Here is a well-researched and thought-provoking article on how Russia plays with the mindsets of the Western elites and, particularly, with those in the government: The Second Front by Françoise Thom.
I will cite some parts of the text to give you the taste of it:
“As our eyes are riveted on the battlefield in Ukraine, we tend to forget that Russia continues to wage a parallel war against the West, this one largely invisible, just as in 1941-1945 Stalin was not fighting the Wehrmacht only. From 1942 onward, he was preparing his great thrust into post-war Europe, infiltrating the Roosevelt administration and opening schools on Soviet territory to train European Communists who would become the nuclei of the future “friendly” governments that Stalin intended to install in the “liberated” countries.
To measure the intensity of this hidden war waged by an army of moles operating from Moscow, it is necessary to clearly understand the Russian plan. This will enable us to gauge the effectiveness of the action undertaken by the Kremlin.
First point: Russia has in no way abandoned its initial plan to install a pro-Russian government in Kyiv. We should not imagine that Moscow would be content with a Korean-style scenario, as its agents of influence are suggesting to the West. Russia wants to enlist the West to force Kyiv to accept the so-called “peace for territory” swap and to coerce Ukrainians to resign themselves to the amputation of their country. The real scenario in the minds of Russia’s leaders is not the Korean one: for them, a part of Ukraine integrated into the West is unacceptable.
The real scenario that inspires them is the Georgian scenario of 2008-9: it consisted in stirring up the bitterness felt by Georgians after the “betrayal” of the West, in twisting the knife in the wound, so as to demoralize them, make them lose heart, make them plunge back into the corruption and cynicism characteristic of the “Russian world” and finally resign themselves to electing a new government that we now know was a government of collaboration”.
“So the plan is clear. Now let us look at the means employed to achieve it. Historical precedents are illuminating, especially that of the Great Alliance of 1941-1945 mentioned above. As in that period, Russia’s efforts are focused on the United States. The first step was to set up a “secret channel” with the American administration. During the Second World War, this secret channel was provided by the highly Sovietophile Harry Hopkins, President Roosevelt’s right-hand man. The advantage of the secret channel is that it enables Moscow to influence decision-makers directly, behind the scenes, behind the backs of the allies, sheltered from the media”.
“The second component of this policy is the creation of an appeasement party in the target country, which works on public opinion and exerts an influence parallel to that of the secret channel”.
“In the USA, the appeasement party has ancient roots. It dominated the Obama administration, so much so that, it may be recalled, the « reset » was proclaimed in Washington immediately after Russia amputated two of Georgia’s provinces following the Russian-Georgian war of August 2008. In the years that followed, the United States demonstrated its weakness and total lack of understanding of Russian objectives and modus operandi. The annexation of Crimea did not serve as a lesson, nor did Russia’s aggression against Ukraine on February 24.
A recent article in Newsweek shows the extent to which illusions persist in part of the Washington establishment. The CIA sees its role in the Russian-Ukrainian war this way: “as a primary spy, a negotiator, a supplier of intelligence, a logistician, a wrangler of a network of sensitive NATO relations and perhaps most important of all, the agency trying to ensure the war does not further spin out of control.”
The article quotes a CIA official: “Don’t underestimate the Biden administration’s priority to keep Americans out of harm’s way and reassure Russia that it doesn’t need to escalate. Is the CIA on the ground inside Ukraine? Yes, but it’s also not nefarious.” These words show the extent to which Kremlin propaganda has been internalized in Washington. Roosevelt, too, thought it necessary to “reassure” Stalin. Russia invades Ukraine, and it is Russia that needs to be reassured!”
“Once again, we find ourselves faced with American ignorance of Russian diplomatic procedures, even though these are well analyzed in the Memoirs of Roosevelt-era diplomats like Charles Bohlen, who had come to know the score. In this type of confidential exchange, the Russians never reveal their cards, letting their adversary speak, so as to realize the possible concessions to be pocketed during an initial phase, just to prime the pump. Of course, there is the familiar refrain: don’t humiliate Russia. Can you imagine that in April 1945, the Allies’ main concern was to “allow Hitler to save face”, “not to humiliate Germany”? This simple question is a measure of the power of the appeasement party in the West”.
“Blackmailing with chaos.
But this argument is now overshadowed by a second one: if Russia does not win in Ukraine, Putin’s regime will collapse and there will be chaos, of which we already have a foretaste with Prigozhin’s march on Moscow. And in the event of the dissolution of the Russian Federation, what will happen to the many nuclear weapons stored on Russian territory?
This theme had already worked admirably in 1991, when the West, fearful of chaos, did everything in its power to keep Gorbachev’s head above water and dissuade the nations of the USSR from proclaiming their independence.
But here again, the story goes back much further. In his first interview with French ambassador Joseph Noulens on December 18, 1917, Trotsky had a powerful argument to interest France in the survival of the Bolshevik regime: “In any case, if we succumb, Russia is doomed to anarchy for ten years, and the Germans will become its masters”1 . At the same time, the Bolsheviks were persuading the Germans that it was in their interest to support Lenin’s regime, otherwise the Entente countries would take advantage of Russian chaos to install a White general in power who would be favorable to them!
