My background for this observation is 30+ years with China, the Far East, including the last days of the Soviet Union in both Russia and Ukraine in 1991-1992 and finally the mostly Balkans through 2009. This is a book I’ll never get to write; too long, too autobiographical and too boring. Had I been living in the time of Queen Victoria I’d have simply named the author “A Man with a Duster” as many English onlookers to history at 10 Downing Street often did. And my name would always be something like “Dicky”, you know, the PM’s best friend at Eton, who was always in the room when important things were being discussed by important people.
I really am an interesting fellow, if witnessing a lot at historical times is interesting. Sadly, because of some people I got to know in those early days in the Russias, in 1998 I took on an alias to allow me to write while not tipping off some of those other people where I live, lest they be able to come kill my wife’s rosebushes.
I’m sorry that it took so long for the criminal side of these adventures to dawn on me in such a way that I could tie them all together. The fragments were right in front of me since Ron Brown’s plane went down in Croatia in 1996, but took the Biden-Biden payoff to bring them all together.
I spent three months in Ukraine and Russia in 1991 and 1992 at the time when the USSR formally ceased to exist, when Mikhail Gorbachev stepped down and Boris Yeltsin moved into the “White House” a few miles south of the Kremlin, on the Moscow River. My escort drove me there once, but we didn’t go in.
I was the guest of a “private bank” in Ukraine, jokingly call “Red Biznez” by the staff. That bank and dozens more like them were set up by Gorbachev with Communist Party funds to begin finding business opportunities in the private sector they knew would emerge. My mission was to meet as many producers as I could and bring their resumes and calling cards back to the US, and see if we (the trading company who sent me) could spur some investment. I was interviewed on national television, so was hosted by dozens of state “entities”, from tanks to sweat shop sewing factories.
My first day a spokesman from a farm collective in far SE Ukraine popped in unannounced., causing a great commotion at the front door, partly because he was dressed in farm clothes, including knee length galoshes. He’d even come by train to see me, old worn overcoat, hat in hand, and wanted me to come back to his collective. “Impossible” my bank handlers said, but I forced them to let us sit is a room and talk for awhile, just him, my translator and me. A really sweet man, looked 60 (who could tell?), we exchanged pleasantries, I made a list of things he wanted, farm equipment mostly, and promised I would reply in the Spring. My first impression was their hunger in just meeting a real live American, and that somehow we held the keys to their being let out of their cage. And second, my enlightenment of the real live hunger and thirst those people had for all the things they believed we could help them with. It was very heavy.
I spent time in Kiev and other Ukrainian industrial cities, and Moscow and Gorkiy in Russia. Those were very heady times, for in Ukraine the Ukrainians were giddy, while the Russians who largely ran the government and key industries there, were more apprehensive. (All the key government and industrial jobs in all the Soviet states were Russian, a thing almost no one in the media mentions today. Or know, I suppose.) And in Moscow everyone, especially American embassy staff (I had a friend there) were on edge, filled with terror tales of AK gunfire in the suburbs as competing mafia were vying for territory. I wrote of the few days I spent with a member of the Soviet Central Committee that I had “colluded” with here, I didn’t know then but he was a special case, for even though a ranking Communist in the political sense, Mr Suchkov sat at the foot of the free market cross.
He drove from Gorkiy to Moscow in sub-zero temperatures to pick me up, so I could visit his city for a few days. He wanted to introduce me to factories and their directors and give advice as to how they might better present themselves to American markets and improve production. I already knew quite a lot about Chinese production systems, and their general way of doing business, but it was while visiting the Soviet factories, and seeing their equipment that I came up with the idea, which I called “retro-technology”, that older-generation production equipment in the US, and which were being moth-balled or sold for scrap because US producers needed more high-productivity equipment, would fit Russian and Chinese labor markets for pennies on the dollar over new equipment that American and European companies were trying to sell them. (They were easy to find, and one company offered a 1950s pork-kill facility in Kansas which could have tripled production in a southern Russia city was offered up free of charge if the Russians would pay for shipping.. I pitched that to the Soviet embassy in Washington. But no takers since the Soviets couldn’t figure a way to make s buck off it. Same for hundreds of 1950s knitting machines and sewing machines for China.)
