Sultanov argues that Bush “was a representative of that intellectual leadership which defined the most important priorities, goals and strategies of the American military-intelligence complex,” a grouping which it is now fashionable to refer to as “’the deep state’” and whose goal was the destruction of the Soviet Union as a strong opponent.
“Countries and empires die, however, not because some particular people want them,” the Russian analyst says. “Large states die as a result of an intense sharpening of the system of the main internal contradictions with which their leadership is incapable of dealing. But their opponent only uses these contradictions and capable plays on them.” That Bush did.
But having defeated the USSR, Sultanov says, Bush did not celebrate his triumph or denigrate the losing side. That is because he felt “a certain feeling of aristocratic superiority over ‘the defeated’” and didn’t rub their defeat in. But he did pursue American national interests and he did want Russia to lose the only lever that made it a major power, its nuclear arsenal.
Had Bush been re-elected, the Russian analyst says, he would have pursued the program with regard to Russia that had already been worked out by the military-intelligence complex he had headed: first, the concentration of all nuclear weapons in Russia, then the introduction of “’his own people’” to control them, and finally their transfer to UN, that is, US control.
In 1991-1992, there was talk about some kind of “deal” that would be like the Marshal Plan, one in which Russia would sacrifice its nuclear arsenal in exchange for 1.2 trillion US dollars. Many Russians who later became the oligarchs were counting on that money, not clearly recognizing what it would cost their country if not themselves.
According to Sultanov, “the US did not intend to occupy us given that the Russian Federation was already to a great extent occupied. The corresponding cadres n the localities were Americans or pro-American. Remember, we even had such a candidate for Russian defense minister as Starovoitova?”
But Bush lost the 1992 election to Bill Clinton. He “was not a hawk but a saxophone player,” the product of a division in the American elite that had arisen because of the possibilities new technologies and the stock market gave to make enormous sums in short periods of time. They did not want to be engaged in foreign affairs.
Had Bush been re-elected, Russia would have been in a terrible position, Sultanov says; but “who saved us then at the very beginning of the 1990s? Not our patriots, not our army, and not our intelligence service. Instead, Russia was saved from complete bankruptcy by the great American people which did not choose George Bush the Elder for a second term.”
“They and not we did this. It is paradoxical, but it is so.”
Sultanov’s words are worth noting, not because they are true: At the very least, they are an exaggeration of trends he and others saw. Rather they are important because they highlight three things about the thinking of those close to the Kremlin that help to explain Moscow’s actions in the years since 1992.
First, for all the Kremlin’s bombast about “standing up from its knees,” key members of the Russian elite apparently believe that they and their country remain dependent in large measure on the outcomes of American elections. Consequently, they have every reason to intervene if they can to protect themselves.
Second, despite Vladimir Putin’s personal hostility to Hillary Clinton, Sultanov’s argument suggests that Moscow remains even more concerned about the traditional Republican establishment and may have been more interested in blocking the rise of any of its members in recent times than in promoting any particular candidate.
And third, Sultanov uses terms that figure strongly in the propaganda from Moscow and from some American outlets, terms like “deep state,” which suggest that that vision is not just for public consumption but in fact informs how members of the Kremlin elite really think and how they make decisions.