On December 24, 2016, American “intellectual” Sarah Kendzior wrote a twitter thread which, as so many of the #Resistance liberals did at that time, cited Trump’s visits to the USSR and business with Soviet bureaucrats and oligarchs in the Russian Federation as evidence of Russian “cultivation” of Trump. One tweet in the thread references a 1987 issue of Executive Intelligence Review, a propaganda rag for the private intelligence business and cult of Lyndon LaRouche. In an article titled “Elephants and Donkeys” the LaRouchite author speculates that Trump’s trips to Russia reflected his status as a KGB asset (LaRouche’s organization believed the Soviets were part of an Anglo-Jewish plot for world domination). Despite many people pointing out that one of her main sources came from a cult organization that endorsed Reagan’s War on Drugs and blamed gay people for AIDS (among other claims), Kendzior failed to even delete the tweet.
Kendzior also forgot to mention that LaRouche himself, in spite of declining health which led to his death in 2019, had appeared on the short lived radio show of important Trump advisor Roger Stone at least once. Ironically, LaRouche started the conversation by defending Bill Clinton, who he claimed was “framed by the Queen of England.” This is a position LaRouche has maintained since the attempted impeachment of Clinton in the 1990s (apparently Clinton’s education at Oxford and Yale and his obvious connections to world of shadow banking didn’t qualify him as part of the “Anglo-American-Zionist Establishment”). A year later, Stone delivered a video address to a LaRouche gathering in Germany.
Despite the LaRouche movement’s past as a target of Stone’s friend Roy Cohn, the group offered similar services to the US government. As the Chicago Reader noted three decades ago: “the [LaRouche] network sells information packaged in various forms–essentially political intelligence.” One New York-based defector claimed the organization prepared special reports for intelligence agencies in South Africa, Libya, Iraq, Taiwan, France under Giscard d’Estaing, and Iran under the Shah. Within the United States, members claimed, the organization regularly met with the staffs of ultraconservative Republican senators Jesse Helms and Strom Thurmond. According to the Reader, “the Illinois Anti-Drug Coalition–another LaRouche front–worked closely with the Chicago Police Department in 1979.” LaRouche’s intelligence-gathering operations, which required “massive amounts of raw and processed data: “Tens of thousands of words daily are fed into a sophisticated telecommunication system linking American NCLC offices with 11 international NCLC branches in North and South America and Europe. For many years this system was based on Telex machines. Now the system appears to have been upgraded by using modems to connect individual computers through phone lines.”
In 1983, National Security Council agent Norman Bailey referred to the LaRouche network as “one of the best private intelligence services in the world.” Bailey met with LaRouchite agents “numerous times” in 1982 and 1983, and thrice with LaRouche himself, telling the Washington Post that he found them to be “useful” because of their “excellent” international contacts and because “They can operate more freely and openly than official agencies.” Ray S. Cline, a member of the Office of Strategic Services and then the CIA, well-known as the CIA’s chief analyst during the Cuban Missile Crisis, told the Post that he’d maintained contact with LaRouche associates since 1980 (It should be noted that Cline also contributed to the founding of the World Anti-Communist League in 1966). As the Post reported:
“The LaRouche group stepped up its presence in Washington about 1981, when President Reagan took office, and it has publicly promoted many of his initiatives in its publications and on Capitol Hill…In Reagan’s first term, Executive Intelligence Review, a LaRouche-tied magazine, ran interviews with such officials as Agriculture Secretary John Block, Defense Undersecretary Richard DeLauer, Associate Attorney General Lowell Jensen, Commerce Undersecretary Lionel Olmer and then-Sen. John Tower (R-Texas), at the time chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee…The LaRouche outfit has had more than 100 intelligence operatives working for it at times, and copies the government in its information-gathering operation, ex-members and other knowledgeable sources said…
The LaRouche movement also “had close ties for years with a former Office of Strategic Services guerrilla operative, Mitchell WerBell III, who introduced members to many intelligence and military figures.” According to the Post, “The LaRouche-affiliated Schiller Institute… lists on its advisory board several high-ranking retired and active-duty military officers.” John K. Singlaub, a founding member of the CIA and the Western Goals Foundation, told the Post that LaRouche’s movement touched base with him in the late 1970s, though he claims he didn’t work with them in any way beyond reviewing some of their intelligence reports. DEA officer John Cusack, who would become a staff member at the House Select Committee on Narcotics Abuse and Control, said “They always seemed to know what the law enforcement agencies were doing. They were well-informed…Sometimes they told me things I didn’t know, but it turned out it was true.” Cusack added that they had “very good contacts” with local police departments.
While we can’t be certain whether or not the LaRouche movement was itself an “asset” cultivated by the Reagan administration, it’s pretty interesting that it seemed to have maintained a working relationship with the very “deep state” that they later accused of attacking both Clinton and Trump. In any case, the Executive Intelligence Review article Kendzior excerpted in her nonsensical thread seems to be the earliest example on record of “Trump is a Russian Asset” hysteria and it clearly had an influence on the direction the “Russiagate” narrative went after Trump’s victory. However, as we’ve touched on in other installments of this series, accusing Russia of culpability for American failures is nothing new. As a full history of American Russophobia is beyond the scale of this essay, I’d like to look at a few specific examples of precursors to and influences on Russiagate itself.
We can start with the “meddling” in Russia’s presidential elections of 1995-1996 by the United States. In that election, as a response to the tyrannical governance and catastrophic economic shock therapy of the “democratic reformers”, Yeltsin wasn’t doing too well in the polls.. Even worse, the Communist Party’s candidate, Gennadi Zyuganov, was likely to defeat Yeltsin.. As Time magazine reported, on December 17, 1995: “The Communists and their allies were on their way to controlling [the lower house of Russia’s parliament], a disturbing development because in six months Russians would vote for president.” Meanwhile, “Yeltsin’s standing in the polls was abysmal.”
