The Russian spy case sheds troubling light on who remained in power after communism’s “collapse.”
Frontpage Interview’s guest today is Robert Buchar, an associate professor and author of the Cinematography Program at Columbia College in Chicago. A political refugee from former Czechoslovakia, he is the producer of the documentary, Velvet Hangover, which is about Czech New Wave filmmakers, how they survived the period of “normalization” and their reflections on the so-called Velvet Revolution of 1989. He is the author of the new book, And Reality be Damned… Undoing America: What The Media Didn’t Tell You About the End of the Cold War and Fall of Communism in Europe. The book is based on a documentary feature he is currently working on, The Collapse of Communism: The Untold Story.
FP: Robert Buchar, welcome back to to Frontpage Interview.
In our recent interview, Prisoners of Yuri Andropov, we discussed how the KGB Chairman had developed a paradigm of Soviet deception that still allows Russia to keep the West deluded and psychologically imprisoned.
I would like to continue this discussion with you today, as the recent arrests of Russian spies in the U.S. has alerted us to what we are talking about in terms of Russia’s malicious – and camouflaged -- objectives toward the U.S. and the West.
I think it would be best to start with you telling us a bit about your knowledge about the Velvet Revolution in Czechoslovakia in 1989, as it very much crystallizes the essence of the Soviet threat and deception plan we face today.
Buchar: Thanks Jamie.
To understand the so-called Velvet Revolution in Czechoslovakia we must take a trip back in time to Prague Spring of 1968 -- the period of political liberation led by Alexander Dubcek, a devoted communist raised in the Soviet Union. The movement was crushed by the Soviet-led Warsaw Pact army invasion in September of that year and the period of “normalization” that followed. Many people were punished for their participation in the liberalization process and many communists were expelled from the Party.
It was at that time that the dissident movement for the Velvet Revolution was seeded. According to the intelligence analysis of the CzCP (Communist Party of Czechoslovakia) internal audit of 1969-1970, about 800 CzCP officials were transferred to the so-called “reserves” by expulsion from the Communist Party. These people became instrumental in building the foundation for transformation that took place in 1989. The report also states that approximately 1,120 communists emigrated -- were sent abroad -- to work in opposition movements there and collect intelligence data.
Under KGB supervision, the new “controlled” dissent began and Charter 77 was born. At the end of 1977, it was decided in the meeting between the KGB and StB that some members of UV KSC (Communist Party Central Committee) will be kept out of the picture. Only 12 select members of UV KSC in Czechoslovakia were partially informed about these actions. Out of 217 people who signed Charter 77 declaration in 1977, 156 were former communists. To make a long story short, during 13 years of its existence, Charter 77 never achieved any political influence. It was not anticipated. The purpose was to make Czechoslovak citizens familiar with individuals that otherwise nobody would know anything about in November 1989. The Charter’s membership reached 1,900 members in 1989. The majority of them had no idea about the function or goals of this organization.
FP: And the West was funding this movement?
Buchar: Yes, the dissident movement was financed from the West. During the period 1980-1989, the Charter Foundation paid $376,000 to finance Charter 77 activities in Czechoslovakia and $1,341 million for personal expenses of Charter 77 members. This amount doesn’t include individual awards dissidents received abroad. An additional $6 million was transferred to the personal accounts of Charter 77 leaders. The Charter’s account -- Charter Foundation -- was managed by professor Frantisek Janouch in Sweden. Janouch came from a prominent communist family and his wife had Soviet citizenship. When the account reached millions of dollars and some investment strategy was necessary, money was transferred to Kommerzbank in Hamburg, Germany. Charter 77 was operating all the time with the blessing and under the control of the StB and the KGB -- while financed with the help of the CIA and George Soros. It was managed by 70-85 people, most of them former communists. After the revolution, some 180 of their family members ended up holding high positions in the new government and economy.
When new interior minister Dr. Richard Sacher discovered in March 1990 that some materials regarding activities of Charter 77 and personal files of some of its leaders were compromised, a danger that the connection between Charter and the former communist government could leak out arose. On April 2, 1990 he ordered, on request of President Vaclav Havel, to remove from the archives all documents about the president, members of the cabinet, and members of the Parliament. It was ordered to put these documents in metal containers marked “File Z,” seal it, and to inform the Interior Ministry immediately whenever anyone would make an attempt to seek information about these people. He also appointed Jan Ruml to the position of deputy director at the Interior Ministry. Within six weeks after Ruml’s arrival, 15 thousand personal files disappeared from the archives. Interior Minister Jan Langos was the person who moved so called “File Z” to an undisclosed location. He died in a freak car accident on the strait highway in the middle of nowhere on June 15, 2006.
FP: So what you are essentially saying is that the Velvet Revolution was communist controlled?
