Is this the man who will one day take over from Putin?

The Daily Retina

Boris Ratnikov, a former KGB officer and retired chief advisor to Russia’s security service, gave a remarkable interview back in 2016. Ratnikov, who died in 2020, claimed his boss had penetrated and read the mind of Madeleine Albright while she was US Secretary of State in the mid-1990s.

Ratnikov said his superior officer used a photograph to penetrate Albright’s subconscious where he discovered her secret thoughts about the priority of removing Siberia and the Far East from Russian territory.

The senior intelligence official in question was Georgy Rogozin, a top KGB officer between 1969 and 1992, who became deputy chief of president Yeltsin’s security service. Rogozin conducted secret experiments trying to use telepathy, clairvoyance, hypnosis and astrology to infiltrate the CIA and the US government. While based in the Kremlin, the KGB general dealt in the occult, made up the souls of the dead and believed he could penetrate people’s subconscious by using photographs. His technique was to lie down and fall into a hypnotic state through which he could communicate with Albright, and hence read her mind, infiltrate her soul and discover her secret agendas.

The Ukraine war has cemented Patrushev’s influence over Putin

Based on these methods, Rogozin sent a report to his deputy Ratnikov with an exciting ‘revelation’ about US foreign policy.

‘In Albright’s thoughts, we found pathological hatred of the Slavs’, recalled Ratnikov. ‘She (Albright) was outraged by the fact that Russia has the largest mineral reserves. In her opinion, in the future, Russia’s reserves should be managed not by one country but by all of humanity under the supervision of the United States…Also, based on the thoughts of Albright, it followed that the US Army would use some kind of chemical and biological weapons in Yugoslavia with warheads containing radioactive elements’.

Needless to say, the US Secretary of State never advocated – privately or publicly – the stripping of Siberia. It was a fabrication. But her ‘secret thoughts’ suited Putin’s agenda that the US was intent on global domination, destabilising Russia and thereby securing access to its valuable oil and gas reserves.

In normal times, the hallucinations of a dead Kremlin and KGB psychic would not be taken seriously. But, in 2015, Nikolai Patrushev – Russia’s second most powerful man and its senior national security official – told Kommersant magazine:

‘You probably remember the statement of the former US Secretary of State Madeline Albright that neither the Far East or Siberia belongs to Russia’.

Of course, Albright never made any such statement. Her ‘comment’ was the fantasies of the deranged former KGB and Kremlin official. Patrushev must have known the ‘statement’ was a lie, because at the time – in 1997 – he was head of Internal Security of the FSB, Russia’s security service. And so his repetition of such a falsehood provides an insight into his approach to foreign policy.

Today, Patrushev remains Russia’s most influential and important advisor to president Putin and is an unrepentant, unrelenting, ruthless advocate of the war in Ukraine. Indeed, he is even more hardline than his close friend and accomplice. As secretary of Russia’s National Security Council, Patrushev accused the US of pursuing a hidden agenda to bring about ‘the collapse of the Russian Federation’.

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The Ukraine war has cemented his influence over Putin and he remains the favourite to succeed him as president. For Mark Galeotti, the author and expert on the Kremlin, Patrushev has long been the ‘devil on Putin’s shoulder whispering poison into his ear’.

Born on 11 July 1951, in Leningrad, Nikolai Patrushev grew up during the height of the Cold War.  After studying physics and mathematics at Leningrad High School No.211 and then engineering, he enrolled in the KGB in 1974. The following year he joined the counter-intelligence unit of Leningrad Oblast where he first met Putin. They harassed dissidents and hunted futilely for spies and then parted waves as Patrushev was promoted and Putin was transferred to Dresden, East Germany.

After the Soviet Union collapsed, Putin returned to Leningrad, now known as St. Petersburg, while his former comrade became head of counterintelligence of the FSB (in essence spying on the CIA).  In 1998, Patrushev and Putin were reunited in the Kremlin as deputy head of president Yeltsin’s administration (in effect deputy chief of staff). At this time Patrushev, a year older, was more senior in the ranks, but Putin was closer to Yeltsin and so rewarded with the coveted job as head of the FSB.

Patrushev regards the US as decadent, imperialistic and counter to his conservative authoritarian world view of traditional values

Meanwhile, Patrushev was appointed head of Economic Security of the FSB – a crucial role where many of the ‘Siloviki’ (‘men of force’ from the security services) learned their trade. He was also Putin’s deputy and from April 1999, they formed a formidable partnership despite different personal characteristics. Patrushev is the hard-drinking, tough-talking, outspoken Siloviki; whereas Putin is ascetic, does not drink, strategic and measured in his thoughts and comments. But they both share an intense hostility to the United States and a conspiratorial view of the world.

Patrushev regards the US as decadent, imperialistic and counter to his conservative authoritarian world view of traditional values. He is replaying the Cold War. And this view underpins his approach to the Ukraine war. ‘US leaders have designated a goal of global domination’, he said in 2016. ‘In this regard they do not need a strong Russia. On the contrary, they need to weaken our country. One cannot rule out they may want to achieve this goal through the collapse of Russia.  This will give the United States access to a wealth of resources which, in their opinion, Russia possesses unjustly’.

