Monday, July 16, 2018

Kremlin Planning Referendum to Make Putin President for Life, Establish a State Ideology and Do Away with Non-Russian Republics, Solovey Says


Paul Goble

            Staunton, July 16 – The Kremlin is preparing a referendum to amend the Russian Constitution in order to do make Vladimir Putin president for life, establish a state ideology, and do away with the non-Russian republics, Valery Solovey, an MGIMO professor and well-connected Moscow commentator says.

            Such a referendum would be necessary because the constitution currently limits the president to two successive terms in office, bans having a state ideology, and lists by name the non-Russian republics. If the referendum passed – and the Kremlin would make sure of that – it would constitute the most radical revision of Russian rule since 1991.

            Solovey reported this on his Twitter account, and his claim has been taken up by other Russian media outlets, although at present there is no confirmation that what he is saying is anything more than a rumor reflecting the long-established preferences of the Putin regime (rusmonitor.com/kreml-gotovit-vserossijjskijj-referendum-dlya-izmeneniya-konstitucii-socseti.html andbusiness-gazeta.ru/news/372881).

FSB has Special Budget for Hiring Prostitutes to Compromise Foreigners, Regional Officials, Kubin Says


Paul Goble

            Staunton, July 16 – Like its predecessor the KGB, the FSB uses specially selected Russian prostitutes to compromise foreigners of interest who visit Moscow as well as officials and businessmen from the provinces, according to Feliks Kubin who worked with the Russian organs before fleeing to the United States.

            That process, long the subject of spy novels and films, has attracted new attention following the claims of the so-called Christopher Steele dossier about Moscow’s reported use of prostitutes against American businessman and now US President Donald Trump, claims he and his supporters dispute but that many others give credence to.

            Kubin describes his own experience with such tactics and information he gleaned from conversations with his colleagues in the Russian interior ministry and the FSB’s counter-intelligence service in an interview with US-based Russian journalist Kseniya Kirillova posted online today (tverezo.info/post/63024).

            He says that an acquaintance of his “was personally involved in the selection of prostitutes” the center used against “some governors who came to Moscow. I personally know that the girls were selected for attracting high level officials and Russian politicians … Possibly,” they were also used “for work with foreigners as well,” although “no one told [him] about that.”

            “The level of the girls and their pay depended on the level of ‘the object’ involved,” Kubin continues. “The authorities found girls” on various acquaintance sites online as well as hiring models. “I know one guy who specialized in models and had a whole list of suitable candidates” for what the FSB wanted undertaken.

            “I don’t remember his name, but I know that he took part in making porno films,” the √©migr√© says. For lower level targets, the FSB chose girls not from Moscow or St. Petersburg but from the provinces so that after they had fulfilled their ‘tasks,’ these workers of the oldest profession could immediately go back home.”

            For higher level targets, however, the FSB chose women from among “elite Moscow prostitutes;” and in a change from Soviet times, its officers were not unwilling to pay large sums of money, up to a thousand dollars or even more for a one-time assignation.  Such professionals knew their worth and insisted on being well paid, Kubin says.

            Some of them were undoubtedly “afraid that they would be killed after fulfilling their assignments as unneeded witnesses.” To calm them, the FSB was willing to pay even more, as much as 10,000 US dollars, for a single assignation in the most important cases. According to Kubin, the FSB also used another stratagem with such women.

            It gave them contracts which guaranteed them regular payments over time. “However,” the former intelligence office, says, “many were all the same afraid,, and to find someone,, I remember, was very difficult.”

            According to Kubin, “the special services acted not only in those hotels which they constantly monitored but selected others as well, especially” if the girls recruited were able to lead their targets there. That made it easier to set up monitoring, always a problem for the organs in the busier hotels of the Russian capital.

The Greatest Danger in Helsinki: New ‘Secret Protocols’ or Simply ‘Understandings’


Paul Goble

            Staunton, July 16 – If the last century of diplomacy teaches nothing else, it is that secret protocols and understandings are a far more dangerous outcome of summits than anything the leaders involved may actually declare, not only because these things conceal what the leaders will do but also because they open the way to radically different interpretations.

            That is the lesson of Munich in 1938; it is the lesson of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact in 1939; and it is the lesson of Singapore just a few months ago.  And it is one that should be kept in mind in interpreting whatever comes out of the Helsinki summit between Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin.

            Many are going to breathe a sigh of relief if Trump and Putin don’t make the kind of dramatic declarations that would sell out the countries in between in the name of cooperation between Russia and the United States – despite the fact that Putin has already won by having a meeting and Trump has no defensible reason to make any concessions to Putin.

            Because of their own personal styles and domestic constraints, neither Trump nor Putin is likely to be willing to spell out exactly what they have agreed to in public. To do so would not be in the interest of either: If Trump caves to Putin in public, he will spark a firestorm of opposition in the US, something not in Putin’s interest either, given how useful Trump has been for Putin.

            But that doesn’t mean the two won’t agree behind the scenes, perhaps not even as formally as signing “secret protocols” but rather by reaching “understandings” that will have enormous consequences down the line. Thus, any reaction to what the two do in public today will inevitably be premature.

            After all, the worst consequences of analogous agreements earlier weren’t on public view at first. They appeared only weeks or months later – and they were and remain all the worse for that. 

            What is especially disturbing is that Russian commentators are more or less openly speculating about such a possibility.  One commentator calls his article today “The Putin-Trump Pact,” using a term of art which inevitably resonates in the worst possible way for the countries between Moscow and the West (svpressa.ru/politic/article/205385/).

            And Sergey Markov, a Moscow political analyst, points to another reason that he welcomes but that should disturb others. At this summit, he says, “Trump de facto represents [only] himself and not the American government.” The State Department, the Defense Department and the CAI “all spoke out categorically against this summit.”

            Trump will therefore try to achieve something so as to maintain his narrative that he can do what none of his predecessors could. But he will have to do it in a way that generates support at home without increasing suspicions about his relationship with Putin.  For that, the best arrangement then is not a public declaration but some kind of understanding in private.

            If Trump proceeds in that fashion, Markov says, nothing may be said in public about Ukraine at Helsinki, but “on his return to Washington, [the American president] could pound his fist on the table and demand an end to support for Ukraine. This will lead in a guaranteed fashion to the destruction of the Kyiv regime,” the Moscow analyst says.