In early 1996, Belarusian political consultant Felix Braynin was hired to covertly “find some Americans” to aid Yeltsin’s reelection campaign.. “Secrecy was paramount,” Braynin told Time. “Everyone realized that if the Communists knew about this before the election they would attack Yeltsin as an American tool.” Several American consultants aligned with the GOP joined with Yeltsin’s fledgling campaign, with one of them saying that, “Stalin had higher positives and lower negatives than Yeltsin.” However, after running numerous focus groups and enlisting Bill Clinton’s own consultant (and first cousin of Roy Cohn) Dick Morris, the Americans managed to increase Yeltsin’s poll numbers dramatically. However, this still wasn’t enough. Thus, the Clinton administration asked the International Monetary Fund to give Yeltsin a small loan of $10 billion. Yeltsin ultimately won the election, but failed to finish his second term, resigning in the midst of a bribery investigation into members of his cabinet.
This made Vladimir Putin, who was Prime Minister at the time, the Acting President of the Russian Federation and in the 2000 elections Putin was officially made President with 53% of the vote. In spite of current narratives from both critics and supporters of Putin, his election did not signal some grand rejection of the West and Yeltsin’s style of governance. Indeed, as the neoconservative Brookings Institution noted in 2001, while the Cold War had been over for more than a decade “the period that followed it was little more than a Cold Peace.” Throughout Yeltsin’s 90s, “Russian and American views diverged on the Balkans, NATO enlargement, Iraq, missile defense, Chechnya and more. Washington and Moscow may not have been enemies, but they weren’t friends either.”
In some ways, Putin initially seemed to be more open to collaboration with the United States than his predecessor. While discussing NATO expansion in July, 2001, Putin stated, “The simplest [solution] is to dissolve NATO, but this is not on the agenda. The second possible option is to include Russia in NATO. This also creates a single defense and security space.” As Brookings reported, “Putin went even further in October 2001, as Russian-American cooperation on terrorism was moving forward, saying that if NATO were to continue ‘becoming more political than military’ Russia might reconsider its opposition to enlargement.” Furthermore, after a deadly terrorist attack allegedly committed in four Russian cities, allegedly by Chechnyan Islamists in 1999, Putin published an op-ed in the New York TImes warning Americans about the threat of Islamic terrorism in the 21st Century. On September 9, 2001, Putin called Bush to discuss with him the assassination of Ahmed Shah Massoud, leader of the anti-Taliban Northern Alliance in Aghanistan, saying he felt it presaged something bigger occuring in the United States. During the post-9/11 assault on Afghanistan, Russia’s military aided the United States.
During the July, 2001 G-8 summit, Putin and Bush announced “a Russian-American Business Dialogue initiative steered by the U.S.-Russia Business Council, American Chamber of Commerce, Russian-American Business Council, and the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs…” Putin continued with the agenda of incorporating the Russian Federation into the World Trade Organization, which the Heritage Foundation said would be good for American “Economic and Strategic Interests” (Russia fully joined the WTO in 2012). As the Heritage Foundation mentions, one key advantage to a total incorporation of the Russian Federation into the American imperialism masquerading as “globalization” was oil:
“Russia is quickly becoming an important ‘swing’ oil producer for the global energy markets. The instability in the Middle East raises Russia’s importance as a reserve oil supplier for Europe and Japan, helping to keep oil prices down. President Putin, his cabinet, and the major Russian oil companies have demonstrated a readiness not to march in lockstep with the OPEC oil cartel, keeping Russian oil prices within the $21 to $25 per barrel price range rather than raise them with OPEC.”
As Brookings reported, during 1999-2000, “energy exports accounted for some 90 percent of Russia’s growth in GDP. Thanks to high oil prices, at the end of 2001 the economy had enjoyed its best three-year performance since 1966-69.” In 2000, the Rand Corporation published a paper titled “Ukraine and the Caspian: An Opportunity for the United States.” The document analyzes problems with a proposed oil pipeline that would have run from Kazakhstan through Baku in Azerbaijan, into Georgia, and ending in the Turkish port of Ceyhan: “…constructing Baku-Ceyhan would take longer and cost more than just about any other potential export alternative—and probably more than most current estimates (now running at $2.5 to $4 billion)…What Washington really needs…is to put teeth into its claim that it supports alternative routes. It can do this most effectively by backing one or more ‘complements’ to Baku-Ceyhan, short-term options for getting the oil to market while the Turkish pipeline is under construction, which would also provide a hedge against its failure.”
Rand’s favorite option for an alternative was advocated by Ukrainian politicians and oligarchs. It would extend through Azerbaijan and Georgia, over the Black Sea, and through Ukraine to Poland: “Ukraine’s ongoing improvements to its refinery and pipeline infrastructure, given some foreign assistance to speed the process, will make it sufficient both to handle the ‘early’ oil, extracted in the next few years while Baku-Ceyhan is still building, and to process even larger quantities later. Perhaps most important, the price tag would be relatively small: the cost of a few miles of pipeline (estimated at $400 million) and facility development and improvements (about $600 million).” As a 2007 article explains:
“This pipeline was intended to transport Caspian oil from the newly built Pivdenny terminal to the existing Druzhba pipeline for transport to European refineries. From there it would be sold to distributors in Europe and elsewhere. Both projects came under the direct jurisdiction of the Ukrainian state-owned oil and gas monopoly, Naftohaz Ukrayiny, and its subsidiary company, UkrTransNafta, the manager of oil pipelines in Ukraine…U.S. Energy Secretary Bill Richardson said the U.S. government supported Ukraine’s plans to build the new Pivdenny oil terminal and the Odessa-Brody oil pipeline. Richardson added that the new terminal would help Ukraine diversify its energy sources and thus make the country less dependant on Russia.”
