Monday, November 2, 2015

White Russian Officer and Vlasovite Source of Putin’s ‘Hybrid War’ Strategy, Former KGB Psychoanalyst Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, November 2 – Yevgeny Messner (1891-1974), last chief of staff of the Kornilov Division of Baron Wrangel’s White Russian Army and later a member of the Russian Liberation Army during World War II, wrote the book that forms the basis for what is now known as Vladimir Putin’s “hybrid war” strategy.

            That book, Mutiny – the Name of the Third World War (in Russian, Buenos Aires, 1960), and his other writings as an émigré military theorist, Aleksandr Zelenko, who served as a KGB psychoanalyst and now works at Kyiv’s Shevchenko National Univerity, says, had a major influence on Soviet military thinking from the 1980s (

            If anything, Messner’s influence has even grown since then and is now a core element of Vladimir Putin’s approach, Zelenko argues. (On Messner’s influence, see If You Want Peace, Win the Mutiny War! The Creative Inheritance of Ye.E. Messner (in Russian, Moscow: Voyenny universitet, 2005, 696 pp.; reviewed at

            Zelenko says that when he was at the KGB, he helped develop the application of Messner’s ideas and their extention to various networks subordinate to each other matryoshka-doll fashion. He suggests as well that Moscow could apply them not just in Ukraine but rather “at any point up to Gibralter.”

            According to the psychoanalyst, there are currently between 4,000 and 7,000 Russian informers in Kyiv and up to 5,000 in militant position. He added that at present there are in Kyiv alone “about 18,000 militants prepared to create a [pro-Moscow] ‘Kyiv Republic’” as a means of underming Ukraine’s independence.

            Moscow has not exploited this resource, Zelenko suggests, because it doesn’t have enough resources inside Russia to exploit the situation. It thus has gone slower than it might have in Ukraine because of its troubles at home, even though it had laid the groundwork for much more dramatic moves.

            One has to recognize, he continues, that in the Donbas, in everey district,”there was a Russian agent” who primary task was to recruit 50 people to serve the pro-Moscow cause. Kyiv, he says, knew all about this because Ukrainian border guards were being corrupted to allow Russian agents to pass easily into Ukraine.

                Asked by his interviewer Tatyana Zarovaya why Russians are not “ashamed” to seize the territory of others, Zelenko says that because they lack any real ownership of property, they project that situation on others: “If I do not have property, then you can’t either. Therefore, Putin didn’t steal Crimea from you; he took it.”

            Russians are people of the Horde, he says. They are “the product of evolution of a particular type.” Western civilization is based on the right to life, freedom and property, and law is their instrument. For the Russians as a people of the Horde, “law has no importance and the word of the strong and the master is above everything else.”

            The people of the Donbass have a similar psychological type, he says, one that respects the strong and feels that those who talk about justice are weak and do not deserve any respect. Unfortunately, it is “impossible to hange this type” of person. “For peoples of the Horde, a neighbor can be either an enemy not yet suppressed or a slave.”

            “Partiy for them is impossible, equal rights for Horde types means something undefined.” And that is why, Zelenko continues, that “the very best tsar from the point of view of Russians is he who oppresses them: Ivan the Terrible, Stalin … [and now] Putin.” Opposing such rulers for such people is “madness,” as is viewing any ruler as the servant of the people.

            Many in Ukraine and the West do not recognize this divide between them and the Horde peoples, but the latter do very clearly and even proudly, Zelenko says. In the lead up to the Donbas violence, some there even talked about the people of that region as being of a distinct anthropological type.

            And if Ukraine reabsorbs the Donbass, it will have to deal directly with “the bearers of an alien mental system and an alien psychological type.” And right now this will be especially difficult because the Donbas people think that they have won: “Ukraine is withdrawing first, asked for peace first, and is conducting itself as the losing side.”

            Only when they discover that this is not the case and that they are not wanted or needed by the Russia with which they have identified will there be a chance, he suggests. 

            Meanwhile, Ukrainians need to unite as a nation. At present, “we have a feudal state, and nations like political parties arose under capitalism.” The only way forward is to recover what Ukraine lost in 1654 and overcome the sense of “incompleteness” that has infected Ukrainian thinking ever since. There is hope this can happen, but there is much to be done.

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