 Russian Elections in Support of Boris Yeltsin

USA Russia

The Plunder of Russia in the 1990s

The Arab Spring: Made in the USA

arabesques image

Arabesque$: Enquête sur le rôle des États-Unis dans les révoltes arabes

(Investigation into the US Role in the Arab Uprisings)

by Ahmed Bensaada

Investig’Action (2015)

(in French)

Book Review

Arabesque$, an update of Ahmed Bensaada’s 2011 book L’Arabesque Américaine, concerns the US government role in instigating, funding and coordinating the Arab Spring “revolutions.” Obviously most of this history has been carefully suppressed by the western media.

The new book devotes much more attention to the personalities leading the 2011 uprisings. Some openly admitted to receiving CIA funding. Others had no idea because it was deliberately concealed from them. A few (in Egypt and Syria) were officially charged with espionage. In Egypt, seven sought refuge in the US embassy in Cairo and had to be evacuated by the State Department.

Democracy: America’s Biggest Export

According to Bensaada, the MENA (Middle East and North Africa) Arab Spring revolutions have four unique features in common:

1. None were spontaneous – all required careful and lengthy (5+ years) planning, by the State Department, CIA pass through foundations, George Soros, and the pro-Israel lobby.*.
2. All focused exclusively on removing reviled despots without replacing the autocratic power structure that kept them in power.
3. No Arab Spring protests made any reference whatsoever to powerful anti-US sentiment over Palestine and Iraq
4. All the instigators of Arab Spring uprisings were middle class, well educated youth who mysteriously vanished after 2011.

Nonviolent Regime Change

Bensaada begins by introducing non-violent guru Gene Sharp (see The CIA and Nonviolence), his links with the Pentagon and US intelligence, and his role, as director of the Albert Einstein Institution, in the “color” revolutions** in Eastern Europe and the attempted coup against Hugo Chavez in 2002.

The US goal in the Arab Spring revolutions was to replace unpopular despotic dictators while taking care to maintain the autocratic US-friendly infrastructure that had brought them to power. All initially followed the nonviolent precepts Sharp outlines in his 1994 book From Dictatorship to Democracy. In Libya, Syria and Yemen, the US and their allies were clearly prepared to introduce paid mercenaries when their Sharpian “revolutions” failed to produce regime change.

Follow the Money

Relying mainly on Wikileaks cables and the websites of key CIA pass through foundations (which he reproduces in the appendix), Bensaada methodically lists every State Department conference and workshop the Arab Spring heroes attended, the dollar amounts spent on them by the State Department and key “democracy” promoting foundations,*** the specific involvement of Google, Facebook, Twitter and Obama’s 2008 Internet campaign team in training Arab Spring cyperactivists in encryption technologies and social media skills, US embassy visits, and direct encounters with Hillary Clinton,  Condoleezza Rice, John McCain, Barack Obama and Serbian trainers from CANVAS (the CIA-backed organization that overthrew Slobodan Milosevic in 2000).

Bensaada focuses most heavily on the Tahrir Square uprising in Egypt. The Washington Post has estimated approximately 10,000 Egyptians took part in NED and USAID training in social media and nonviolent organizing techniques. For me the most astonishing information in this chapter concerned the role of an Egyptian exile (a former Egyptian policeman named Omar Afifi Suleiman) in coordinating the Tahrir Square protests from his office in Washington DC. According to Wikileaks, NED paid Suleiman a yearly stipend of $200,000+ between 2008-2011.

When Nonviolence Fails

Arabesques$ devotes far more attention to Libya, Syria and Yemen than Bensaada’s first book.

In the section on Libyia, Bensaada zeroes in on eleven key US assets who engineered the overthrow of Gaddafi. Some participated in the same State Department trainings as the Middle East opposition activists and instigated nonviolent Facebook and Twitter protests to coincide with the 2011 uprisings in Tunisian and Egypt. Others, in exile, underwent guerrilla training sponsored by the CIA, Mossad, Chad and Saudi Arabia. A few months after Kaddafi’s assassination, some of these same militants would lead Islamic militias attempting to overthrow Assad in Syria.

Between 2005 and 2010, the State Department funneled $12 million to opposition groups opposed to Assad. The US also financed Syrian exiles in Britain to start an anti-government cable TV channel they beamed into Syria.