Suchkov’s power position in the USSR was the oil and gas business, as he oversaw a territory the size of France, covering the entire Volga River watershed, from Gorkiy south thru Stalingrad (Volgograd) until it entered the Caspian Sea. I even met his boss, the Big Boss of GAZPROM. We shared vodka and caviar in the back of his limo after ours had pulled off the side of the road on the way back to Moscow. Biznez, Russian style.
I knew little of the contest and alignment of competing oligarchs, who were trying to grab all the assets of the old Soviet government (legally the government owned everything, from factories to airlines to all the land the apartment complexes stood on.) There were several “mafias” who literally controlled every square foot of what we call in America “common space”‘, sidewalks, streets, parks. And of course, the docks. That explained all the gunfire. Sort of like Minnesota Street in Billings, a place respectable people just didn’t go after dark. Every person who wanted to rent a storefront or set up a kiosk on the street (I recall the prayer of a fellow from the Caucasus, “Oh, I hope I get a good mafia”) had to pay someone for the privilege, besides the city government. Even beggars had to pay a piece of their action to “a mafia” just for a space in a subway tunnel. Only on church property could you beg for free.
I knew there were competing oligarchs (hell, “crime families”) at the time, but it be Putin’s election in 2000 that would signal the final shaking out. Putin represents a consortium of oligarchs, creating a kind of fascist dictatorship, much like the banana republics, e.g. Trujillo, who got a 20% piece of every transaction. Jeanne Kirkpatrick would have called these “authoritarian” regimes, for they really didn’t impede the people’s right to spend their earnings any way they wanted, or to keep them from traveling, or going to church.
Compared to Stalin or ISIS they were pretty lax in how people lived their lives. Assad was that way in Syria until Joh McCain declared him to be worse the Muslim Brotherhood. (I’m guessing corruption there too.)
But here’s the kicker for Americans: Neither would the crime families allow any competition. No new business without permission. Moreover, no new ideas, no new “better way”. They have to have a cookbook, and as much as they hate us, they know America is the only place where cookbooks keep pumping out new recipes.
You may never have noticed (again I’ve been there too) but Latin American “democracies” are structured this same way, headed by wealthy management elites from whom every street level bodega owner and farmer has to pay a fee to be able to make a living. Even their drug cartels fit into this model.
Today “the South” has become the pawns of the global corporatists who need to fill America and Europe with cheap labor from Latin America and Africa, in part to undermine the sole remaining holdout, America, and bring us into compliance with their revised organizational world view. In past decades these tiny invasions of migrant workers from the South have turned out some fine Americans…but two-three generations hence. (That’s how long it takes). This is no longer the case, which is why the border needs to be shut down until we can sort out this corruption we’re in now. These invading hordes are all on someone else’s leash, and for a different purpose. Assimilation, “ser Americano” is not one. Strengthening America is not one.
Obviously, many of our politicians are on those payrolls.
Finally, at an entirely different level, so is the European Union, which is a sophisticated white collar version of the Russian “facsocracy”. Actually European working classes have been under some sort of ruling thumb since the Middle Ages. No one could ever go out and just decide to build a business that had even a glimmer of a chance of growing larger than that space they first rented on Rue Denoyez, sell farm produce, or meat cuts, or sewing garments. So even after Uncle Olaf, who migrated to America in 1911, sent letters back about the amazing things he could di America, Europeans still didn’t know this was a human entitlement (as laid out in the American Declaration of Independence); the dream of economic freedom and privately-initiated social advancement as well.
We are still Europe’s only connection to true freedom.
Back to Russia, I stopped paying attention to Russia during the Kosovo War. It wasn’t the least bit friendly. My friend Suchkov either chose a losing cartel, or his naïve notions of free market capitalism went by the board. He genuinely wanted to raise the quality of life for the people in his oblast. Of all the Russians I ever knew, he was the only who actually seemed to care in that way.
