Guest Post: How To Undermine Russia From Within

Tyler Durden's picture

Submitted by Zachary Zeck of The Diplomat,

Since Russia moved into Crimea, there has been a strong desire in the United States to “do something” to stop Vladimir Putin. The general problem, we’re told, is that there just aren’t any good options.

This strikes me as both unimaginative, on the one hand, and a great example of what Robert Gates deemed the “militarization” of American foreign policy, on the other. The reality is that there are just not any good military options for countering Russia in Ukraine, and there aren’t going to be given prevailing geography, history, and nuclear capabilities.

But just because Vladimir Putin has pursued a military strategy for achieving his political goals in Ukraine, doesn’t mean that the U.S. response has to be in the military realm. Nor does it mean that Washington is limited to boring old economic sanctions, which increasingly seem to be the only tool in America’s foreign policy toolbox in situations when military force is inappropriate.

In fact, the broad components of what could be an effective response to Putin’s annexation in Crimea are already being pursued by the U.S., albeit not in the right configuration. So far the U.S. response has mainly focused on two fronts.

The first is a public relations campaign to rally international opinion against Russia’s aggression in Ukraine.

This PR campaign began nearly immediately when Obama administration officials like John Kerry painted Russia as living in a 19th century world. It has continued ever since through high profile gestures such as the UN General Assembly Resolution denouncing the Crimea referendum, and President Obama’s excellent speech in Europe last week. The goal, as the administration has made clear, is to isolate Russia diplomatically, even as it seeks to target it economically.

However, there are two problems with this PR campaign. The first is that it is not working and unlikely to work in the future. As Ian Bremmer and the UN General Assembly vote made clear, Russia is simply too large of a player to be completely isolated, especially given that many important countries are not nearly as offended by the annexation as the United States.

The second, more serious problem with the global PR campaign is that it is aimed at the international community. This is the wrong audience since it is not the one that keeps Putin in power, which is his primary concern. Indeed, not only was the Crimea annexation popular in Russia, but trying to isolate Russia is likely to further entrench support for a nationalistic leader like Putin. The more besieged Russians feel, the more appeal Putin has at home.

Besides the global PR campaign, the U.S. has tried to pressure Russia through economic sanctions. These sanctions have been targeted at Putin’s inner circle as well as the wealthy businessmen and institutions that help prop up his rule. The logic behind this approach is that if Russia’s oligarchs fear their financial interests are being threatened, they will pressure Putin to halt and possible rollback his aggression in the Ukraine.

The problem with this approach is that they are unlikely to do this. To begin with, these men have derived their influence and wealth from their association with Putin. They have little incentive or ability to challenge Putin without undercutting themselves. Moreover, as noted above, the annexation of Crimea is extremely popular with the Russian people. This puts Russia’s oligarchs on even shakier ground in trying to confront Putin.

A better approach would be to combine the two aspects of the West’s current response. Specifically, the United States should undertake a PR campaign aimed at turning the Russian people against Putin’s inner circle and the oligarchs in Russia more generally. Done right, this can gradually undermine the legitimacy of the Russian Federation under Putin as a whole.

As is well known, Vladimir Putin’s Russia is rife with corruption at every level. Like all autocracies, this corruption can persist because information is tightly controlled to limit people’s knowledge of it. The United States and Europe have extensive means to collect information on the all the corrupt elements of the Russian Federation. By exposing this information, they would be able to gradually undercut the Russian people’s support for the system Putin has built. Of course, at any time the U.S. and Europe could agree to withhold further information if their demands on Ukraine are met.

The biggest question would be in what manner should they would distribute the information? One possibility is simply publishing government reports about corruption in Russia. I would advocate against this approach as Russians and people generally are likely to view these reports as inherently biased. A better approach would be to strategically leak the information Washington and Brussels uncover to reporters with international reach. Another possibility is that the U.S. and EU could anonymously publish the information on social media websites, much as Russia posted Victoria Nuland’s private phone conversation trashing the EU.

Whatever medium the West used to publish the information, this policy would appropriately target what Putin holds most dear—his grip on power—in a way that can effectively undermine it. It would also be fairly cheap. The larger principle should be kept in mind for future crises—namely, the U.S. and the West don’t have to respond to challenges on the terms set by the countries challenging them.

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kchrisc's picture

The best way for the West to win is to not play the game. And since it's the West's game that started the whole thing, well...

Zest's picture

The west is like that annoying kid in the first grade that always wanted to follow you around everywhere you went and stick his nose in everything you did. It can't take "no" for an answer until its nose gets punched in.