In the section on Syria, Bensaada focuses on a handful of Syrian opposition activists who received free US training in cyberactivism and nonviolent resistance beginning in 2006. One, Ausama Monajed, is featured in the 2011 film How to Start a Revolution about his visit with Gene Sharp in 2006. Monajed and others worked closely with the US embassy, funded by the Middle East Partnership Initiative (MEPI). This is a State Department program that operates in countries (such as Libya and Syria) where USAID is banned.

In February 2011, these groups posted a call on Twitter and Facebook for a Day of Rage. Nothing happened. When Sharpian techniques failed to produce a sizable nonviolent uprising, as in Libya, they and their allies (Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Qatar and Jordan) were all set up to introduce Islamic mercenaries (many directly from Libya) to declare war on the Assad regime.


*I was astonished to learn that Forum Fikra, a forum for Arab activists working against authoritarian governments, was mainly funded by the Nathan and Esther K Wagner Family Foundation. The latter also funds numerous pro-Israel groups and projects, as well as the Washington Institute for Near East policy (a pro-Israel group with close ties to AIPAC).

**The color revolutions were CIA-instigated uprisings that replaced democratically elected pro-Russian governments with equally autocratic governments more friendly to US corporate interests:

Serbia (2000) – Bulldozer Revolution
Georgia (2002) – Rose Revolution
Ukraine (2004) – Orange Revolution
Kyrgyzstan (2005) – Tulip Revolution

***Democracy promoting foundations (as used here, “democracy” is synonymous with capitalism, ie favorable to the interests of US investors). Here are seven of the main ones involved in funding and training Arab Spring activists:
USAID (US Agency for International Development) – State Department agency charged with economic development and humanitarian aid with a long history of financing destabilization activities, especially in Latin America.
NED (National Endowment for Democracy) – national organization supported by State Department and CIA funding dedicated to the promotion of democratic institutions throughout the world, primary funder of IRI and NDI.
IRI (International Republican Institute) – democracy promoting organization linked with the Republican Party, currently chaired by Senator John McCain and funded by NED.
NDI (National Democratic Institute for International Affairs) – democracy promoting organization linked with the Democratic Party, currently chaired by Madeline Albright and funded by NED.
OSI (Open Society Institute) – founded by George Soros in 1993 to help fund color revolutions in Eastern Europe. Also contributed major funding to Arab Spring revolutions.
• Freedom House – US organization that supports nonviolent citizens initiatives in societies were liberty is denied or threatened, financed by USAID, NED and the Soros Foundation.
CANVAS (Center for Applied Non Violent Action and Strategies) – center originally founded by the Serbian activists of Otpor who the US funded and trained to over throw Slobodan Milosevic and who were instrumental in training Arab Spring activists. Funded by Freedom House, IRI and George Soros.

Originally published in Dissident Voice

 

The CIA Role in the Arab Spring

arabesque americaine

(more from my research for A Rebel Comes of Age)

L’Arabesque Americaine (French edition – not available in English yet)

by Ahmed Bensaada (2011 Michel Brule)

Book Review

The current military junta in Egypt supports growing suspicions that the Arab Spring revolutions of 2011 were simply “color revolutions” – like the so-called “color revolutions” George Soros and CIA-linked foundations orchestrated in eastern Europe a decade ago.

Despite a few autocratic dictators being deposed, in each country the rich keep getting richer, the poor keep getting poorer, and US corporate and foreign policy interests continue to take precedence over labor rights and public welfare.

In Arabesque Americaine , Ahmed Bensada assembles a wealth of data  suggesting that the “Arab Spring” was first and foremost a destabilization/regime change operation, funded and orchestrated by the CIA, State Department and historic CIA-funded foundations. His book is unique in that it provides a carefully researched and referenced account of each of the “democracy exporting” foundations, along with the totals it gave each country and group in 2009.

Bensaada, a French Canadian who was born and received his early education in Algeria, devotes special attention to the Egyptian revolution – and the role played by Google’s star employee Gael Ghonem.

