The rise of the newly aggressive Russia carrying out international assassinations, threatening its neighbors, distributing weapons to America's enemies, confronting US forces and seemingly bent on resurrecting all its old bad habits baffles many who thought that the Cold War had ended with the fall of Communism.
Many Americans have been taught to associate Russian warmongering with Communism. Understanding the real history of the USSR, Russian Communism and particularly the KGB which is running the show these days, is crucial to understanding the new Russian threat.
(For the purpose of simplicity, the various incarnations of the KGB, including the historic NKVD and the modern FSB will all be referred to as the KGB)
In what is called the July 20 plot of 1944, a number of high ranking German officers sought to assassinate Hitler and take control of Germany to avert disaster. (Of passing interest is the presence of the head and former deputy head of German military intelligence among their number. ) We know about this plot primarily because it failed.
In March 1953 a similar plot took place in the Soviet Union to kill Stalin and take control of the USSR. The plot involved much more high ranking figures than its German equivalent, including the man in control of the Soviet secret police, Beria and first secretary of the Communist Party Nikita Khrushchev. We don't know about this plot, primarily because it succeeded.
What drove them to act was Stalin's own plan to unleash the USSR's largest purge and mass murder that would exceed Hitler while at the same time destroying the entire political and military leadership of the USSR in one stroke, consolidating complete and perfect control over much of the world.
The conspirators who killed Stalin in 1953 knew about the plan and instead they poisoned Stalin at his own home, likely with rat poison, and watched him die slowly and in great agony. The man who had brought them together and who boasted of personally killing Stalin was Beria, a brilliant and evil figure who headed the Soviet secret police. Beria had his own plan as well for a KGB coup that would put him in power afterward.
Beria's attempted KGB coup was aborted with the use of the Russian military. Beria was executed and Khrushchev took power while slowly liberalizing Russia. However, Khrushchev himself was overthrown in 1964 with the help of the KGB and in 1971 the actual head of the KGB, Yuri Andropov took power. While Andropov attempted to reform the Soviet Union, the system had decayed too far to make that possible. Andropov was shot in the kidney, however, by the wife of a former Soviet Interior Minister whom he had helped put away. The bullet did not kill him, but it did severely damage his health leading to his eventual death by renal failure.
A third KGB led coup brought down Gorbachev and wittingly or unwittingly ended the Soviet Union. In its place came a chaotic free market system and the renaming of the KGB into the FSB. Much of the KGB disintegrated and turned into the new Russian mob that spread across Russia and around the world.
This was however a very different KGB than the old Cheka or the NKVD that had once terrorized the Soviet Union and the world. Where the Cheka had been fiercely Communist and ideological, it had for the most part been purged by Stalin. Successive purges of the KGB based on political loyalty turned it into an organization based on patronage. The KGB typically recruited family members, with fathers and sons, husbands and wives, serving together in the KGB (as in the case of Putin and his own father).
Along the way the new KGB had lost any real attachment to Communist ideology. It had become a family business and it structure was virtually identical to that of organized crime. It saw Communism as an obstacle to its members' main occupation, business. The KGB's Russian members were Russian nationalists who favored a strong authoritarian government along with a limited amount of capitalism under an oligarchic system in which they were the new oligarchy.
Putin, who took power in the 4th KGB coup, was perfectly representative of this New Guard of the KGB. The son of a KGB family, Putin was Michael Corleone, with an academic and business background, who knew that Russia and the KGB had to change with the times, but whose idea of reform was very different from the West.
The fourth KGB coup was a bloodless consensual coup as Yeltsin having been humiliated and defeated by Bill Clinton over Yugoslavia agreed to step down in deference to the creation of a new strong and authoritarian Russia, non-Communist, but strongly nationalist and expansionist. And that is the Russia we face today.
Under Putin the KGB has taken control of Russia's major industries and used them to generate great personal and national profits while spreading influence abroad. Bribery and protection money form a major section of Russia's economy and political assassinations are commonplace. The old Yeltsin era businessmen have either been purged or sworn allegiance to Putin. Every aspect of Russia from the press to religion has been centralized and independence is discouraged, punished and suppressed.
The new Russia is a totalitarian state ruled by the new guard of the KGB as robber barons. They have spread their influence across the West, from Putin cronies like Alisher Usmanov who is one of the richest men in England to Lukoil which controls much of the gas stations across America's Northeast to the Russian emigre media which is now nearly wholly controlled from Moscow.
Across the third world, Russia is busy providing weapons, building ports and bases and creating an anti-Western alliance based around its own oil and gas resources, that unites oil producing Latin American nations with leftist governments such as Venezuela with Arab OPEC nations to form a common front against America and Europe.
On its own borders Russia is doing its best to push back NATO expansion while preparing for its own great project to reclaim the lost territories of the USSR, not in the name of Communism, but in the name of greed, power and Russian nationalism. The old rivalries with England and the US have been resumed and the KGB is active everywhere that Russian trade goes.
The KGB's New Guard have learned from Communism's failures and they don't intend to repeat the same mistakes. They respect the achievements of the USSR but their goal is to build a great Russian Empire ruled by themselves. They are the crime syndicate which now rules Russia and is expanding across the world. Fueled by the energy boom, they have a great deal of wealth and while the system they run is corrupt and incompetent, it is not nearly as corrupt or incompetent as the old Communist system was.
The West defeated the USSR through trade. The New Russia intends to defeat the West through trade and it is doing it. But not only through trade. The profits of trade are going to fuel a new Russian war machine and where Russian trade goes, the KGB goes as well, buying influence and public officials, from the former German Chancellor who now openly works for Russian oil interests to a newly minted member of the New York State Assembly with a background in the Russian security services.
The Cold War is back but it is no longer about Communism, if it ever really was except briefly into the 20's. It's about power. It's about wealth. And it's about national greatness. The long held Russian belief in their own destiny to rule the world has come to the surface again and the bear is once again set to rampage across the world.