Remember, at this time in history, 1992, George H W Bush was still the president and wanted to cash in on the “peace dividend” bequeathed to him by Ronald Reagan. That was the last time I ever spoke with federal bureaucrats, ever. I sent them summaries, even heard one repeated in a congressional hearing (without attribution of course) but while it was all spoken in bureaucratese, it was America’s clear understanding that we wanted to help the old USSR gain free-market sea legs. There was no corrupt motive. Just dull, bureaucratic business-as-usual.
Bill Clinton never came into my mind, nor that a major objective in his want to go to Russia would be to find as many different Soviet girls who could hum “Dixie” (his former mentor, William Fulbright’s favorite song) in their native tongue, such as Modovan, Azerbaijani, and Lithuanian.
No country who wanted to find a corruption-friendly politician to buy, could ever have done better than Bill and Hillary Clinton.
I spent much of the Clinton years in the Balkans, only rarely venturing back to the old USSR. In Bulgaria everyone thought of Clinton as a man’s man because he was such a womanizer, which is still the sign of a powerful, virile man there. To the extent that I could, I tried to fill them in on his dark side. Clinton helped my arguments with the Kosovo War, for he destroyed over half of the Bulgarian economy by shutting down trade and business with Serbia, and then, to repay them, instead of direct reimbursement, he built the state a giant new airport at Sofia. I miss that old airport, one of my favorite all time sights was to watch travelers, walking out to the aircraft to climb the steps into the cabin, stop at the bottom of the steps, and drop, then crush their cigarette with their shoe. And enduring memory of a bygone era.
The Balkan people first lost respect for Clinton, and America, when he refused to fight Serbia on the ground. He only bombed from 20,000 feet, so only hit cardboard tanks on the ground. They had no great love for Serbia but thought this unmanly.
When the Kosovo War ended, and KFOR troops remained in Makedonia, where I did some business and was introduced to their business culture (everyone wore black suits with black tee-shirts) everyone became angry when almost all the allotted immigration visas for the whole region were passed onto only select groups.
I thought little when the aircraft carrying Ron Brown, Clinton’s Commerce Secretary, when down in the mountains in 1996, but he was Clinton’s deal maker. (I recall the famous clip of Clinton at Brown’s funeral yukking it up until he saw a camera on him.) But then almost all the Albanian visa slots were taken by known crime gang figures. Even the Italian and Sicilian mafia hated the Albanian crime gangs….and all of Europe’s capitals were besieged by them, running all the vices. And now, thanks to Clinton America. It was a Bulgarian scientist who told me this, very irately, as in “How dare he?” He said the Albanians are criminals. “You mean like gypsies?” I asked. “No. Gypsies only steal, in his “as everyone knows, you idiot” tone. Albanians are criminals.” (Duh, he implied.)
It was also Bill Clinton who first opened the doors for the Russians in the 1990s and their respective mafias seemed to have flourished here accordingly; subsidiaries of oligarch families back home.
I don’t think George W Bush did much to reverse this, but feel free to correct me If I’m wrong. I was involved in other parts of the Balkans at the time. And when Obama was elected I hung up my spurs, buried my colleague in Bulgaria, and decided that a full court press against America was about to take place with Barack Obama and the Democrats.
At the time, although we didn’t know it, a different kind of oligarchical formation was being crafted in the high castles of world business. Globalism. The European Union was built on a similar supranational design. I helped one small engineering company who did some small after-market parts production for Mercedes Benz, for sales in Africa where there were no European version of ISO 9000 certifications required. But once they got big enough to draw the notice of tax officials, who dutifully notified “mafia”, suddenly they were visited by Bulgarian corporate mafia, who essentially took over the company. The original founding engineers (the only people who actually knew what they were producing and how to produce it) suddenly became front-line supervisors, keeping perhaps 20% of their earnings.