A brief outline of the topics covered:

Chapter 1 — the secret American funding and orchestration of the so-called “color revolutions” in Eastern Europe , with particular focus on Serbia (2000), Georgia (2003), Ukraine (2004) and Kyrghizistan (2005). In each case, pro-Soviet governments were overthrown by mobilizing disaffected, pro-Western young people — financed by the CIA, State Department, and Pentagon linked “democracy manipulating” foundations. The latter include National Endowment for Democracy (NED), National Democratic Institute for International Affairs (NDI), the International Republic Institute (IRI),Freedom House (FH), the Albert Einstein Institution, the Center for Non Violent Action and Strategies (CANVAS), the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) — and George Soros’ Open Society Institute (OSI). Several “color revolution” veterans were used to help organize Arab Spring protests. The uncanny similarity in protest symbolism (see video below) was no coincidence.

Chapter 2 — detailed discussion of the above think tanks and foundations, which includes a description of the their government funding, as well as the subversive activities (espionage, election rigging, an popular destablization activities) they have promoted in countries like Venezuela, Bolivia, Cuba and Iran that oppose America’s pro-corporate agenda.

Chapter 3 — the promotion, by the State Department and these think tanks and foundations, of new technologies in Middle East destabilization campaigns. The Tor Project, developed by Google, the US Naval Research Lab and State Department-linked Human Rights Watch, is an example. Tor supposedly permits anonymous navigation of the Internet in countries (with the exception of the US) with heavy Internet censorship. Bensaada also explores the role of Movements.org and the Alliance of Youth Movements in promoting social media to international youth activists. Movements.org is run by Jared Cohen, the director of Google Ideas and a former adviser to both Condolizza Rice and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and Jason Libman, another Google employee formerly employed by both the State Department and the Pentagon. AYM executive director David Nassar was formerly employed by NDI, USAID and IRI. In 2008 the State Department brought future Arab Spring activists to the US to teach them to use Facebook and Twitter, with the assistance of Sherif Mansour from Freedom House, Larry Diamond from NED, and national security adviser Shaarik Zafar.

Chapter 4 — focuses on Egypt, with particular attention to the role played by Google employee Gael Ghonem. Ghonem, who was given paid leave from his job to participate in the Tahrir Square uprising, created the Facebook page “We are all Mohamed Bouazizi” after the Tunisian fruit seller set himself on fire. In 2009, Ghonem also set up a Facebook page for Egyptian exile Mohammed El-Baradei. This was in advance of El-Baradei’s February 2010 Cairo visit to explore. The visit, according to Wikileaks cables, was organized through the US embassy. This was a full year before the Tahrir Square protests.

Chapter 5 — the pro-democracy organizations in other Arab countries (Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Palestine, Tunisia, Yemen, and Syria) financed by the State Department and specific “democracy manipulating” foundations.

Chapter 6 — summation and analysis that explores the ethical dilemma faced by many Egyptian activists on learning the non-violent manuals they were using were the creation of CIA and State Department Funded think tanks and Foundations.

Below a video illustration of the “color revolution” symbols that were incorporated into the Arab Spring revolutions.

***

Rebel cover

In A Rebel Comes of Age, seventeen-year-old Angela Jones and four other homeless teenagers occupy a vacant commercial building owned by Bank of America. The adventure turns deadly serious when the bank obtains a court order evicting them. Ange faces the most serious crisis of her life when the other residents decide to use firearms against the police SWAT team.

$3.99 ebook available (in all formats) from Smashwords:

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/361351

How the CIA Promotes Nonviolence

(More from my research for A Rebel Comes of Age)

As Ward Churchill (in Pacifism as Pathology) and Peter Gelderloos (in How Nonviolence Protects the State) suggest, white middle class activists have very complex psychological reasons for their dogmatic attitude towards political violence. However it’s also important to look at the role played by the US government and the corporate elite in institutionalizing the nonviolent movement.

The International Center for Nonviolent Conflict (ICNC)

In 2007, Australian journalist and research Michael Barker published a fascinating expose in Green Left Weeklys regarding the role played by the International Center for Nonviolent Conflict (ICNC) and similar Left Gatekeeping Foundations* in promoting a de facto taboo against violent protest in North America.

The role the ICNC and sister foundations have played in galvanizing the “color” revolutions in the Eastern Europe, the Philippines, Nicaragua, Chile, Haiti (and more recently the Middle East and North Africa) was first identified in William I. Robinson’s groundbreaking 2006 Promoting Polyarchy. Robinson defines “polyarchy” as “low intensity democracy” – a form of government that replaces violent coercive control with the type of ideological control (i.e. brainwashing) that Noam Chomsky describes in Manufacturing Consent.

