A bimonthly magazine on international affairs, edited in Germany's capital

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, “Volunteer”

A KGB Christmas card has found its way to our offices.

An exclusive report on the inner workings of Russian intelligence in Ukraine, from the Berlin Policy Journal’s network of highly placed (fictional) intelligence operatives.


© REUTERS/Denis Sinyakov

The NSA (or maybe the BND – the provenance remains murky) just made the coup of the year. It intercepted the top secret 2015 Christmas congratulations the KGB (sorry – the FSB) sent to its operatives in Ukraine. Back in President Vladimir Putin’s own time in Dresden as a young KGB major, the annual pat-on-the-back was issued at New Year’s; but ever since Putin embraced Russian Orthodoxy, the chief official benediction has come instead on Christmas (valid this year until January 7, following the Orthodox calendar).

Here it is, in an exclusive for the Berlin Policy Journal:

Comrades! You have performed beyond all expectations, as even the dullard Barack Obama will finally have to concede in 2016. Here’s the state of play:

By pulling our 100-mm-plus guns back from the Donbass frontline in September and killing no more than one or two Ukrainian fascists per day with 82-mm mortars and Grad multiple rocket launchers, we have convinced our Younger Brother upstarts that we no longer pose a threat to them. You FSB folks have therefore helped to accomplish what the hotshot spetsnaz and even our glorious military troops failed to achieve: we have made the Ukrainians lower their guard, even as we continue to send tanks and other persuaders over their border.

Take the Ukrainian oligarchs. (OK, they aren’t as rich as our oligarchs, with only five billionaires, but they did deploy start-up militias that prevented us from reconquering Catherine the Great’s Novorossiya in 2014.) Even these tycoons don’t worry about us anymore, and have resumed fighting each other tooth and nail. Dmytro Firtash (a has-been dropout from the billionaire list) has found out in his Vienna exile and Ihor Kolomoysky (#2 on the billionaire list) in his Swiss and Israeli domiciles that what we always said about the West was true – that its kleptocracies are no different from our own. The pious condemnations of Ukraine’s “cancer of corruption” voiced by American Vice President Joe Biden are just hypocrisy; isn’t his own son on the board of a minor Ukrainian oligarch? Make sure the Russia Today (RT) TV broadcasts in your area keep pounding away on this kompromat.

True, we tried to induce Ukrainian complacency once before, in spring of last year, and didn’t succeed, even when we massed 80,000 troops on high alert on three sides of Ukraine and feinted as though we planned on attacking. Oddly enough, this didn’t convince our Younger Brothers that they owe us Older Brothers their allegiance – instead, they just got more and more anti-Russian. We were too optimistic when we bluffed and didn’t actually attack; we thought the Kiev government would just collapse on its own. But it didn’t – not then.

This time, though, we’re playing it smarter, while Ukraine is playing it dumber. Our genius president is totally ignoring Ukraine and showing that Russia is a great power in Syria instead. That has made Ukrainian oligarchs think they can savage each other scot-free, and they’ve abandoned their crisis solidarity. They’re doing our job for us, just as they did a decade ago, when the first Maidan revolution imploded. And none of the top crooks are being investigated, let alone jailed.

Even the Euromaidan fanatics are helping us. The nationalist right (not a good nationalist right like the Front National we finance in France, but a bad nationalist right that demonizes us) is picking street fights with the center, and some of them seem to be amateurishly fencing stolen paintings from a provincial Dutch art museum. The whole Euromaidan crowd (with a lot of assistance from Georgia’s expat Mikheil Saakashvili) are firing their rhetorical big guns at marginal guys like Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk. The PM is now down to 1 or 2 percent in the polls anyway, since the public blames him for the reforms that tripled electricity prices and for the 12 percent drop in GDP this year. That’s super – the good old trick of using an anti-corruption drive to crush your weaker enemies works every time.

The upshot is this: Ukrainians are tired of the war after taking a beating for two years. They are tired of the government reforms, which still bring nothing but trouble. Some nostalgia for stable Russian hegemony is even coming back – a good point for RT to stress in its broadcasts, for those of you in the influence department. (Just don’t push it in the separatist Donbass, where the villagers who have stayed in their wrecked houses are eager for the end of war, and are starting to demand wages equal to the Russian “volunteer” soldiers – who are officially not there, but are getting paid quadruple the locals’ wages.)

Ukraine’s fatigue will therefore inevitably lead to the fall of Yatsenyuk and the present government coalition – and to early parliamentary elections next spring, which will restore an old guard that understands the respect they owe us Older Brothers.

So keep up the good work! S novym godom! Slava Rossii!