This is how they work.
This is normal, folks. And explains why it was a major aim of Obama to destroy American small business. We are the only surviving country in the world that actually allows one.
Picture in your mind how this happens and you can see how many tiers there are to a criminal gang pyramid. It’s then easy to make the connection between an oligarch in Russia who owns all the oil and gas resources of GAZPROM, and two-three tiers lower, where he controls “entities” or gangs that control prostitution, whiskey, sidewalk kiosks that sell magazines, and rent collection from store fronts. But all that money, less payroll along the way, ends in the pockets of the oligarchs who also write all the laws, and generally keep the other 70% in line.
A form of this has existed in China for centuries, except for a brief romance with Mao, who, like St Michael, still adorns their places of worship. Nothing has changed other than the way they dress and how they draw their organization chart on a board. They steal intellectual property, other peoples ideas and inventions…and have for years….and while no one knows how much they may have improved on technologies they’ve stolen, or was brokered to them via the Clintons (Weapons and space technology), we generally known they still can’t invent a simple mousetrap from scratch.
Because they all go by different names we haven’t really spend much time weaving them into an organizationally cohesive whole. In fact, they often compete, much like the Sicilian crime families who arose in America’s major cities in the early 1900s, territorial, but able to collaborate toward a common purpose or against a common enemy.
I’ve written in other pages why America was always above the basic elements of Oligarchic or Globalist government. That superiority was in our culture.
But virtually every cultural rule we had imprinted on ourselves from the very beginning; rule of law, playing fair, a reciprocity with out neighbors, and maintaining a mindful watch on out government, has been put up for auction with the passing of each generation.
A lot of fine people, or so I thought, seem to agree that that old way is just out of step with the times. That is the fight we are now fighting inside America.
America is not officially a part of this worldwide corporate way of governing. But many of our corporations are. Virtually all of them are conglomerates, many corporate brands under a single umbrella. All of them, except first generation tech companies, manage and own corporate brands that were created by people two-three generations earlier who actually put their own personal sweat equity into the creation of their product and brand.
Virtually every major corporation today is simply managing the results of someone else’s genius and hard work. When this sort of branding and consolidation began in the 1970s-80s, I was in industry at the time, and there were warnings by many of the retiring captains of industry that this is what would result. I was fortunate enough to be able to put on my duster and sit in on many of their conversations. It was why I left industry to try and find ways to compete with this, for while we knew nothing of Russia in 1989, we knew a lot about China.
As I just reported, it would take Bill Clinton to tell us just how far the American political establishment had extended its hands out, palms up, begging to get in on that foreign money chase, because all our politicians believed they could middle man (vt) that one thing all the rest of the world’s leaders most lusted for, America’s self-made wealth…which Europe especially clearly believes is in the wrong hands.
Every foreign mob has its own particular part of America they want to rob….technology mostly, but a piece of the action, influence, intangibles…things that do not necessarily enrich them, but rather lessens America, thereby making their own stash increase by comparison.
Our political capacity for corruption is boundless.
Since the Clinton days almost every member of Congress enters with the expectation of leaving Washington a millionaire, 10 years at least, and then settle into a cush job inside the orbit. Or buy a place in St Thomas.
We can’t fix the world’s supranational crime family problem by fighting them head on. But we can blow out a couple of their tires just be denying them easy access to America’s four-lane highways. That is simply by chopping off those extended hands. And more vigorously putting away those who’ve already begun cashing in. After all, one does not give $1.5B to a politician or his family and not expect at least $3b-$4B of value in return. We’re not talking about country club memberships here, or a spot for our kid on Harvard’s polo team.
We can do this. But not in 5 years, which is when Donald Trump steps down. Not even in 20 years. Think generationally, as Washington did, when he laid a foundation which, at the top end of government, lasted forty years, but more importantly, at the bottom end. lasted 175 years. And is still being clung to by 50% of the people after 232 years.
There is much to do, much to plan to do, and much to insist on being done.