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Human beings are creatures dominated by propaganda. Most are not philosophers or scientists. Instead, they want to be flattered and tickled. As Monday’s column pointed out, the public will believe almost anything.

Beliefs can even be imposed on enemies.

Recently we had a good example of this kind of cunning at the Munich Conference on Security Policy, where a prestigious Russian speaker hypnotized a crowd of Western statesmen with a subtle but misleading explanation. The Russian speaker was a long-time KGB professional named Sergei Ivanov, currently serving as the secretary of Russia’s Security Council. Sitting before him last weekend, like lambs before the slaughter, were various NATO officials and Western leaders, including Henry Kissinger, Lord George
Robertson and U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.

It is believed by some analysts that Sergei Ivanov’s power is second only to President Vladimir Putin’s. Some even suspect that Ivanov is the chief of all Kremlin strategists. As a creature imbued with professional cunning, with many years of secret police experience behind him, Ivanov is unlikely to make honest admissions. He is also unlikely to say anything that will hurt his overall strategy.

So what did Ivanov say to the assembled NATO sheep?

Ivanov accused NATO of creating a refugee problem in Kosovo. He said that the use of uranium shells during the 1999 Kosovo crisis had resulted in a “Chernobyl-like nuclear disaster.” The NATO sheep blinked as they listened. Why was Mr. Ivanov bombarding them with exaggerated propaganda?

Ivanov was showing that Russia could play naughty or nice. It all depended on the West’s reaction. Russia could even renew the Cold War, and a great deal of mischief could be done, costing the Western economies many billions of dollars. Why not write off a large chunk of Russia’s debt and avoid the expense of future Kremlin mischief?

Ivanov further suggested that Russia’s diplomatic initiatives to North
Korea, Iran and Cuba could also be explained. “My dear sheep,” one could
almost hear him saying, “there is nothing to fear! We are not aiming to
butcher you! This is our way of leveraging debt relief!”

One pictures a Kremlin leader standing at NATO’s door with a tin cup,
screaming about uranium shells in Kosovo, begging for cash. Not to worry,
Russia’s hostile diplomacy is merely about money. Surely, you capitalists
understand how important money is! We would never attack you, Ivanov lied,
but we might hold you up for cash because we’re so dirt-poor.

To manipulate a crowd of enemies is no easy matter. The Kremlin cannot
pretend to love the West forever. Eventually, as your hostile acts are noted
year after year, you lose all credibility. And besides, the old excuses for
violating treaties X, Y and Z no longer carry conviction. So what do you do?

Well, you devise new lies for old.

The flock of Western officials assembled in Munich must be told
something. They must be diverted from discovering Russia’s intentions. So why
not give NATO a dose of false honesty and frankness? Why not explain why you
have been breaking your word? Send out a Kremlin strategist as one would send
a diplomat. Reassure those fat Western sheep.

But as Stalin once said, “A sincere diplomat is like dry water or
wooden iron.”

As a KGB veteran, Ivanov would never confess Russia’s real strategic
aims and objectives — especially before the assembled flock in Munich. If
you think the Kremlin’s top strategist would reveal his objectives, then you
don’t understand Kremlin strategists.

A virtuoso does not give a concert to play “Chopsticks.”

Certainly, Russia would like debt relief. It is also true that Russia
is in a position to make trouble for the Free World. But things are not so
simple. The Middle East is ready to explode into a regional war that could
result in a devastating oil embargo against the West. Certainly, this could
cost the West a great deal. But should we believe that Russia has
proliferated weapons to Iran, Iraq and Syria merely to get debt relief from
Western banks?

If this disinformation message is accepted, further hostile moves by
Russia and its allies will be misunderstood. Should war break out in the
Middle East, should North Korea attack the South or China blockade Taiwan,
the West must awake to the realization that this is an all-out assault — and
not mere mischief.

Western leaders have been slow to realize their danger for many months.
This slowness is due to the way the Kremlin diverts attention with false
statements. Ivanov’s Munich performance is one link in a vast chain of
deception. In truth, Russia and its allies have been preparing for a future
confrontation.

Consider the following recent moves.

In mid-January Adm. Vladimir Kuroyedov told the Russian press that
Moscow would send its fleet into the Indian and Pacific oceans. This fleet
move would take place in February and March. “The time has come,” said Adm.
Kuroyedov, “to protect our interests in the oceans.”

In January Russia sent two anti-submarine warships to the South China
Sea, perhaps to assist China’s military buildup against Taiwan. Also in
January, as if we should be surprised, Russia cancelled military cuts that
were loudly announced last summer. The election of George W. Bush was blamed
for this — as if Russia ever intended to actually slash its forces as
dramatically as advertised.

At the same time, it has been learned that Iraq has at least two
operational nuclear weapons. While military equipment is being
shipped from Russia to Iran in larger and larger quantities. Bill Gertz of
the Washington Times recently reported that China’s missile buildup opposite
Taiwan is entering a new and dangerous phase. North Korea also remains poised
to attack, despite a starving population.

If you believe that Russia’s construction of a huge anti-Western
alliance is merely a means for debt relief, perhaps you ought to think again.
There has been a frenzy of war preparations in the anti-Western countries.
The leaders of these countries, in addition, have engaged in many huddles
recently. We learn from recent news reports that the leaders of North Korea
and Iran are scheduled to visit Moscow this spring. A large number of
high-level meetings has also taken place between Russia and China, Russia
and Cuba, China and Cuba, etc.

As everyone who watches football knows, there is always a huddle before
a big play. And now that the big play draws near, they want you to think it’s
about debt relief for the financially strapped war machine in the East.

Don’t believe a word of what the Kremlin says, even if it has a ring
of truth. Every gram of poison offered for Western consumption has been
carefully weighed. But Western leaders, like the West in general, have become
like sheep. And if present trends continue, they will end like sheep.

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