The same year that article was published, Putin announced his apparent intention to maintain Russia’s sovereignty over what he called a “unipolar world.” During a speech to military cadets, Putin said: “Some people are constantly insisting on the necessity to divide up our country and are trying to spread this theory.” While it’s possible Putin may have been referring to the more abstract conflicting economic and geopolitical agendas of the United States and Russia, this is also what foreign policy “experts” and American politicians, such as Dick Cheney, have explicitly advocated in the past. According to Robert Gates, “When the Soviet Union was collapsing in late 1991, Dick wanted to see the dismantlement not only of the Soviet Union and the Russian empire but of Russia itself, so it could never again be a threat.” (Emphasis mine). Six years later, Zbigniew Brzenzski, in his 1997 magnum opus The Grand Chessboard, echoed this sentiment. Brzenzski wrote that America must “prevent the emergence of a dominant and antagonistic Eurasian power” to preserve the West’s “global primacy.” And a key part of Brzenzski’s plan was the full spectrum dominance of Ukraine by NATO and American capital:
“Ukraine, a new and important space on the Eurasian chessboard, is a geopolitical pivot because its very existence as an independent country helps to transform Russia. Without Ukraine, Russia ceases to be a Eurasian empire…if Moscow regains control over Ukraine, with its 52 million people and major resources as well as its access to the Black Sea, Russia automatically again regains the wherewithal to become a powerful imperial state, spanning Europe and Asia. Ukraine’s loss of independence would have immediate consequences for Central Europe, transforming Poland into the geopolitical pivot on the eastern frontier of a united Europe.”
In 1992, a document circulated throughout the Pentagon stating that America’s new mission would be “convincing potential competitors that they need not aspire to a greater role or pursue a more aggressive posture to protect their legitimate interests.” The United States “must sufficiently account for the interests of the advanced industrial nations to discourage them from challenging our leadership or seeking to overturn the established political and economic order.” America’s nuclear forces, “provide an important deterrent hedge against the possibility of a revitalized or unforeseen global threat, while at the same time helping to deter third party use of weapons of mass destruction through the threat of retaliation.” In other words, in the aftermath of the Cold War, the United States had the right to hold the rest of the world hostage with nuclear weapons and pillage the resources of the Third World without having to even pretend to honor flimsy obligations like “international law.” How would the United States respond if today Putin declared that Russia decides the world’s fate that any nations wishing to challenge this arrangement would be met with nuclear force?
For some in the West’s post-Russiagate intelligentsia, “decolonize Russia” has become a powerful slogan. In fact, the US Helsinki Commission recently gave a talk on this subject that is beyond irony. It accuses Russia of “barbaric war” not only in Ukraine, but against a slew of nations that includes Syria and Libya. The United States’ decimation of both Syria and Libya plays no role in this “analysis”, which boils down to projecting every act of American imperialism in the last 20 years onto Russia. Casey Michel, a participant in this talk, published an article in The Atlantic headlined: “To avoid more senseless bloodshed, the Kremlin must lose what empire it still retains.” Michel insists that Russia is, “a haphazard amalgamation of regions and nations with hugely varied histories, cultures, and languages” whose history can be reduced to “almost ceaseless expansion and colonization.” Again, coming from an American who apparently has no interest in reflecting on his own nation’s actual history of sacrificing millions of bodies and thousands of cultures on the altar of unrepentant capitalist “development”, these statements are a sick joke.
In fact, Michel lists Dick Cheney as a voice of reason regarding Russia in the 1990s who, despite later committing some foreign policy “follies”, was still basically correct. This is unsurprising, as the Russiagate era has seen a related and equally bizarre phenomenon wherein liberals, “progressives” and others who consider themselves “on the Left” in the United States have given the Bush Jr. administration a positive reassessment. In fact, it isn’t just liberals; according to one poll 53% of Americans now have a positive view of Bush Jr. Among the many ridiculous myths propagated by the Bush Jr. revisionists is the idea that however nasty his administration got with that whole War on Terror thing, Team Bush still fundamentally cared about “democracy” and combatting “corruption.” Dick Cheney himself recently joined in on the rewriting of history, calling Trump a “coward” and proclaiming that “There has never been an individual who is a greater threat to our republic than Donald Trump.
A problem with this reappraisal of the Bushes, Cheneys, and so forth, is that, among other things, they indulged in just as much corruption as Trump’s cabinet. Hell, while he was CEO of Haliburton, Dick Cheney even profited from deals the company did with the very same Russian gangsters-turned-bureaucrats that Russiagaters constantly paint Trump as an incompetent puppet of. As The Guardian reported in 2002:
“The oil services company once headed by United States Vice-President Dick Cheney reaped massive rewards in government contracts and bank loans after he took its helm, including one deal with a Russian firm under investigation for mafia connections…Documents uncovered by a Washington researcher, Knut Royce – formerly with the Centre for Public Integrity – and by The Observer show that government banks loaned or insured loans worth $1.5 billion during the five years that Cheney was chief executive, compared with only $100 million during the previous five years.
The company under Cheney benefited from $3.8bn in government contracts or insured loans. Although Bill Clinton was in the White House, Capitol Hill – where the Appropriations Committee handles government contracts – was controlled by Cheney’s Republican Party, to which Halliburton doubled its contributions to $1,212,000 after his arrival.