Buchar: Yes Jamie. “Velvet Revolutionaries” were all products of communism and communists’ values. All major political parties created after the 1989 revolution were founded and led by former communists. The purpose of the whole process was to develop the new system that will allow a manipulation of society through agents. Velvet democracy made communists’ dream come through. They became rich and powerful, quickly and without any hard work. And, of course, they became legitimate and nobody can punish them for crimes of the past.
The whole so-called “coupon privatization” was a great rip-off on Czech citizens. It was masterminded and executed by fellows from the Institute of Prognosis under the leadership of Dusan Triska and the Civic Democratic Party founder and the current President of the Czech Republic, Vaclav Klaus. The process allowed the transformation of the national property to hands of former communists, StB and KGB agents, and swindlers. Politicians at that time called it “a run ahead of lawyers.” The bill for the privatization that occurred between 1990-2000 reached $75 billion, $15,300 for each taxpayer. (The average annual salary in Czech Republic is $9,000.)
It is important to understand that the Prognostic Institute was a direct copy of the institute of the same name in Moscow founded by KGB General Michail Ljubimov on the order from Yuri Andropov. The institute in Prague was led by Valtr Komarek, the communist since the age of sixteen who studied at Moscow State Institute of Economy. After the revolution he was appointed first Deputy Premier in the new government.
Everything was just about the continuity of power, ability to stay in control. President Vaclav Havel proclaiming, “We are not like them” became the guarantor of this continuity. After all, communists were proclaiming their power, when it will be instituted globally, and that it will last forever. In 1989, communism underwent a metamorphosis --it changed into a power of economic mafia controlling media and politics.
FP: But wait, Vaclav Havel was a great hero and he was imprisoned for his fight for liberty. Surely you are not saying this was all a hoax? And Havel’s presidency helped transform the Czech Republic into multi-party democracy.
Buchar: I would pick the word “ruse” to describe it. Yes, Vaclav Havel was the great hero created by the West, by Western media. As I already said, the whole dissident movement was about making the public aware of certain personalities who would become new leaders in the future. Vaclav Havel was one of them. He was imprisoned five times but he was never sent to really horrible prison as other dissidents, like, for example, Cibulka, Hucin and Vonka, where prisoners were actually fighting for their survival and some of them died there. Havel was living in the prison under different conditions than other inmates. He was allowed to receive gifts, eat special food, smoke cigars, read newspapers and write. He must have known he was being manipulated.
Vaclav Havel had his personal cover file in the 2nd Directorate of StB. He was groomed to be one of the leaders in the future. How much he willingly or unwillingly worked with them and how much he understood what they wanted from him remains the question. Only Russian archives can tell. Documents exist proving that StB worked with Marian Calfa who became the first Premier and who offered the presidency to Vaclav Havel and that the air currier, which intelligence services used between Prague and Moscow, was active until April 1990. That means intelligence information was still flowing to Moscow during Vaclav Havel’s presidency and ended only after information leaked into the media that Interior Minister Sacher was negotiating an agreement with the LGB about future collaboration. In this way, Vaclav Havel became the guarantor of continuity between former communist and new post-communist power.
This is a complicated issue we can discuss for long time. Just as a last point, I would like to mention that to understand the complexity of Havel’s legacy, one has to look at the history of his family going back to the 1920’s. But no matter how hard you dig, you will find nothing about his father’s life after 1945. People may not realize that Vaclav Havel may be a big hero in the West, but he wasn’t, and isn’t, seen such a way back home in the Czech Republic.
FP: Ok, well for sure there are many things we don’t know and in terms of the conniving tricks with which the KGB has, and continues to, deceive the West, we cannot simply just discount these possibilities. But we must also keep in mind that a person can be a hero independent of whether he was “created” to be one or not -- or whether he is considered to be one or not. Also, that a person might get more lenient treatment than someone else might not necessarily take away from the bravery, goals and importance that are intrinsic in that person’s dissident actions. We also have to remember that the KGB has always participated in spreading rumors about those it fears most, and often tries to label them as KGB-tainted in the eyes of anti-communists, to discredit them and to sow division etc.
Having said that, the facts you raise about Havel are obviously troubling and these things, for sure, must be looked into with further inquiry and investigation.
So let’s move on, what happened with the KGB after the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991 and after the developments connected to privatization?
Buchar: Many people believe that KGB ceased to exist or that it doesn’t present any danger anymore. Nothing can be further from the true. There was not a clean up of Lubjanka and the KGB was not dismantled. The KGB is the same today as it was then. It has different names, a couple of different designations that have been changed within the organization, but the same people are in the same buildings doing the same things with the same mindset. And they essentially, incurably, have, in their minds, the same enemy. Despite all the talk of friendship and the mutual fight against terror with the United States, the present regime under Putin is in fact friend of America’s enemies, and its relationship with North Korea, Iran, and other regimes of this sort are perfect indications of their lack of change. George Tenet, the head of the CIA, once characterized the purge of the KGB as window dressing. The Chekist mentality never left.