In Promoting Polyarchy, Robinson describes how Church Committee reforms of the late seventies forced the CIA to cut back on many of their more repressive covert activities (i.e. domestic spying and clandestine assassination). Their response, in 1984, was to create the National Endowment for Democracy. NED works closely with the CIA, the US Agency for International Development (USAID is another well-documented conduit for CIA funding), and other “democracy manipulating” foundations, such as US Institute for Peace, the Albert Einstein Institute, the Arlington Institute, Freedom House and the International Republican Institute.

Robinson also provides detailed outlines how these US-based “democracy manipulating organizations” orchestrated “non-violent” revolutions in the Philippines and Chile to prevent genuinely democratic governments from coming to power. As well as sabotaging democratically elected governments in Nicaragua and Haiti (where they caused the ouster of the Sandinista government and the populist priest Jean Bastion Aristide).

According to Robinson, the Left Gatekeepers deliberately infiltrate and “channel” (i.e. co-opt) the genuine mass movements that form naturally in countries dominated by repressive dictators. The goal is to make sure they don’t go too far in demanding economic rights (for example, labor rights or restrictions on foreign investment) that might hurt the interests of multinational corporations.

The ICNC’s PBS Documentary

Barker’s work goes even further than Robinson’s in examining the ICNC’s efforts to influence the US progressive movement. Specifically Barker points to the phenomenal influence of the 2000 book and PBS documentary (and now computer game) A Force More Powerful: A Century of Nonviolent Change.

The ICNC is naturally defensive about research by Barker and others linking them to the NED and other “democracy manipulating” foundations. Their website devotes an entire page Setting the Record Straight to refuting these studies. Their argument, that they receive no NED or government funding, is totally factual. The ICNC receives all their funding from co-founder Peter Ackerman, a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, and his wife Joanne Leedom-Ackerman. Ackerman earned his fortune as a specialist in leveraged buyouts, the second highest paid in Wall Street history (Michael Milken made more but went to jail for it.)

Why Did the ICNC Seek to Oust Hugo Chavez?

Barker refers to the argument over the source of their funding as whitewashing, especially given the collaboration between the ICNC and the Albert Einstein Institution in training the conservative Venezuelan opposition who fronted the 2002 coup against democratically elected Hugo Chavez.

As Barker points out, both Ackerman and his wife and ICNC co-founder Jack Duvall have a long history of working for and with the other “democracy promoting” foundations. In addition many of the vice presidents and other officers involved in running the ICNC have links to US or foreign military/intelligence operations or other “democracy promoting” foundations.

This is clear from the following diagrams summarizing the Ackermans’ links to “democracy manipulating” and military intelligence entities:

Groups to which Peter Ackerman is connected (past and present) 

from http://quotha.net/node/1606)

Peter_Ackerman_chartGroups to which Joanne Ackerman is connected (past and present)

from http://quotha.net/node/1606):

Joanne_Ackerman_chart

Jack Duvall, the other ICNC co-founder, has similar intelligence and “democracy manipulating” links. According to Sourcewatch, he helped former CIA director James Woolsey co-founded the The Arlington Institute. The latter is a non-profit intelligence gathering think tank which boasts:

“We will be able to anticipate the future, thanks to the interconnection of all information to do with you. Tomorrow we shall know everything about you.” [link]

More on the background of other ICNC officers at the Nonviolent Military Industrial Complex and The Velvet Slipper and the Military-Peace Complex

*Left Gatekeeping Foundations oundations are non-profit foundations seeking to limit the acceptable range of leftist debate and political activity within the US and in client states. They usually receive most or all of their funding from the CIA, Pentagon, State Department and/or right wing think tanks and foundations. See Does the CIA Fund Both the Right and the Left and The Cointelpro Role of Left Gatekeeping Foundations

***

Rebel cover

In A Rebel Comes of Age, seventeen-year-old Angela Jones and four other homeless teenagers occupy a vacant commercial building owned by Bank of America. The adventure turns deadly serious when the bank obtains a court order evicting them. Ange faces the most serious crisis of her life when the other residents decide to use firearms against the police SWAT team.

$3.99 ebook available (in all formats) from Smashwords:

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/361351