The most eye-catching contract was for the refurbishment of a Siberian oilfield, Samotlor, for the Tyumen oil company of Russia. The company was loaned $489m in credits by the US Export-Import Bank after lobbying by Halliburton; it was in return to receive $292m for the refurbishments.
The White House and State Department tried to veto the Russian deal. But after intense lobbying by Halliburton the objections were overruled on Capitol Hill…The State Department’s concerns were based on the fact that Tyumen was controlled by a holding conglomerate, the Alfa Group, that had been investigated in Russia for mafia connections.”
Thus, I could say that the “Russian corruption of the Republican Party” actually started in the 1990s, was carried out by the so-called “anti-Trump” conservatives and, even worse, it happened right under the nose of a Democratic president! I wouldn’t do that though, because while Russiagaters are correct that Trump did business with various Russian gangsters/oligarchs in the 1980s and 1990s, this is true of almost any Western capitalist or bureaucrat you could name. One of the biggest scandals of the 1990s, the laundering of dirty Russian money by the Bank of New York, aided and abetted by Bruce Rapapport (who, like the Clintons, has his name all over the BCCI scandal as well), has been all but forgotten by Russiagate true-believers.
As Alan Block and Constance Weaver note in All is Clouded by Desire, Rappaport was likely an asset for numerous intelligence services. Mandy Rice-Davies, the model at the center of the Profumo Affair (recounted in a previous installment) told Block and Weaver that Rappaport was “a dangerous man, close to Mossad, with a very bad reputation.”After serving in the Israeli military, Rappaport moved to London with his family while simultaneously holding both Swiss and Israeli passports. A New York Times piece from 1988 explains that Rappaport, “who was born in Palestine, is close to Shimon Peres, Israel’s Foreign Minister” and had “extensive contacts not only in Israel but also in the Arab world.”
In the declaration for the Geneva Commercial Registry, Block and Weaver write, “Rappaport stated his nationality to be Panamanian…As far as the Geneva police were concerned, however…Rappaport has always been an Israeli citizen…” Peter Truell and Larry Gurwin, in their book about BCCI, remarked that Rappaport “was thought to have ties to US and Israeli intelligence.” Johnathan Beatty and SC Gwynne, whose work shaped the relatively brief coverage given to BCCI in the mainstream media in the early 90s, claim that Ronald Reagan’s CIA director, William Casey, counted Rappaport among a group of close special friends and business partners who formed an informal social circle.
As Beatty and Gwynne write:
“Rappaport appeared again and again just in the background of events. He was involved, for example, with the National Bank of Oman, which channeled millions of dollars supplied by the CIA and by Saudi Arabia to Pakistan for the Afghan freedom fighters. The Bank of Oman was a major affiliate of BCCI, which held a large chunk of its stock. According to the report of Senator John Kerry’s subcommittee investigating BCCI, ‘There is substantial evidence that both BCCI and the CIA have played a major role in the foreign policy and economic affairs’ of Oman.
‘The National Bank of Oman and its CEO, Qais-Al-Zawawi, also did business with CIA Director Casey’s associate, Bruce Rappaport.’ Rappaport and the Bank of Oman’s managing director maintained key contacts with the Saudis, who were pumping money through the bank for the Afghan rebels, at Casey’s request. Rappaport was evidently in charge of keeping officials in Oman happy with the situation…Records also show that BCCI had made many multimillion-dollar loans to companies and government agencies in Oman, as well as to the Bank of Oman director and his business associates.”
Rappaport first became involved with the Bank of New York in 1981, when he purchased 380,001 shares of The Bank of New York Company for approximately $12 million. At this time, Bill Casey was the director of the Long Island Trust Company (LITCO), which Rappaport purchased significant amounts of stock in as well. “By January 1981,” Blockand Weaver write, “Rappaport held 10 percent of LITCO’s shares. LITCO’s chairman, Arthur Hug, Jr., also a close friend of Bill Casey, was nevertheless anxious to keep LITCO out of Rappaport’s reach and looked for other foreign investors as soon as Casey became CIA director.” The Bank of New York also bought out LITCO and “most of Rappaport’s original LITCO shares transmogrified into North American Bancorp shares, became Bank of New York shares. He now owned 11 percent.”
The Bank of New York (BONY) proceeded to buy out Irving Trust and also purchased nearly 20% of Rappaport’s Inter-Maritime Bank. BONY’s deal with Rappaport likely had to do with growing competition, a global decline in real estate prices, and increasing interest rate volatility. To bolster earnings, “the Board of Directors of The Bank of New York Company, whose membership at all relevant times was identical to the Bank’s Board of Directors, approved a strategy to expand The Bank of New York’s correspondent banking business in Russia.” Through Rappaport’s Geneva-based Inter-Maritime Bank, BONY was able to extend its reach not only to Russia, but to the dying Soviet Union in general: “As soon as the The Bank of New York-Inter Maritime Bank deal was consummated in 1989, Rappaport turned to the Soviet Union with an eye toward joint ventures. This was an arena barely prepared for Western businesses. It was only in January 1987 that the Soviet Union devised legislation for such deals…”
BONY’s efforts were an early volley in a joint capitalist assault on the USSR and its successor states by the United States, European Union, and Israel. In 1987, the same year as Trump’s now infamous trip to Moscow, Mega Group creator and Epstein associate Edgar Bronfman met with Gorbachev. Bronfman lobbied for a resumption of the USSR’s diplomatic relationship with Israel, which had been suspended 20 years earlier, and for a reinstatement of the right of Soviet Jews to migrate to their “homeland” in occupied Palestinian territory. Mainstream media accounts of Bronfman’s lobbying portray him as a noble, committed activist. However, Bronfman’s efforts also had the effect of strengthening the relationship between Russian and Israeli organized crime syndicates, with many Russian gangsters using the lifting of travel restrictions to Israel as an opportunity to escape persecution in the Zionist settler-colonial entity. Many who took advantage of the opportunity were not even Jewish:
“Sergei Mikhailov is considered one of the most powerful Russian mobsters. He is the boss of the Moscow based Solntsevskaya organization, the biggest in Russia and probably the world, counting 5.000 members. Mikhailov’s power reaches from Moscow and Geneve to Miami and the Middle East…while Mikhailov sent his soldiers all over the world to set up base he himself decided to go to Israel. Israel is a popular residence among Russian mobsters because it has a certain rule: Jews from all over the world may return to Israel and can not be refused even if they are on the run from the law. Because of this law many Jewish Russian mobsters decide to live in Israel, and many non Jewish Russians decide to get a fake passport, one of them: Sergei Mikhailov. While living in Israel Mikhailov watched his empire expand… According to Swiss court documents Russian mobsters had laundered $60 billion dollars through Swiss banks…Life was good, until Swiss authorities decided to put some pressure on the Russian mobsters who were moving to Switzerland. In October 1996 Mikhailov was arrested and charged with being boss of a criminal organization using false documents and breaking a Swiss law restricting foreigners from buying property. In his mansion police found Israeli Military bugging equipment with this bugging equipment Mikhailov was able to listen in on secret Swiss police radio transmissions.”