FP: What are some of the differences between the KGB and FSB?
Buchar: During the Soviet era, the KGB operated under the strict supervision of Communist Party Politburo, which limited its power. Today, FSB powers are without limits. About 80 percent of the top positions in the country are occupied by former KGB or active KGB officers. Russia today became a perfect KGB state. Ronald Reagan believed that communism was incompatible with freedom and was ultimately going to have to be destroyed. That, of course, never came even close to happen.
Both CIA and MI6 admit that FSB/SVR/GRU activities today are higher then ever. The whole foreign policy of the Soviet-bloc states, indeed its whole economic and military might, revolved around the larger Soviet objective of destroying America from within through the use of lies. A couple of years before the fall of the Berlin Wall, the intelligence services of Eastern Block countries initiated a major reorganization.
KGB started to build around the world a system that, like the Nazis after 1943, would activate new generation of agents in the future. For this purpose, enormous amounts of money, some experts estimate $50 billion, were transferred to the West and placed in some 7,000 secret bank accounts in Europe, Latin America, and Cyprus. Money is frozen in accounts and waiting. Nobody dares to investigate. Gorbachev and Lukjanov were overseeing these transfers. Just on Cyprus alone there are 110 Russian corporations and around 2,000 secret bank account owned by Russians.
According to A.Craig Copestas, the author of Bear Hunting With the Politburo, $2,600,000,000 was transferred from Russia to Cyprus between January 1991 and April 1992. On May 29, 1993 there was a meeting in Moscow. The topic was “KGB yesterday, today, and tomorrow.” Former KGB officers testified about the infiltration of political parties during the 1990 election. As a result, 2,756 KGB agents ended up in the Russian legislature. Should we believe that Western world governments are not infiltrated as well? Since the late 90’s Russia sent so many spies to Germany that now it is full of Russian agents. The KGB is also very influential in countries like Finland, Hungary, the Yugoslavian Republics, Bulgaria, Austria, and is also fairly influential in Italy and France.
There is no doubt that KGB elements are continuing their work. For example, when the Soviet regime collapsed, it made no difference whatsoever -- as one can see through their handling of spies or moles within American intelligence. Namely Aldrich Ames, who was not discovered until three years after the fall of the Soviet Union, and he was still actively collaborating with them and was actively exploited by them. Then you have Robert Hanssen in the FBI. It made no difference. They were continuing the fight against the old enemy and it continues to this day – as we see in the latest FBI arrests of Russian spies in America. The Russians today are aiding our enemies in the Middle East, maintaining relationships with them, perhaps two ends of the thing in Iran and its assets in Iraq, in Syria, and in other countries.
FP: Can you speak a bit about the recent arrests of Russian spies in the U.S.? This very much confirms your main thesis.
Buchar: It is a bit relieving to hear, after so many years of total silence, that our counter-intelligence still exists and is somewhat functioning. I believe this latest incident is just a tip of the iceberg. As I mentioned before, Russians always used “revolutions” for sending waves of spies to the West. They did that in 1968 and again during and after Perestroika. Also there is a direct link between the influx of Russian emigrants to the US and the significant increase in organized crime activities here.
Oleg Gordievsky talks in my book about some four hundred KGB agents operating in the United States and our government doing nothing about it. And that number, of course, doesn’t even include “sleepers” and “illegals.” I think we may hear more about cases like this in the future. The problem is that the Russians are able to cover up these connections and create what is called “plausible denial.” By having enough separation between KGB (SVR) and direct illegal activities, it’s very difficult to make a court ordered case on it. And, of course, it’s momentarily politically incorrect even to think of it.
FP: Can you talk a bit about organized crime?
Buchar: Ah yes, the organized crime phenomenon. That took place particularly in the 1990-1991 period. That's when part of the KGB deliberately went into operation with organized crime. It wasn't done because of a lack of control. It was a decision. For the KGB, it became a question of both survival and enrichment. So the fusion with organized crime on one hand and with the administrative apparatus on the other became almost complete. It is a crime syndicate, which in this case is also governmentally controlled and protected. It has become one big criminal division. There should be no doubt that the connections between the KGB and organized crime are systemic and pervasive. So we simply have got to realize that this is the case. We shouldn‘t marvel at it. This is the way it is. The KGB has international connections to organized crime, especially in Europe and the United States.
According to Joseph Douglass, organized crime was a major strategic operation under the control of the KGB beginning in 1955. It was the operation designed globally, more or less for its political effect in terms of increasing their ability to influence politics in countries around the world because of the close connection they saw between organized crime and politics in addition to the connection between organized crime and financial operations, which the Soviets were also very heavily engaged and interested in. This was, of course, heavily influenced by the narcotics mafias because they had a lot of money and they needed to launder it.
