Last week the media reported with some regret that August had passed without any considerable shocks.
However, some shocks may take place in September, since this is the customary month for the start of propaganda wars. Izvestia correspondent Maxim Sokolov notes that fortunately “it is difficult to arrange real disasters by artificial methods, since technical difficulties and the Criminal Code prevent it.” Meanwhile, nothing can hinder the anticipated start of the “production of virtual disasters” just because they are virtual.
Sokolov considers that the series of such events has started already, with the launch of a book by “Boris Berezovsky supporters” historian Felshtinsky and special services Colonel Litvinenko.
The book is devoted to the unofficial alternative explanation of the terrorist acts in Moscow in 1999. The authors of the book argue for the following chain of events: explosions in Moscow led to anti-Chechen hysteria in society, which, in turn, caused the start of the second Chechen campaign, the growth of Putin’s approval rating as Yeltsin’s successor after his promise to “wipe out the Chechen terrorists in their toilets”, and Putin’s consequent victory in the presidential election.
However, Sokolov notes that despite the expectations of the authors, “the book has not caused a sensation or an outburst of popular anger.” According to Sokolov, this book has not produced any effect in society – not just because this explanation is poorly grounded, but also because people have long been biased against the creators of this intrigue. Sokolov even states that any reports from these people cause “inexplicable disdain” among the public.
The self-esteem of the disfavored tycoon was injured by this fact and he launched another campaign. This time he started a rumor about the government’s plans to exchange the people’s hard currency savings for so-called “universal freely convertible debit checks.” According to Berezovsky and his supporters, the Russian government has started to spread rumors of an upcoming devaluation of the dollar and a ban on circulation of dollars in Russia, hoping that people would rush to exchange their dollars for rubles. According to these sources, the president has even set the target figure: $9-11 billion.
Thus, the press connects this issue with Berezovsky’s name as well.
At the same time, it is in fashion now to attribute any significant event in Russia either to Berezovsky’s intrigues or intrigues against him.
For instance, some media assert that Yevgeny Primakov’s resignation as leader of the Fatherland-All Russia (FAR) Duma faction was connected with the fact that Fatherland intends to merge with Unity – and Primakov does not want to deal with the pro-presidential party.
Nobody doubts that Primakov’s political career is unlikely to come to an end, and the media is looking forward to his new appointment.
For instance, Vladimir Zhirinovsky has said that Primakov may well be appointed speaker of the Federation Council, since Oryol Governor Yegor Stroev intends to leave this position soon. It is now impossible to combine the post of governor with a place in the Federation Council, but Stroev intends to run for re-election in the Oryol Region.
Meanwhile, Rossiiskaya Gazeta notes that Primakov is the appropriate figure for the upper house.
However, Vedomosti says, citing a source to the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs (RUIE), that Primakov is getting ready for some special mission in Belarus. The trip was allegedly planned by the Kremlin long ago. It is aimed at preventing a repetition of the Yugoslavian scenario in Minsk. As is known, after the publication of the results of the presidential election in Yugoslavia in 2000 that were not admitted by the opposition, crowds of deceived voters overthrew Milosevic’s government. Vedomosti states that since Primakov has a rich experience of working in various hot spots, and so this mission is just for him.
However, most Russian media believe that Primakov may be appointed Vladimir Putin’s special envoy for the Middle East for participation in the Arab-Israeli conflict that it going on there.
In any case, Berezovsky-friendly Nezavisimaya Gazeta enthusiastically supports this supposition. Nezavisimaya Gazeta also does not rule out that Primakov may be included in the president’s retinue. Nezavisimaya Gazeta quotes Director of the Institute for Regional and Applied Politics Valery Khomyakov: “Primakov has a lot of marvelous qualities that are not connected with public politics. This intellectual abilities might serve the president, the government, and the country in general.” Khomyakov notes that “Primakov had not remembered his talents for the past two years until recently.”
Khomyakov is sure that Primakov would be an ideal presidential adviser on the Middle East. The title of the article containing these comments is a bit nervous: “Primakov Wants To Enter the Kremlin.”
The Communists have unambiguously explained this desire of Berezovsky’s newspaper to put Primakov away as far from Russia as possible. Editor-in-Chief of the weekly Slovo Viktor Linnik has said in his article, “Old spy Primakov has received a special task from the president. He is commissioned to combat Berezovsky.”
In Linnik’s opinion, the press has not heeded a very important announcement recently made by Primakov. In his interview to Oleg Poptsov he said, “The fight against corruption has not actually started in Russia yet.” Linnik is convinced that this phrase explains how the president intends to use Primakov’s extraordinary talents.
Linnik notes that when Primakov was prime minister, he started a large-scale war against corruption and Berezovsky as the corruption incarnate. As is known, Berezovsky won the war then: Primakov had to give up the idea of running in the presidential election, although his chances were high.
Linnik states that Berezovsky has started a new intensive attack, and judging from a number of publications in the Western press, “Berezovsky’s opposition seeds fall into the fertile soil.” Therefore, Linnik thinks it necessary to seriously counteract Berezovsky’s efforts.