One of the most important resources Israel had in its early days was a steady stream of support from several members of the Jewish-American wing of the Murder Inc. crime syndicate. At the same time, nearly every early firm of both Fred and Donald Trump was built with money and workers from the syndicate’s Italian-American wing. Furthermore, Donald later became involved with the Dixie Mafia through dealings with “The Company”, a Kentucky operation which had clear ties to Reagan’s covert operations in Latin America and the Middle Eat. In the 1980s and 1990s, when the American government decided its joint operations with La Cosa Nostra had outlived their usefulness, and when most descendants of the Jewish Mob, such as the Bronfmans and Les Wexner, had gone semi-legitimate, a campaign to diminish the power of the Italian Mafia got underway. This campaign’s true aim appears to have been to “clear space” occupied by one network of criminal organizations to import another from the former Soviet Union.
For example, one thing that the Russiagaters are correct about is that Trump participated in this process by laundering money for several Russian gangsters. David and Jacob Bogatin, two Russian emigres who became gasoline bootleggers, used a $6 million purchase of five deluxe apartments in Trump Tower to launder money for a consortium of gangsters they worked with. One of these gangsters, the Ukrainian-born Semion Mogilevich, is something of a legend in the West. The FBI refers to him as the “boss of bosses” and “the brainy don” while Russiagaters like to emphasize a 2005 interview with Alexander Litvinenko, a former Russian intelligence agent in London, who states that Mogilevich, “had a good relationship with Putin since 1994 or 1993.” While this is plausible, the more interesting part of Mogilevich’s story is the larger triangle between the US, Israel and Russian organized crime in the 1990s. And one key component of this relationship was Bruce Rappaport and the Bank of New York.
As chronicled by Block and Weaver, by 1998, the BONY held 338 accounts possessing Eastern European capital. Five of these accounts belong to five Russian banks that rose from the ashes of the post-Soviet chaos; Dialog, the International Moscow Bank, Bank Foreign Trade, Inkombank, and Tokobank. “The latter had an apparently close relationship with Rappaport and his crew, as well as with BONY,” Block and Weaver write. “One year later, The Bank of New York’s own Russian and Eastern European correspondent accounts began to accelerate. Among the new recruits were an increasing number of Latvian banks that were actually controlled by quite infamous organized criminals.” The newly formed Moscow stock exchange also opened a BONY account and soon enough, “80% of all Russian transfers in U.S. dollars came through BoNY.” A 1994 issue of Foreign Affairs featured an article titled “The Russian Mafia.” According to the article, organized crime was “the most explosive force to emerge from the wreckage of Soviet communism” with the Russian government of the time estimating that $25 billion had gone “to western banks by organized crime structures in 1993.”
Before merging with Bank of New York-Inter-Maritime, Irving Trust had done extensive business with Soviet banks. Starting in1986, this business was overseen by Soviet emigres Natasha Gurfinkel and Vladimir “Mickey” Galitzine, the latter of whom came from a family “nobler than the Romanovs.” Gurfinkel and Galitzine maintained an excellent position within Irving Trust: “…driven by the pressing need for hard currency in the face of an impending economic catastrophe, the Soviet Union was opening up its financial market” and thanks to the work of Galitzine and Gurfinkel, who had grown close to Boris Yeltsin, “by the time the Soviet Union collapsed, the Bank of New York was leaps and bounds ahead of all the American banks suddenly interested in the Russian market.”
After being put in charge of BONY’s Eastern Europe division, Galitzine and Gurfinkel hired yet another Russian emigre, Lucy Edwards, who became VP of the division in 1994. Warnings to the FBI from British authorities that the Eastern Division was laundering money for Russian gangsters were ignored. The operation continued without a hitch until 1998, when a young Russian lawyer was kidnapped in the center of Moscow: “This kind of thing was not unusual in Moscow in the late 1990s…What was unusual was that a few hours later, the captive lawyer phoned a friend in San Francisco and asked her to transfer $300,000 to his abductors’ account..The friend in San Francisco duly complied, and the lawyer was released as soon as the money showed up in the kidnappers’ account—which happened to be at BoNY.” An investigation launched by Russia’s interior ministry, which finally compelled the FBI to open an investigation of its own, and two years later Edwards pled guilty to a variety of crimes. As Block and Weaver note, Edwards and her husband admitted to:
“…making corrupt payments to two Bank of New York employees, as well as laundering these payments through offshore accounts. They aided Russian nationals in illegally entering the United States by providing them with fraudulent visas. In her testimony, Edwards significantly added, not surprisingly, that this was ‘consistent with the practice of the Eastern European Division of the Bank of New York.’ In addition, the pair stashed their illicit earnings in offshore locations, principally the Isle of Man.”
