A story of a certain name
There is a place in the world where you get sent to a penal colony for playing Minecraft. Or rather, for blowing up a very particular building–the headquarters of a criminal gang that has been ruling the country…
On the day of 20th of December 1917, one of the most deadly organizations of the 20th and the 21st century has been founded in Moscow. It was then called CheKa, the Soviet political police–and it managed to exert its totalitarian control over Russia almost continuously up to this day.
CheKa has undergone a number of name changes–to mention the main ones, from GPU to NKVD, from NKVD to KGB, and eventually from KGB to SVR/FSB. None of these rebrandings have changed its nature. They have started their “career” by murdering the backbone of the Russian nation in the 1920s, kidnapping young children to abuse them and then recruit as killing machines, burying thousands of Finns and Poles in shallow mass graves in the 1940s. When the terror lost its momentum after Joseph Stalin’s death, and NKVD (The People’s Commissariat for Internal Affairs) changed its name to KGB (Committee for State Security), Nikita Khrushchev, the First Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, exported their murders abroad, gunning down or poisoning any ideological enemies. The campaign of lies continued.
A new kind of war was waged at the West–the propaganda war which included whitewashing the communist crimes, destroying education, spreading various forms of disinformation and decadency. The methods included projection, conflict creation, emotional manipulation–among which one of the favorites (still from Stalin’s days) was accusing the opponent of being “fascist.” With the cult of the 1941–1945 war still very much alive in modern Russia, this accusation is widely used up to this day.
(Why 1941–1945? Yes, many people in Russia do believe the Second World War started in 1941, not 1939, and the only idea they have on the subject is that the great Soviet Union defeated Adolf Hitler. They are hardly ever taught about the Hitler-Stalin collaboration before 1941.)
Most readers are certainly familiar with the 20th century history and the machinations of the Cold War. Why would we need to bring it up now, when there is a three-colored flag flying over Moscow, a crowned double-headed eagle in the Kremlin, and the poisonings are being done by an organization called the FSB (The Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation), not the KGB? When there is no clear ideological war between the East and the West, and the Cold War–at least from a larger distance, or from a geopolitical standpoint–seems over? Because the Cold War–in some aspects at least–is far from being over. Russia has not broken all legal continuity with the Soviet Union. The KGB officials have not been send to prison. The 20th century archives have not been made public.
Instead, the KGB officials now reside in the Kremlin, celebrating the Chekist day–20th of December, when their organization was founded… in 1917. They conveniently control all legal processes–with no distinction between powers and no rule of law. Journalists that know too much of their campaigns are frequently found dead, and the investigations mysteriously stop (like in the instance of Anna Politkovskaya, who specialized in the Chechnya war).
Teenagers (children!) are locked away in penal colonies–while their captors are the true criminals walking free.
In the year 1999, when what was then called FSB managed to install their man–Vladimir Putin–in the Kremlin, he addressed the FSB agents by saying “We are BACK in power, this time–indefinitely.” Why “back?” Because the employment structure between the KGB and the FSB has not changed at all. One could compare it to keeping Gestapo in the office after the supposed “fall” of Hitler (at least the Third Reich, thankfully, has actually fallen). Putin then proceeded to restore the Russian anthem to its Soviet melody, and changed the symbolic worn by the Russian army back to those from the Soviet times.
In 2000, Nikolai Patrushev, the FSB Director, gave an interview to a newspaper called Komsomolskaya Pravda, one of the largest media outlets in Russia (the word “Komsomolskaya” relates to Komsomol, the All-Union Leninist Young Communist League established in 1918), stating that:
“We did not throw away our history. We are openly admitting that the history of Lubyanka [the CheKa/GPU/NKVD/KGB/FSB headquarters] in the 20th century is our history.”
The interview was published on the 20th of December–the Chekist day.
What a chilling quote. Openly taking pride in the mass murders, lies, and the reign of total control–and openly admitting their continuity with the KGB. It is not a secret. It is being celebrated.
The Cold War may be over for the West, but it is not over for the caged people of the East.
There is a book on the KGB/FSB continuity, the rise of Putin within the ranks of said organization, and the absence of the rule of law in modern Russia written by two historians–Yuri Felshtinsky and Vladimir Pribylovsky.
They will not write anything together anymore–in 2016, Pribylovsky was found dead in his apartment.