Today, as we have seen, they brandish the threat of a Sino-Russian alliance. From the earliest days of the Bolshevik regime, the Kremlin’s leaders masterfully used Russian chaos to manipulate the West”.
“Lately, the theme of Russia’s apocalyptic collapse in the event of military defeat has become the obligatory commonplace of almost all experts, Russians from the establishment, theoretically anti-Putin Russians from the diaspora, and Western observers with a propensity to be influenced by Russian analyses, even when those observers are critical of Putin’s policies”.
“Before moving on to the second part of the Kremlin’s psychological warfare, let us do justice to the West’s irrational phobia of Russian chaos. The disintegration of Russia that we hear so much about is highly unlikely to happen (the only region likely to be destabilized is the North Caucasus). The Russian population has reached such a degree of inertia and fatalism that it is hard to imagine it launching into a civil war”.
“... there is no reason why the West should encourage this resurgence of Russian autocracy under the pretext of “stability.” The experience of Putinism should have taught us that nothing is more dangerous than an uncontrolled autocrat with nuclear weapons. Russia was chaotic from 1917 to 1919. It was too busy installing dictatorship on its own territory to do any serious harm in the West. But as soon as the Bolsheviks had triumphed over the White armies and established their tyranny in the country in the spring of 1920, we find the Red Army at the gates of Warsaw, and Lenin busy destabilizing Central Europe and Germany”.
“The best way to remedy the “anti-Western paranoia that has long been the temptation of Russia’s leaders” (quoting former French President Nicolas Sarkozy) is to stand firm and refuse to cave in to the Kremlin in all things... Let Russia stew in its own juices, preventing the Kremlin from doing any harm outside its borders. Isolating the sick and putting them on a diet is often the best therapy. Let us take advantage of the fact that Putin has done the work for us.
Instead of allowing the Kremlin to project fear abroad by brandishing the nuclear threat, let us improve our missile defenses. And if there really is chaos in Russia, to the point where the risk of uncontrolled nuclear proliferation becomes real, it is more rational to think of ways, military and otherwise, to secure nuclear sites than to seek to recreate a strong power in Moscow that will once again use nuclear weapons as an instrument of intimidation”.
“The demoralization of Ukraine.
Today, the men of the Kremlin still harbor the hope of being able to achieve their initial objectives in Ukraine. The war of attrition led by Moscow is a Katyn in slow motion, pursuing the same goal as the execution of Polish officers in the spring of 1940: to destroy the cadres of independent Poland (now Ukraine).
Russian leaders believe they have succeeded in convincing the West to prevent Ukraine’s victory. While they were worried stiff in the spring, the divine surprise for them was the fact that the West refrained from supplying Kyiv with sufficient weapons to ensure victory for the Ukrainian army in their summer counter-offensive.
They feel the time has come for them to exploit the understandable bitterness of Ukrainians, who are forced to fight with their fists and feet tied against an adversary to whom the West has granted a monopoly on escalation, - and to move on to phase 2 of their psychological warfare, fanning in Ukraine the flames of the feeling of betrayal by the Western “partners” to pave the way for a political crisis that will catapult camouflaged pro-Russians to power in Kyiv”.
“The second part of the plan is to demonstrate the power of the pro-Russian lobby and the party of Western appeasers mobilized by the Kremlin for this purpose in the West. Hence the barrage of publications and interviews in the Western media. Anonymous sources report disagreements between the US military and the Ukrainian command. We are told that US intelligence officials no longer believe in the victory of the Ukrainian counter-offensive.
Stian Jenssen, NATO Secretary General’s Chief of Staff, suggests that Ukraine could join the Alliance if it gave up territory to Russia. Sarkozy proposes to organize a new referendum “incontestable, i.e. organized under the strict control of the international community” in Crimea, taking up an initiative formulated on June 11 by Margarita Simonyan, the voice of the Kremlin: a referendum which would be as credible as the elections organized in 1946 by Stalin in the future People’s Democracies, with the results desired by the authorities being obtained by the same methods, i.e. systematic repression of opponents, a regime of terror, deportations, propaganda bludgeoning, corruption, etc.
In this vein Pope Francis tops the list. He did not know better than to praise Russian imperialism before the young believers of Saint Petersburg: “You are the heirs of Great Russia, never forget this heritage.*”
“Such is the gigantic psychological war machine deployed in Russia that Westerners and Ukrainians alike must be aware of this. Once the Kremlin’s objectives and modus operandi are understood, the game can be won. On the battlefield too”.
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I also want specifically thank Kos for his statement in the recent Ukrainian Update: Give Ukraine everything it needs, and promise it all at once. This is a proper conclusion from the last 18th months of war, and it goes in line with the deeper analysis of the Russian strategy described above.
As always, if you wish to help Ukraine win, please donate to Ukrainian war effort through Come Back Alive Foundation or through any other means that is available to you.