This paranoia and revival of Cold War rhetoric reinforces the power and takeover of the Kremlin by the FSB hawks since 2006. It also explains their authorisation of assassinations of critics overseas, increased cyber espionage, poisoning of opponents, influence and disinformation operations and brutal warfare against dissidents and former Soviet republics.

A running theme is a nationalistic siege mentality. Bizarrely, Patrushev described the ‘Russophobia’ in Ukraine as part of a Western propaganda campaign dating back to jealous European authors smearing Ivan the Terrible.

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‘Western Russophobia did not arise yesterday’, he said in 2021. ‘She has a very long story. They (authors) tried to denigrate our country many centuries ago. Take Ivan the Terrible who in the West is for some reason called ‘Terrible’. The ‘black legend’ about him as a cruel tyrant entered the circulation during the life of a King by Western chronicles who wanted to divert the attention of Europeans from what was happening in their own countries. They did not like that the Russian Tsar did not recognise their political and moral leadership’.

In fact, any objective historian would accept that Ivan the Terrible was a brutal tyrant who used terror as a political weapon. He was also the first Tsar to set up a secret police. Known as the ‘Oprichniki’, it was an instrument to enforce autocratic rule. As in Stalin and Putin’s Russia, most of the treason that it swept away existed only in the mind of its ruler, the Oprichniki and FSB. Ivan the Terrible oscillated between periods of sadism, prayer and repentance; after a seven year reign of terror, his secret police was disbanded.

Disinformation is, of course, not new in Russia. The Bolsheviks regarded deception and influence operations as an integral weapon in their armoury in 1917. ‘We must be ready to employ trickery, deceit and withholding and concealing the truth’, declared Lenin. ‘There are no morals in politics. There is only expedience’. A fellow Communist Commissar agreed:

‘To tell the truth is a pretty bourgeois habit whereas for us to lie is justified by our objectives.’ 

And fake news and forgery were deployed throughout the Cold War on an industrial scale.

Today, in Ukraine, false propaganda is an integral part of Russia’s strategy. They adhere to Sun Tzu’s edict that ‘all warfare is deception’. A revealing insight into Patrushev’s use of disinformation occurred during an interview with Kommersant in June 2015. ‘We all remember the phrase used by the Americans to describe Russia’s closest neighbours’, he said. ‘They called them ‘front-line states’, unambiguously showing that the ‘front line’ goes along our state border. Against that background, it has been announced the Nato command is planning to deploy a contingent of up to 30,000 people here’.

This was classic Patrushev distortion speak. He was referring to a decision four months earlier to increase the size of the Nato Response Force (NRF), a rapid reaction corps. ‘Altogether the enhanced NRF will count up to around 30,000 troops’, announced the Nato Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg. And here lies the planting of the disinformation – Nato’s plan was not to deploy 30,000 troops on the Russian border. It merely increased the number of forces allocated to the NRF – if required – while leaving the troops involved based in their own countries. Nato does not even have its own soldiers – individual member states provide troops as requested by Nato’s commanders. The NRF units remain in their home country until summoned by Nato.

And so Patrushev’s claim that 30,000 Nato troops would be deployed on the Russian border was demonstrably false. The issue is whether he misunderstood Nato’s very public statements or deliberately lied. Patrushev has been head of Russia’s National Security Council since 2008. He was director of the FSB and has been a senior intelligence official for the past 30 years. And so he is the best-informed national security official in the Kremlin. He was not speaking in the heat of the moment, and so the only possible conclusion is that he explicitly lied about Nato’s plan for the NRF.

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As the Ukraine war becomes entrenched, Patrushev evokes memories of the Soviet victory against fascist Germany in World War Two as a way of enhancing Russian nationalism and support for the invasion. When asked about Ukraine’s request to close the Russian border, Putin’s closest advisor compared the potential blockade of the Donbas to the siege of Stalingrad. He branded the Ukraine government a fascist junta and conjured up conspiracy theories about ‘neo-Nazi criminals’ who would be used ‘for the purpose of using them in other countries for organising coup d’etats and sabotage missions’.

But the focus of Patrushev’s world view is the USA – or ‘the main adversary’ as the KGB used to refer to it.

‘The USA is trying to prove that Russia is a party to the conflict in Ukraine’, he said earlier this year. ‘But it is not. The United States itself is the initiator of the conflict in Ukraine. Through a coup they brought people (in Ukraine) under their control. It was they (USA) who initiated all these events. Barack Obama acknowledged this in one of his recent interviews’.

In fact, Obama merely said the US could act as a mediator in any change of power in Kiev.

The chilling prospect of Patrushev succeeding Putin is very real. The National Security Council chairman is only 71 years old and remains at the apex of the elite inside the Kremlin. For Patrushev – who has been a friend and confidante of Putin for almost 50 years – the escalating tension with the USA and Ukraine enhances his power base. He relishes the conflict and rejects the West’s notion that the world fluctuates between conflict and peace. Like Putin, he believes that war is a continuation of politics by other means. And the invasion of Ukraine is merely one part of their war on the West.

Mark Hollingsworth is the author of ‘Agents of Influence – How the KGB Subverted Western Democracies’ which will be published by Oneworld next month.

Source: World – The Spectator Australia