Linnik stresses that only a large-scale figure can counteract Berezovsky. According to him, any success in this field “would be a glorious addition to Primakov’s outstanding political career.”
Meanwhile, the newspaper of radical communists Zavtra reports, referring to some sources in Paris, that all through the summer the Paris headquarters of Interpol was waiting for some materials proving that Berezovsky was engaged in money laundering and illegally deposited money in foreign banks. However, Interpol failed to get any such materials. Zavtra interpreted this fact as follows: “there is an intensive secret dialogue between Berezovsky and the Kremlin,” and the leakage of compromising materials into the press “are merely minor parts of this dialogue.”
As for the publication of some chapters from the book by Litvinenko and Felshtinsky in the newspaper Novaya Gazeta, Editor-in-Chief of Zavtra Alexander Prokhanov is sure about its true authors. He says, “Although this book looks like a book written by a former intelligence employee who has emigrated and thus avoided justice and who supports Berezovsky, in reality the book was written by Berezovsky himself together with the CIA.” Prokhanov also notes that it is Berezovsky who led Putin to the Kremlin, since it is Berezovsky who was the first to say that a quite unknown person would come to the Kremlin. “It is Berezovsky who used the cudgel called Dorenko to beat Primakov, and it is Berezovsky who made Unity, a party of people who are quite identical like beer caps,” Prokhanov says.
Prokhanov believes that this book is “a missile thrown right into the president’s office in he Kremlin, and if the Kremlin’s reaction to this missile is silence, this will mean that the missile has killed the president.” According to him, this silence only proves the “intellectual helplessness of the federal Security Service (FSB), which is only able to arrest Limonov, and Putin’s PR services, who can only prevent patriotic periodicals from participating in press conferences.” Prokhanov comes to the conclusion that this silence proves that the government does not have any serious arguments to resist Berezovsky.
Prokhanov believes that information wars currently conducted against Russia require “adequate cultural potential, boldness, and energy, whereas the Kremlin lacks these qualities.”
Former director of the FSB department engaged in combating activities of criminal organizations Yevgeny Khokholkov has expressed his astonishment about the reaction of Russian special services to the publication in Novaya Gazeta, although the authors of the scandalous book “are accusing special services of mass murders.”
Khokholkov noted in his interview to Korzhakov’s newspaper Stringer that “the absence of Patrushev’s reaction to Berezovsky’s actions may be interpreted as the admission of the defeat.”
At the same time, according to Stringer, Litvinenko has nothing to do with this book. Stringer asserts that Yuri Felshtinsky, one of the most notorious Soviet dissidents, wrote this book alone. As for Litvinenko, “he only consented to the co-authorship to make the book sound more authentic.” According to the newspaper, there is no doubt that the book was ordered by Berezovsky. The article in Stringer is called “Berezovsky Exploding Russia.”
Meanwhile, the newspaper asserts that Berezovsky, together with Yevgeny Kiselev and Tatiana Koshkareva, has worked out a plan of an attack on Putin scheduled for this autumn. They have chosen three directions of this attack. Their first argument against Putin will be his alleged political ineptitude demonstrated by his attempts to make Russia a “semi-liberal country” and the factual “occupation of the country’s economy by new oligarchs from St. Petersburg.”
The second argument against the president is that being a former agent of KGB and FSB, he has arranged the total control of the FSB over the country and lets special services violate human rights.”
The third direction of the fight is connected with the personal compromising materials against Putin. He will be accused of “double morals”: “although he is calling for moderation, he lives prosperously himself, buying new residences here and there and visiting luxurious mountain-skiing resorts.”
Thus, Stringer views the publication in Novaya Gazeta as the start of the war.
However, Director of the Political Study Institute Sergei Markov says in Literaturnaya Gazeta that this is not the war yet but just a PR provocation. “Information wars are usually conducted between echeloned armies. In this case the warring groups have distinct opposite aims.” Markov explains that in this case each of the sides tries to gain its aims by compromising its opponent for the public opinion. And in this case “there are only feeble attacks of one of the sides, although these attacks are rather aggressive.” Sergei Markov does not understand what aims Berezovsky is trying to gain. Besides, he thinks that there is no point to worry for Putin’s rating, since despite Berezovsky’s efforts, officers of special services “are just in love with Putin and are ready to sacrifice their lives for his policy.”
Berezovsky’s announcements about the impending end of Putin’s presidency do not sound noteworthy against this background. In Markov’s opinion, this campaign will result in some new problems for Berezovsky about law enforcement agencies. However, Markov also thinks that the Kremlin will take Berezovsky’s plans into account and elaborate a strategy of defense against them and counterattacking.
Perhaps one of the instances of this defense is the government’s current attempts to increase the support of the public opinion and civil society.
