The Tired Soviet Ideology Behind Russian Propaganda
A top Putin adviser dredges up conspiracies about a cabal of bankers controlling the U.S. and the U.K.
This week the Russian politician and Putin adviser Nikolay Patrushev gave an interview to the Russian magazine Argumenti i Fakti. Patrushev is an old hardline KGB officer, having served since the mid-1970s in Leningrad/St. Petersburg or in nearby areas of Russia bordering Finland. He was chosen as the head of the FSB (the successor to the KGB) when Putin moved on from there to be prime minister of Russia in 1998. Since 2008 he has been the secretary to the Russian Security Council, the rough equivalent of our National Security Council. In short, he is a tremendously important and influential Russian, possibly second only to Vladimir Putin himself. We should pay attention to what he says, if only to get ideas about the lies the Russian leadership is telling to the world and even to itself.
During the interview Patrushev made some vague comments on the goals and possible end of Russia’s “special operation” (invasion) of Ukraine. He holds out no hope for a swift resolution. He insists that Russia is “not chasing deadlines” and that “all the goals set by the President of Russia will be fulfilled” without extra elaboration about what those goals might be, beyond eradicating “Nazism.” There are a few other interesting asides he makes about the perfidy of the U.S., how we funded al-Qaeda (this is part of a whataboutism response when asking about Russia potentially getting listed as a state sponsor of terrorism), and also an accusation that the Biden Foundation, the Soros Foundation, the Clinton Foundation, and the Rockefeller Foundation along with the Pentagon may have been behind the creation of COVID-19. He also tries to draw an equivalency between the Azov battalion and the Buffalo mass shooter.
These are all recent iterations of old Russian anti-American talking points. The most interesting line of arguments in Partushev’s interview is about who he says is the ultimate enemy. Patrushev repeats several ideas that Putin has spoken about recently, specifically that 1) Ukraine is under “external control” by the ultimate Russian enemies, 2) the ultimate enemies of Russia are the “Anglo Saxons” who are implementing a neocolonial “golden billion” strategy, and 3) the “Anglo Saxons” are themselves controlled by a finance capital cabal, which is driving the aggressive policy of the West and Ukraine.
He begins the interview by attacking the “Anglo Saxons”:
“The Anglo-Saxons’ style has not changed for centuries. These days, too, they keep dictating their conditions to the world, arrogantly ignoring the sovereign rights of countries. While hiding their actions behind the human rights, freedom, and democracy rhetoric, they push ahead with the ‘golden billion’ doctrine, which implies that only a select few are entitled to prosperity in this world. The plight of everybody else is to toil away for the sake of their well-being.” (This paragraph is translated by TASS, a Russian state news service.)
Here we see the national or perhaps even racial framing of Russia’s ultimate enemy, according to Patrushev, “United States and England.” Later in the interview he claims they “force Ukrainians to fight, support neo-Nazis, supply them with weapons, [and] send their military advisers and mercenaries.” This framing of the enemy as “Anglo-Saxon” is a common refrain in Russian official statements and in Russian state media. Among other things, such framing helps Russians believe that they are not facing a united alliance of many different nations, but just the forces of one particular “nation” that holds the others in secret thralldom.
According to Patrushev, one of the big institutions of this secret empire of the U.S. and England is NATO. When a country joins NATO, Patrushev says, this “implies the automatic transfer of a significant part of its sovereignty to Washington.” So, NATO is not really a defensive alliance of independent states who band together for their own security, it is an arm of the Anglo-Saxon empire. NATO is also the primary arm of this empire that manipulated Ukraine into war, according to Patrushev:
“It was under the real management of the Kyiv authorities by NATO that led to this catastrophic scenario. If Ukraine had remained independent, and not ruled by the current puppet regime that is obsessed with the idea of joining NATO and the EU, then it would have long ago expelled all the Nazi evil spirits from its land. Meanwhile, an endlessly smoldering conflict in this country is seen as an ideal scenario for the entire North Atlantic alliance, led by the United States. The West needs Ukraine as a counterbalance to Russia, and also as a dumping ground for getting rid of obsolete weapons. By fueling hostilities, the United States is pumping money into its military-industrial complex, once again, as in the wars of the 20th century, while remaining on the winning side. At the same time, the United States considers the inhabitants of Ukraine as disposable, which have no place in that “golden billion.”
The Anglo-Saxons, through NATO, drove Ukraine to provoking Russia into war as part of their “golden billion” doctrine. This is an idea that Putin also spoke of in recent months. Briefly, it is the idea that the leaders of a small group of hyper-developed countries (which number about 1 billion people) are exploiting the rest of the world. They and their people can live high on the hog at the expense of the other 7 billion, who must “ toil away for the sake of [the golden billion’s] well-being.”
NATO is a lie, the “independent” Ukrainian government is a lie, but what about the Anglo-Saxon states? When discussing how and the ultimate why of the U.S. and the U.K.’s foreign policy, Patrushev says:
“In order to increase the wealth of a handful of magnates in the City of London and Wall Street, the governments of the United States and England, controlled by big capital, are creating an economic crisis in the world, dooming millions of people in Africa, Asia, and Latin America to starvation, limiting their access to grain, fertilizers and energy resources. By their actions they are provoking unemployment and a migration catastrophe in Europe. Uninterested in the prosperity of European countries, they are doing everything to make them disappear from the pedestal of economically developed countries.”
To rephrase, there is a cabal of bankers who run the Anglo-Saxon world, and who have been running the anti-Russian foreign policies of the U.S. and U.K. The result of their aggressive policy against Russia will be an economic crisis created by high food and energy prices. This is a line that Russian propagandists have been developing for months—arguing against Western support for Ukrainian resistance and Western sanctions against Russia by pointing to how prices will go up. If the war ended, if Ukraine surrendered, if Russian oil and gas and grain flowed into the world again, then the prices would go back down. This is an argument that Russia will make all over the world—in India, the Middle East, and even the United States. Here, Patrushev is focused on an anti-American line that will be fed to Europeans, likely a wind-up to use public opinion in some Western European states to take it easy on Russia and ease off sanctions or even pressure Ukraine to surrender.
It is not Russia’s aggression that caused this price spike, the argument goes, it is the evil machinations of American and British finance capital. In case it wasn’t clear by now, Patrushev is repeating what is obviously reheated Soviet ideology—complete with references to “big capital”—with a bit of modernized economic catastrophism thrown in. The democracies of the West are fake—under the control of the Anglo-Saxons, which are in turn under the control of a cabal of “imperialist” bankers.
Patrushev’s mind is still Soviet, like most of the Russian security elite. They still believe in the enemies they were taught about as children and in their early career. They may have ditched Marxism, but they kept Leninism. The Cold War is long over, but not in the heads of the Russian leadership.
Andrew Fink received his Ph.D. from the law school at Leiden University in 2020 on the history of propaganda, conspiracy theories, and violent extremist ideologies.