To grease the wheels of the scheme, Edwards’ husband opened a corporate account at BONY in the name of Benex International Co., a New Jersey firm where he’d been president for three years. Edwards then installed BONY’s Micro/Ca$h-Register software on a computer located in an office in Forest Hills, Queens operated by individuals from Depositarno-Kliringovy Bank (DKB), headquartered in Moscow. The Forest Hills office was overseen by Aleksey Volkov, who ran an analogous money laundering firm named Torfinex. In 1996, Edwards’ husband opened a second account at BONY for a company called BECS International, instantly doubling the DKB group’s ability to wire transfer huge amounts of money around the world. After Edwards’ husband added the Russian-controlled Commercial Bank Flamingo to BONY’s roster, DKB started a firm called Sinex in Nauru, a tax haven in the Pacific Islands. Sinex was used to carry out transfers for the Benex and BECS accounts and DKB promoted Sinex through the Commercial Bank of San Francisco, another hotbed of Eastern European organized crime in the United States.
Meanwhile, as Mogilevich henchmen were laundering cash through properties at Trump Tower, they were also acquiring US visas from Edwards. Furthermore, an investigation by British detectives into numerous Benex accounts at BONY’s London office determined that the company was inextricably linked to Mogilevich. British authorities also demonstrated that another UK firm, International Investment Finance Company (run by Edwards’ husband) was linked to Mogilevich’s criminal enterprise. By the time of the BONY operation, Mogilevich had joined numerous other Russian criminals in gaining Israeli citizenship. He also set up shop in Hungary, where he purchased much of the country’s former Soviet arsenal, using it to launch a lucrative weapons trafficking business.
In the immediate aftermath of the USSR, Mogilevich’s most important Israeli contact, Boris Birshstein, was asked by Kyrgyzstan’s president Askar Akaev to become that country’s foreign trade representative. While working for Akaev in 1992, Birshstein developed connections with several important Canadian politicians and opened a branch of his Seabeco enterprise in Toronto. Seabeco also had locations in New York, Rome, Brussels, Zurich, Santiago, and, of course, Moscow. One year later, Seabeco would come under fire in Russia for allegedly laundering billions of dollars and bribing members of the Yeltsin administration. During coverage of this affair, the Russian newspaper Izvestia reported that Birshstein, like Rappaport, worked closely with the Mossad. And just two years later, Birshstein hosted what Block and Weaver refer to as an “organized crime summit” in Tel Aviv.
This meeting, attended in part by Mogilevich and the aforementioned Sergei Mikhailov regarded as the FBI put it, “the sharing of interests in Ukraine.” According to an advisor for significant funding for the 1994 Presidential campaign of Leonid Kuchma came from Birshtein’s company Seabeco. When asked by the Financial TImes why Birshstein would want to donate to Kuchma, the advisor responded, “I don’t want to go into the details, because I am afraid if I did, the western countries would categorically refuse to give us credits.” As reported by Western media, Kuchma pushed, “the Communist-dominated legislature into accepting the painful state budget cuts and price increases necessary to slash a massive budget deficit and win loans from the International Monetary Fund.” This caused Kuchma’s approval ratings to increase dramatically in western Ukraine, where America and the EU were supporting the creation of a neofascist political movement. Meanwhile, Rappaport became an ambassador to Russia on behalf of Antigua, one of the tax haven islands used by this shadow banking enterprise to conduct its affairs.
As it happens, LaRouche’s Executive Intelligence Review published another proto-Russiagate piece having to do with Bank of New York and Rappaport in 1999. This time, the target was Al Gore. To be fair, most of the content of the article is accurate: in the 1980s, Rappaport was “at the center of another drug-money-laundering scandal, involving dirty Ohio banker Marvin Warner.” Two of Warner’s banks did launder drug money from Venezuelan and Colombian crime syndicates and he was “the financial ‘Godfather’ of the Ohio Democratic Party.” Robert Strauss, “a top Democratic fundraiser and George Bush’s Ambassador to Moscow,” was a character witness at Warner’s trial. But the EIR article ends on a note that reads as if it has been ripped verbatim from the modern Russiagate universe: “One of Marvin Warner’s business partners and underlings, James Ruvolo, onetime Democratic Party chairman of Ohio, was recently named as Gore’s Ohio campaign director. Is yet another Russian mafia link to the Vice President about to come to light?”
While the content in this particular LaRouche publication is accurate, you can see how easy it is to graft its alarmist rhetoric onto Trump’s administration. One possible rebuttal is that it’s possible for two things to be true at the same time: Al Gore and Trump can both have links to Russian mobsters/oligarchs. Indeed, I have admitted as much. However, I am merely asking why, if Trump’s decades long plot with Vladimir Putin and “the Russians” to destroy American democracy is real, are the identical crimes of other politicians and influential businessmen suddenly forgotten and any attempt to bring them up treated as “whataboutism?” Why is it that the only news media that seems to bother pointing out the obvious implications in all of these old corruption scandals belongs to a paranoiac cult that is likely a disinformation machine for the State? And why are modern liberal and “center-right” conservative pundits borrowing rhetoric for a mainstream conspiracy theory that is supposedly concerned with combating American fascism from said cult?