Temporal issues–the problem of economic calculation
Has there even been a time when Russia could have become a slightly freer nation? If the KGB/FSB is still in power, why did they need rebranding, and why so many people seem to believe–or at least believed until February 2022, when the mask has clearly slipped–that Russia is a semicivilized country capable of doing and engaging in diplomacy?
In the 1980s, Mikhail Gorbachev, the eighth and final leader of the Soviet Union, stuck to socialism, which brought the inevitable economic collapse predicted by Ludwig von Mises himself in 1920. The bankrupt Moscow descended into 10-year long gang war of the 1990s, until in the year 1999, the KGB (now FSB) re-consolidated their control. They have, metaphorically speaking, repainted their ship. At the same time, they have ensured that power will not be taken away from them, and all possibilities of installing the rule of law are blocked by their people.
As mentioned above, they are clear about their traditions, their continuity, and history. They may have used the last 30 years to deceive the West with some pretenses of democracy, but during their own festivals and in their own newspapers they openly proclaim themselves the descendants of the Soviet political police.
Alexandr Dugin and the ideology of control
One aspect that many find problematic in the claim above is the seeming lack of ideology behind modern Moscow. In the 20th century, it was clear that your local communist party office is also a spying unit. Nowadays, with no evident ideological war, Russia appears to be simply one of the many pluralist countries. In the global world, the Russian intelligence, just like any other, may influence any political movement–regardless of their standpoints–as long as it may further the
interests of the Federation. Putinist Russia uses neo-imperialist double-headed eagles, mixes the Tsarist and Soviet symbols and approaches any contradictions in this approach quite nonchalantly. A postmodern country that recently lost all its stories–and with people trained to disregard the objective truth–may end up having companies named “The Tsarist Crown” produce ice cream called “The Soviet Union”–to nobody’s surprise. In this case, how can anyone (righteously, may I add) compare Putin to Hitler? The latter had clear ideology and symbolics, and was upfront about what his totalitarian regime stands for.
Putin is too. A man that goes by the name of Alexandr Dugin, today considered the main ideologue of the Kremlin, created a disturbing–and not necessarily consistent–cocktail of Orthodoxtraditionalism, geopolitical theories of Eurasianism, and his own brand of mysticism. He calls for a world of more than one geopolitical center, and for the Orthodox Christians of Eurasia to unite against the Western liberalism understood both economically and socially. He wants to create an alternate way of living for the Eastern Slavs (or should we get straight to the point and write “slaves”), in one national post-Soviet state without the consumerism brought about by the unnecessarily free markets and without the inappropriate displays of sex in the public life. However, his main narrative is driven by the negation of anything perceived as Western, and by the envy of the Anglo-Saxon position on the global chessboard.
His calls to restore Moscow in its “righteous” place on the power grid are totalitarian to the core–with the assumption that human behavior is by necessity dictated by the all-encompassing ideology of the state.
According to Dugin, the former Soviet Union belongs to Moscow. Belarus follows this agenda by being a puppet regime. Ukraine–in Putin’s and Dugin’s eyes–was supposed to take the same route: have a President that reports to the KGB. When in 2014, Viktor Yanukovych was elected out of the President’s office–much to the will of the Ukrainian people!–Putin started his attack on both energetic and informational fronts. It is then that Dugin openly called for killing Ukrainians.
In the speech Putin prepared for his victory over Kiev, he stated that Ukraine will never belong to the West. That the years 1991–the fall of the Soviet Union–was a geopolitical tragedy, but now the order will be brought back. This is how Putin wants to be remembered – as the man who reversed the tragic fall of the Soviet Union. Even Ramzan Kadyrov, when addressing Volodymyr Zelenskyy, Ukrainian President, asked him to apologize to Moscow: how dare you dream of being a sovereign state.
The information war waged at Ukraine is the Soviet textbook case. As the cult of the 1941–1945 war (“The Great Patriotic War”) endures in Russia, accusing the opponent of all sort of fascism or Nazism is a standard propaganda technique, immediately understood and recognized throughout the Eastern Bloc. The same accusation, for instance, was thrown at the soldiers of the Polish Home Army who in the early 1940s fought Hitler, and in the late 1940s–Stalin. Their crime–not subjecting to Moscow’s control.