The newspaper Vremya Novostei reports that the so-called Civil Forum is to take place in autumn. This forum will be handled by Deputy Chief of the Presidential Administration Vyacheslav Surkov, and Gleb Pavlovsky will be chairman of its organization committee. A number of the largest civil organizations having a long experience of work, such as Memorial, the Civil Cooperation, the Common Cause, the Civil Assemble, and some others will take part in this forum.
Until recently the Kremlin had cooperated only with minor but government-friendly structures, but this time the organizers of the forum have come to the conclusion that cooperation with these organizations will not solve topical problems of today. Therefore, the staff of the organization committee of the upcoming forum will be extended. Human rights advocates think that the main task of the upcoming forum is to determine “the basic points of agreement and disagreement between the government and the society.” Meanwhile, the government seems to have a different opinion about the aims of this forum.
For instance, the newspaper Demokraticheskii Vybor believes that “the genius idea of the forum should create the semblance of Putin’s being a real liberal. In other words, the main aim of the forum will be to mobilize and use the energy of the society for the Kremlin’s needs.”
The newspaper explains that Pavlovsky’s initiative is aimed at reduction of the influence of the two disfavored media magnates, Berezovsky and Gusinsky. The main efforts in this case will be focused on combating Berezovsky, who has announced his intention to fund the opposition and has given some money to Memorial and the private museum of Andrei Sakharov.
There are also a lot of curious PR escapades connected with Berezovsky. For instance, the weekly Vek, usually being devoted to the government and aggressive toward its opponents, has said that the “anti-capitalist march of the youth from Ramenskoe to Moscow” scheduled for September 14-15 may well be secretly financed by Berezovsky. Otherwise, it is not clear why even the youth commission of the docile Communist Party (CPRF) intends to take part in this action together with Limonov’s National-Bolshevists and the military communist youth organization Avant-garde.
According to rumors, Berezovsky feels free about contacts with Russian nationalists and left radicals. He is even said to have funded the Russian Communist Workers’ Party.
In any case, as Vek has noted, “the support of left radicals corresponds to Berezovsky’s strategy of destabilization of the political situation in Russia.”
The weekly Argumenty i Fakty is skeptical about Berezovsky’s successes in the cause of creating a political party opposed to the government.
Despite Berezovsky’s announcements about his intensive work on creating such a party, nobody knows anything definite about this structure. Argumenty i Fakty notes that communists will never enter this party, as well as representatives of the liberal intelligentsia, who support the Union of Right Forces (URF). Besides, the weekly believes that after the scandal surrounding Media-Most, when it turned out that “tycoons use the ‘conscience of the nation’ in their own game and then throw it away as a waste,” the intelligentsia became much more cautious.
Argumenty i Fakty considers that there is not much to do for Berezovsky in the West. “Russian tycoons cannot make money in the West, having made their capital by means of shadow finance schemes or export of raw materials.” Berezovsky cannot become a peaceful French rentier, since his motto is “Life is expansion.” So Argumenty i Fakty has come to the conclusion that Berezovsky has made up his mind to act like Trotsky as the political fighter against the totalitarian regime and “the personal enemy of the dictator.”
Trotsky’s end was gloomy. Perhaps that is why Berezovsky uses his customary secret schemes along with public ones.
The weekly reports, referring to some military sources, that Berezovsky has allegedly visited Chechnya and met with Aslan Maskhadov. Although Argumenty i Fakty is not quite sure of the truthfulness of these rumors, such actions are very like Berezovsky. “He may sincerely hope that having prepared the ground for negotiations between the Russian government and Maskhadov, he will be able to return to Russia as the person who has brought about peace in Chechnya.”
However, it is not ruled out that even the genius of the political intrigue may doubt the success of his projects. In any case, the renovated Nezavisimaya Gazeta has started to complain about modern Russians, especially the country’s middle class.
In one of the latest issues of Nezavisimaya Gazeta sociologist Boris Dubin comments on data of the National Public Opinion Research Center (VTsIOM), saying that the current social stability in Russia is caused by the fact that people have just put up with this situation.
Although Putin’s rating is still high, Dubin believes that this is only the reflection of people’s expectations from the government but not of the results of its activities. Dubin says that people view Putin as “either the savior or the inspector.” They want him to fight the bureaucracy and corruption and do not identify him with the government.
This means that the level of paternalist expectations in the society is still high. “Modern Russians are hurt, and they are venting their malice on various strangers. The nation does not know where to move and therefore is following anyone who leads it anywhere.”
Even members of the middle class, the main carriers of liberal ideas in any society, cannot boast of anything in Russia. “They do not have their own public organizations, their own values, or even a desire to have something of this kind. Their philosophy is plain as plain can be: If we survive, that’s good – and if things get worse, we’ll leave the country.”
It is clear that in this situation, even such an agile opposition inventor as Berezovsky cannot compete against the “administrative resources” of the government.
At the same time, Berezovsky, this modern Pygmalion, has never set easy objectives for himself.
In this connection, he may be compared to Taras Bulba, the hero of Nikolai Gogol’s famous story. In the current situation it is relevant to quote Taras Bulba’s famous threat to his recalcitrant son Andrii: “I begat you, and I will kill you!”