As a result, they basically had a cooperative working relationship with global international finance to help manage the whole money laundering process, which, by the mid-60s, was substantial. Organized crime grew so much that within a mere 10 years the small state of Czechoslovakia organized, or was in control of 35 different organized crime groups. By 1968, Soviet intelligence services had penetrated something like 80 percent of the organized crime groups around the world.
FP: Are you serious? This is scary.
Buchar: Yes Jamie. And let me continue painting the scary picture: the Soviets had agents in over 60 percent of the Latin American banks that covered the total cost of organized crime activities and 40 percent of American and Canadian banks. The size of international organized crime was first estimated in 1994 by the World Bank at about 1.2 trillion dollars a year. In 1996-97 a study from the UN identified it as 1.6 trillion dollars per year. An Interagency U.S. study on international crime said that the money laundering component alone was estimated at no less then 900 billion and possibly in excess of 2 trillion dollars a year. Over the same period the interest on investments and holdings alone was estimated at one trillion dollars a year as early as 1994.
FP: So what can be drawn from these figures?
Buchar: It’s really very simple -- there is a massive amount of money out there. And for the KGB, it’s perfectly adequate to achieve all the corruption at high political levels, the highest, and to influence all the elections you want around the world with absolutely no trouble at all. And not only this, but the amount of money is so large that you really don’t care what the precise figures are because it doesn’t really matter. It’s that large.
There was an article published recently in Moscow Times reporting that Russian groups, which include some “300,000 compatriots,” secured their spheres of influence in the world of organized crime globally, even using submarines purchased as “scrap metal” from Ukraine and repaired in Romania for drug trafficking from South America to Mexico.
In Spain, Russian criminal groups control 90 percent of the drug and illegal arms flows. In Poland, there are as many as 20,000 Russian criminals operating in the country. National Prosecutor of Italy concluded that the most profitable activities of Russian criminals abroad is money laundering, with the Russian mafia “laundering” funds in the United States, Marianas, and Guam. In addition, he added, they are charging Mexican drug lords 30 percent for laundering drug profits from sales in the United States.
Vladimir Zhirinovsky, the head of the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia, has stated: “Yes, people from the former Soviet Union really occupy an important position in the international crime community, but many of these people already have been living abroad for a long time and have exchanged Russian passports for foreign ones. They are now more the representatives of West and not of our culture.”
Who would believe that? The point is to retain control, not who you retain control through.
FP: So where does all of this leave us?
Buchar: Well Jamie, I guess the main thing I would tend to go back to is the question: “Is communism dead?"
Most people believe that it is dead. Some people, particularly in the United States, believe that the idea of global socialism is dead. But it is not. If you look at its development in Europe and Latin America, you see that there is now more socialism than ever before. Because of public opinion, or rather, the media, political parties, political movements, parliaments, and institutions are all becoming more and more socialist. The European Parliament is a socialist organization. The Spanish government is a socialist organization. Even the so-called "bourgeois" French government is practically a socialist organization. You can see it in the press, in academia, and in the Universities. There is no sign, even in the United States, that socialism is decreasing. On the contrary, there is even more of it. Unfortunately, the social democratic, Western European idea of socialism is growing.
Communists know how to hide, lie, and wait. There is the prospect of some kind of mix between Communism and Fascismrising up. It’s already happening, this strange symbiosis. In other words, we have more of a change in strategy and tactics on the Russian side and not necessarily any change in goals. But this itself gets no attention, and, in many respects, it may be a stronger threat to us because of this. The United States is facing a major strategic assault on its system. Yet, because of denial and the deceptive activities of countries like Russia and China, it is ill prepared to counter these activities. It will take tremendous leadership. It will take leadership that is willing to divide our national interest from our diplomatic interest. It is about a political mindset and it’s going to require that the United States come to grips with the fact that its bureaucratic system of government is severely broken, severely damaged, and is ultimately working against the national interest of the United States.
The center for “spreading” of communism was transferred from Moscow to the socialists in the West, who are in control of more than many know or want to believe. So, in some way, Russia has a strategy. I don't think that America has a strategy to counter-balance that strategy.
Anatoily Golitsyn wrote in 1984 in his book New Lies For Old:
“The dialectic of this offensive consists of a calculated shift from the old, discredited Soviet practice to a new, ‘liberalized’ model, with a social democratic facade, to realize the communist planners strategy for establishing a United Europe. At the beginning they introduced a variation of the 1968 Czechoslovakia ‘democratization.’ At a later phase they will shift to a variation of the Czechoslovakia takeover of 1948.”
“Those who cannot learn from the history are doomed to repeat it.”
FP: Robert Buchar, thank you for sharing your knowledge with us today.