After 2014, it is easy to obtain shelling footage: the war is continuous in the eastern part of the country, with casualties on both sides of the conflict. Add to it the symbolics of the one Azov Battalion, create “journalists” that came from nowhere and only report on Eastern Ukraine–and you can easily sell the idea of Ukrainian genocide. What is baffling is that many people do believe such materials.
As a side note–a troubling phenomenon, and a disturbing success of Dugin’s agenda–is that many conservatives seem to be falling for another brand of Russian propaganda that touches the so-called “family values” problem. They believe Russia could counter what they describe as the Western cultural Marxism. Meanwhile, the abortion rate in Russia is globally the highest, European Russians rarely have more than one child, and the country also ranks top in homicide (in Europe) and suicide (globally). Two thirds of Russians declare themselves atheists–as opposed to only one third in the US. It is a troubled, traumatized country, with far less respect towards human life than can be found in the West. And yet, some conservatives seem to be so uncomfortable with the modern (and understandably unfortunate from their standpoint) displays of sexual freedom that they think they can look up to Russia. In reality, they are merely believing in some false dichotomies conceived by Alexandr Dugin. Yes, you would not find gay parades, aggressive American-style liberal agitation, or the general criticism of regular family life in Russia–but that is because you would hardly find any kind of freedom of expression there (and additionally, gays are either beaten or–if they have the misfortune to live in Kadyrov’s Chechnya–tortured and killed).
Evidently, it is easy to praise what you do not know if you only know what you criticize. It is also worth noting that a lot of what comes under the panache term of cultural Marxism has been slowly introduced to Western institutions and pop culture by none other than the KGB influence agents.
A clear example of manipulation by division and fabricating conflict.
Wars and governments differentiated by ethics
War is the greatest tragedy of humankind. If anyone–for the sake of their chess game–consciously kills the innocent, he is a war criminal, and war criminals are always at the same ethical level–zero. It is also evident that in the era of global politics, every empire will try to influence strategic decisions in strategic places. The NATO decisives that bombed Belgrade, Serbia are no less criminal than Putin, and Moscow clearly cannot be the only manipulating force in modern Europe. I am in no way attempting to make holistic comparisons of evil–for they cannot be made.
There are, however, comparisons that can be made. And some wars are different than others.
Take First World War–European forces piled against each other were able to cease fire and exchange Christmas wishes during the famed truce. They were at the same ethical level. Simply calling both sides to stop the war could work.
Fast forward 5 years to the Polish-Soviet War. In this case, the aggressor was clear. The Soviets, wanting to establish their rule over the entire Europe, stopped at nothing. It was a classic example of defensive war, with one side being driven by totalitarian ideology. The same goes for World War II… and for (hypothetical) World War III.
In the latter three cases, there exists an ethical difference between the two fighting sides. For that matter, a simplistic “just stop the war” is as naïve as calling the burglar to just stop robbing your house. And–regardless of any military strategy that may or may not be chosen by NATO–a moral man has the obligation to condemn the aggressor.
Similarly, some governments are different than others. Yes, by definition they all steal and kill, and a principled Rothbardian is bound to call them evil. This evil, however, comes in gradation.
It does not need explaining that lies, murders, and abuse of human freedom by North Korea, China or Russia is on a completely different level than the lies, murders, and abuse of human freedom by the United States, Japan or Norway. It also does not need explaining why the direction of escape in the post-war Berlin was always from the East to the West.
The problem of the realist arguments from geopolitical school of John Mearsheimer–the people who explain the world by the spheres of influence of big empires–is that they disregard the will of the people. Yes, ultimately, it is NATO, Russia, or China who play the cards. And yet, in 1999, Poland decided to join NATO after a referendum, and in 2014, Ukrainians decided to vote Yanukovych out. The results of these elections did not need to be influenced by the West–having experience with the East was enough. Somehow, the expansion of NATO seems to be the most benevolent of expansions in modern history.
Demonstrative preference says it all. In a world full of imperfect choices, associating with the liberal consumerist West still means relatively more human freedom and dignity than staying in the deluded world of the modern KGB and Dugin. And this loss of power over human minds is what triggered their aggression.