For instance, it is another immense irony that Rudy Giuliani, who got his ass eaten by at least 50% of adult aged Americans for the valiant deed of happening to be in office when 9/11 happened, is now reviled as one of the most craven, self-indulgent perverts who helped Trump sell America out to evil democracy-hating Russians. As with capitalists who were merely using the USSR’s dissolution as an opportunity to plunder, in the 1990s politicians from both parties were sucking the teat of Russian criminals who, if those criminals newfound friendship with the “only democracy in the Middle East” is any indication,, clearly loved free markets and democratic governance, not “Putinist authoritarianism.” As Robert L. Friedman writes in his Red Mafiya:
“By the dawn of the new millennium Russian mobsters were lavishing millions of dollars in contributions on Democratic and Republican politicians. In New York City, commodities mogul and alleged wiseguy Semyon (Sam) Kislin has been one of mayor Rudy Giuliani’s top campaign supporters. Kislin, various relatives, and his companies, raised or donated a total of $64,950 to Giuliani’s mayoral campaigns in 1993 and 1997. A Ukrainian immigrant well known among the Russian Jewish community in South Brooklyn, Kislin has also made generous donations to Democratic Senator Charles Schumer as well as other state politicians.”
Giuliani was still working with Kislin as late as 2019.. Kislin was, in fact, the man who brought to Trump’s attention the role Hunter Biden played in Ukrainian oil and gas company Burisma Holdings. Remember, it was Trump’s supposedly illegal “pressure” on the Ukrainian government to release information about Burisma and Hunter Biden is what ultimately brought impeachment proceedings against him, not his supposed “collusion” with Russia. And again, while the Trump administration’s assertion that Hunter’s role in Burisma was some unprecedented act of corruption is incorrect, it does serve as yet another glaring irony, considering how invested Hunter’s father was in Russiagate. Burisma is owned by Igor Kolomoisky’s Privat Group, a consortium of Ukrainian capitalists who took West’s side (AKA, supporting neofascists to turn Ukraine into a NATO stepping stone into Russia) in the post-Maidan war. As Kees van der Pijl explains in his book about the downing of MH17:
“Burisma holds permits to exploit the Donbass as well as explore the Azov-Kuban Basin east of Crimea; Kolomoiskiy ensured key American backing by having Devon Archer, who had been an adviser to John Kerry’s presidential campaign in 2004, appointed to the Burisma board. Soon after, Vice-President Joe Biden’s son Hunter also got a seat, whilst another US citizen, Alan Apter, is the chairman. Aleksander Kwasniewski, former president of Poland, is on the Burisma board, too; he has close links to Pinchuk and is a regular at the latter’s annual Yalta European Strategy (YES) meetings. Kwasniewski’s foundation, Amicus Europae, and the foundation of Prince Albert II of Monaco founded the international forum on ‘Energy Security for the Future’, which claims to be Europe’s largest in this domain, jointly with Burisma. Besides shale gas, it appears that Burisma is also eyeing diamond deposits in the Mariupol region.”
To return to Kislin, after Giuliani became mayor he appointed his Russian donor and fundraiser to the “New York City Economic Development Corporation, a body established by the Mayor’s Office and managing the city’s investments.” However, it’s true that Giuliani and Trump’s business with Russian criminals and the latter’s growing relationship with Israel wasn’t only cynical bourgeois realpolitik in the aftermath of the USSR’s crack-up. It also contributed to the terrorist attacks on 9/11.
A 2001 article written before 9/11 and published in The Middle East Journal notes there was a “growing trend in Russia to blame Saudi Arabia for the continued conflict in Chechnya, the
growth of Islamic fundamentalism in the former USSR, and the actions of the Taliban in Afghanistan.” The article also notes that the Russian government “has developed close ties to Israel, including in the military realm.” Regarding Islamist terrorism, Russian intelligence specifically referred to a charity based in Saudi Arabia by the name of al-Haramain: “In an internal memo provided by the agency, the FSB accused the charity of wiring $1 million to Chechen rebels in 1999 and of arranging to buy 500 heavy weapons for them from Taliban units.” One al-Haramain message to Arab commanders in Chechnya read: “Today, al Haramain has $50 million for the needs of the mujaheddin.”
In 1998, the United States embassies in Kenya and Tanzania were bombed by Al-Qaeda, bringing Osama bin Laden and his associates to the attention of the American public for the first time. Three months before the bombing, Prudence Bushnell, the American ambassador to Kenya, sent an emotional letter to Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright “begging for the Secretary’s personal help.” Bushnell sent numerous such requests to Albright and other officials at the State Department, who “repeatedly refused to grant her request, citing a lack of money.” Both the CIA and FBI “had been amassing increasingly ominous and detailed clues about potential threats in Kenya” but the State Department bureaucracy, including Albright, “still dismissed Ms. Bushnell’s pleas. She was even seen by some at the State Department as a nuisance who was overly obsessed with security.”
CIA officers in Nairobi were made aware of a possible terrorist attack on the embassy as early as the summer of 1997: “The intelligence service of another country, which American officials declined to identify, turned over an informant to the CIA. In a series of conversations, the informant said the Nairobi branch of an Islamic charity, Al Haramain Foundation, was plotting terrorist attacks against Americans…” Strangely, after CIA supposedly found no evidence of a bomb plot in Al Haramain’s files, the Agency’s station chief denied his underlings requests to question Al Haramain members in jail. According to the chief, trying to capture the men responsible for 200 dead Kenyans would somehow “strain his relations” with counterparts in the Kenyan government. This rather bizarre justification, combined with the ostensible lack of evidence of Haramain’s involvement, prompted the Agency to drop the case right then and there.