The do’s and dont’s of libertarian argumentation in the face of aggression
Being ethically a neo-Aristotelian, a Rothbardian, or just, broadly speaking, a personalist makes it impossible to issue any arguments on preferred policy in times of a defensive war. That is because all such arguments–by necessity–have to be utilitarian. We are trading a number of lives for another, and we are never certain of the outcome. We quantify the unquantifiable–human life and dignity–and propose the unthinkable. It is no wonder some of our inner children are showing, saying “just stop the war.” It is also no wonder that humans want to ensure their own illusion of safety. My purpose is not to advocate for any military strategy, but to–with the image of Russia I have just painted–explain another kind of argument, which is:
Give me liberty or give me death.
This quote is ingrained in human nature so deeply that it does not change with the kind of weapons at our disposal. To give a modern version of the quote, Józef Mackiewicz, the first Pole to discover the mass graves of Polish officers close to Katyn, sentenced to death by the Communist Party for speaking openly about what he saw, stated:
Having half of humanity killed in a nuclear war is not a catastrophe–having half of humanity living under the communist system is.
If we value liberty more than we value life, our anti-war arguments should come from a more nuanced place than simply being threatened.
And yet, many seem to argue solely from this point. Reading that NATO should not have interfered in 1956 or in 1968 in the Eastern Bloc is disturbing–not due to the chosen military strategy, but due to the lack of moral support and respect to human suffering that seems to come with the formulation of said argument.
Most of the people that were then bleeding themselves out in the streets would prefer the next world war with a chance to restore their dignity rather than having to waste their own lives and their children’s lives, and then needing generations to heal from totalitarian abuse. Was it worth it–sacrificing them at the altar of an illusion of safety? Did they not have any natural rights just because of where they were born?
And Zelenskyy is desperately crying “give me liberty or give me death” himself–by asking for the no-flight zone (NFZ) over Ukraine. Even though implementing the zone may not be a good idea strategically, Zelenskyy should be morally supported and not condemned for issuing this plea.
What could then be done?
It could be that a stern response from NATO–one bordering at the level of nuclear threat–catalyzes a coup in the Kremlin and eventually, at least temporarily, de-escalates the conflict. It could also mean escalation. We cannot say, and my purpose is not to throw in utilitarian arguments and dubious strategies.
If we get to the core of the problem–only Russia can stop the war. The former Soviet Union is a big improperly healed wound that gets more infected with every year the KGB/FSB is still in power. Putin will not cease to chase his geopolitical fantasy. He may be eliminated by a power play on top of the KGB/FSB structures, but their violent patterns will eventually return.
The only permanent solution is overthrowing the Soviet rule–this time properly and thoroughly. Send the officials to penal colonies where they belong, open up the archives, condemn the last 105 years of on and off terror, wipe the bloody shade of red out of the Russian flag. Many Russians are already a part of this movement. It needs to reach critical mass–an impossible dream as a solution to an impossible problem.
There is an initiative in Poland–leaving friendly reviews of Russian businesses online that educate the people in Russia about the war. They cannot obtain this information in any other way–in today’s Russia, you can get arrested for merely holding a blank piece of paper on the street. An enormous grassroots work is to be done, and to my American friends–I want to assure you the main way in which I want you to intervene is by joining the education forces.
 Ion Mihai Pacepa, Disinformation : former spy chief reveals secret strategies for undermining freedom, attacking religion, and promoting terrorism, Ronald J. Rychlak, Washington, DC. 2013, p. 27.
 Yuri Felshtinsky, Vladimir Pribylovsky, The Corporation: Russia and the KGB in the Age of President Putin, Encounter Books, New York–London 2009.
 Robert Zubrin, Dugin’s Evil Theology, https://www.nationalreview.com/2014/06/dugins-evil-theology-robert-zubrin/; Branko Miletic, Alexander Dugin: A Russian fascist who helped to convince Putin to invade, https://independentaustralia.net/politics/politics-display/alexander-dugin-a-russian-fascist-who-helped-convinced-putin-to-invade,16145; Alex Hearn, Aleksandr Dugin: The sinister ideologue who’s Putin’s favourite philosopher, https://www.thejc.com/lets-talk/all/aleksandr-dugin-the-sinister-ideologue-whos-putins-favourite-philosopher-3829SiTsfS8P7UK19PwT4k.
 Paul Roderick Gregory, How Russian Propaganda Spins a Dark, Fake Tale, https://www.realclearworld.com/articles/2022/02/20/how_russian_propaganda_spins_a_dark_fake_tale_817731.html; https://www.stopfake.org/en/fake-ukraine-committed-genocide-against-donbas-inhabitants/.