According to Colm Fitzpatrick’s The Influence of International Funding on the Chechen Separatist Movement in Post-Soviet Russia, “substantial funds were transferred to Chechnya within the United States of America” and al-Haramain “were amongst the chief organizations maintaining this distribution of wealth.” Al Haramain had help from a nonprofit named Benevolence International Foundation (BIF) which officially described itself as a humanitarian organization devoted to helping child victims of war. However, as Fitzpatrick notes, “this group had specific ties to the Jordanian-Chechen Fahti Mohammad Habib who had arrived in Chechnya in 1993, preceding the Afghan mujahidin by a numbers of years.” This was the same year that a man named Mahmud Abouhalima, a devoted member of New York’s Al-Kifah Refugee Center, was arrested for the first terrorist attack on the World Trade Center.
Abouhalima was one of two chief aides to Al-Kifah manager Mustafa Shalabi, who himself had been close with Abdullah Azzam, founder of Maktab al-Khidamat (MAK). MAK quickly became the principle station used to advertise opportunities for Salafist jihad in the Soviet-Afghan War all over the Middle East. Al-Kifah Refugee Center was simply the American extension of this organization, which had, as a major financier and logistics manager the wealthy Saudi businessman Osama bin Laden. Funnily enough, a major leader of the Mujahideen in Chechnya, Ibn al-Khattab, was also a Saudi. I should probably also mention President Bill Clinton’s friendship with the head of Saudi intelligence at the time of the Second Chechyen War, Turki bin Faisal Al Saud (who would, with incredible timing, resign from his position just ten days before 9/11). As The New York Times reported in 1993:
“One of President Clinton’s college classmates at Georgetown University was Prince Turki bin Feisal. Today Prince Turki is the head of the Saudi Arabian intelligence service. The two stay in touch, an Administration official said. As Governor of Arkansas, Mr. Clinton worked hard to secure a multimillion-dollar Saudi donation to a Middle Eastern studies program at the University of Arkansas, said Bernard Madison, the dean of the university’s Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences.”
While still Governor of Arkansas, Clinton “worked hard to secure a multimillion-dollar Saudi donation to a Middle Eastern studies program at the University of Arkansas.” This endeavor involved Clinton’s longtime business partners, the Stephenses who, as I mentioned in an earlier installment of this series, were not only major donors to the GOP but also participants in the BCCI scandal. Furthermore, as Peter Dale Scott demonstrates, Al-Kifah served as an important node in a global operation to move the Mujahideen into any nation where American imperialism had a financial stake, such as Azerbaijan in 1993:
“There a pro-Moscow president was ousted after large numbers of Arab and other foreign mujahedin veterans were secretly imported from Afghanistan, on an airline hastily organized by three former veterans of the CIA’s airline Air America. (The three, all once detailed from the Pentagon to the CIA, were Richard Secord, Harry Aderholt, and Ed Dearborn.) This was an ad hoc marriage of convenience: the mujahedin got to defend Muslims against Russian influence in the enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh, while the Americans got a new president who opened up the oilfields of Baku to western oil companies.”
The same kind of thing occurred in Bosnia and Kosovo during the wars in Yugoslavia, the breakup of which was intentionally hastened and exasperated by the United States. As Scott notes:
“Most Americans are aware that Clinton dispatched U.S. forces to Bosnia to enforce the Dayton peace accords after a well-publicized Serbian atrocity: the massacre of thousands of Muslims at Srebrenica. Thanks to a vigorous campaign by the p.r. firm Ruder Finn, Americans heard a great deal about the Srebrenica massacre, but far less about the beheadings and other atrocities by Muslims that preceded and helped account for it.
A major reason for the Serb attack on Srebrenica was to deal with the armed attacks mounted from that base on nearby villages: ‘intelligence sources said it was that harassment which precipitated the Serb attack on the 1,500 Muslim defenders inside the enclave.’ General Philippe Morillon, commander of the UN troops in Bosnia from 1992 to 1993, testified to the ICTY (International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia) that Muslim forces based in Srebrenica had ‘engaged in attacks during Orthodox holidays and destroyed villages, massacring all the inhabitants. This created a degree of hatred that was quite extraordinary in the region’…Former U.S. ambassador to Croatia Peter Galbraith later admitted in an interview that the U.S. administration was aware of ‘small numbers of atrocities’ being committed by the foreign mujahedin in Bosnia, but dismissed the atrocities as ‘in the scheme of things not a big issue.’”
This history clearly demonstrates plans for a joint US-Russian subjugation of the few remaining countries which hadn’t been fully incorporated into global capital circuits on the one hand and the crushing of legitimate peripheral rebellions (such as the Maoist insurgencies in the Philippines and India, the struggle of Palestinian and Lebanese paramilitaries against Zionist occupation, and the often forgotten civil war in Yemen that now resembles a war between Yemen and the Saudi Monarchs, with the latter aided by their old friend the United States) on the other. In both instances, “international terrorism” provided a pretext that had formerly been provided by the USSR and in doing so, superseded the strict geographical identification of “international communism” with “Eastern Europe.” But now that Eurasia, in its own fully bourgeois age (the nuances of capitalist “reforms” in China are an issue for another essay, to fully demonstrate my point I must not mince words) has decided it will no longer play second fiddle to the West, we have arrived at a point that Lenin analyzed over 100 years ago in the interlude between two Great Wars:
“…in the realities of the capitalist system…‘inter-imperialist’ or ‘ultra-imperialist’ alliances, no matter what form they may assume, whether of one imperialist coalition against another, or of a general alliance embracing all the imperialist powers, are inevitably nothing more than a ‘truce’ in periods between wars. Peaceful alliances prepare the ground for wars, and in their turn grow out of wars; the one conditions the other, producing alternating forms of peaceful and non-peaceful struggle on one and the same basis of imperialist connections and relations within world economics and world politics.”