Tabarnaque's picture

Washington is using the Ukrainian/Crimea situation to deepen its presence in Eastern Europe with NATO forces. The creation of this new irrational fear that Russia could invade Eastern Europe (which is completely ridiculous) is used as a way to cement their alliances against Russia and the emerging BRICS monetary/financial system. Maybe I am over speculating but it seems to me that the whole Crimea situation is used as a way to justify the implementation of economic and financial sanctions against an important member of the BRICS. The Crimea situation is the justification to “shield” the Western Europe away from the emerging BRICS movement. Maybe this is the real justification behind Washington’s recent violent push in Ukraine.


The West knows that the USD is in trouble. They know damn well that the BRICS are actively developing a parallel system (the BRICS Development Bank, their own undersea Internet cable with a BRICS - SWIFT like wire system).


This coming April 10th G-20 Bretton Woods meeting in Washington is all about reforming/democratizing the IMF, the use of USD as world reserve currency and the inability of the US government to put its fiscal house back in order. Some analysts view the coming April 10th meeting as a negotiation deadline on those important issues. The deadline was set all the way back to 2010 when this round of negotiation started. Since 2010, the USA have refused to modify their position and nothing has advanced. So April 10th could prove to be a decisive date for the emergence of a BRICS parallel system.


We know that in the last year Washington has been trying very hard to sign TTIT and the TPP “free trade” agreement with Europe and Asia as a way to lock these nations into using the USD as their trade settlement currency for several decades to come. So far these “Free Trade” agreements haven’t been signed and the outlook for the TPP isn’t clear at all as several major players are dropping their interest in it (for obvious reasons). Those so called Free Trade Agreements would turn signatory nations into Vassal States of an all mighty Washington which is itself acting as a stooge for what really is a supranational US Corporate Power Grab.


kchrisc's picture

I think that you are correct and that the collapse of the Petro$ is the driving force.

It is like they have built a skyscraper of cards and are threatening or anyone that comes near it.

Sort of funny though, as they can't afford to have it collapse and can't afford to go to war to protect it. They can only wave their weapons around menacing anyone that dare come near or stage false-flags.

In the end a whiff of wind will take it down.


"I put a false-flag on my guillotine."

strannick's picture

The West?

What is it about Obama politics, Wall St.  economics, and relativist religion that's worth saving? 

fx's picture

Another crap by "the Diplomat". So laughable. Yopu can bet the CIA guys know very well how to undermine a country  - see Ukraine as the latest example. They certainly do not need your dumb advise. What they never figured out though is what to do afterwards - how to install a pro-US govt that lasts for more than a short period? Breaking things or societies apart has always been way easier than building them. But hey, for the strategists in D.C. it is likely sufficient to create trouble around Russia's borders, especially when the dumb EU pays the price.

Btw: do you "diplomatistas" actually believe the nonsense that you spill out?

BorisTheBlade's picture

Judging from USSR and recent US examples the best way to destabilize a country is to let its own elites screw things up beyond repairability. As far Zachary is concerned, I think he sees an opening for a job in Moscow where he could eat caviar, drink some vodka and bang chicks while telling them how bad and corrupt Putin is, thereby greatly undermining KGB regime. Moscow saw jokers like him in great numbers.

jeff montanye's picture

taking the post's argument a bit further, how might the exposure of corruption in russia with the implied promise to limit said exposure if russia complies with u.s. wishes play in the u.s.? like the corruption itself is not such a big deal (we're all corrupt), we just want to blackmail the russians into compliance. does this solidify obama's support as obamacare rolls out?

and what of the russians?  have they any ability to retaliate and ferret out corruption in the u.s. circles of power?  i, for one, fondly hope that some ever escalating battle of forced transparency between and among the global elites is how the next world war is fought.  but somehow i doubt it will be.

Confused's picture

This whole article assumes the Russian people have faith in the Government. So its flawed from the start. It would appear that most Russians know the system is corrupt. So it wouldn't come as a shock. 

DeadFred's picture

The Russians have shown a couple of times that they can break the US 'secure' phone encryption. .GOV has to assume they known of many of the skeletons in the DC closests. Anyone want to hear a phone call between two secret service agants discussing what Obama and Reggie were doing while Benghazi was [also] going down? Well Obama doesn't want you to hear it so there won't be any exposure of Russian corruption by the US. It may be okay to exchange a few nukes but the truth is far too scary to play around with.

SWRichmond's picture

Judging from USSR and recent US examples the best way to destabilize a country is to let its own elites screw things up beyond repairability.

+1.  I am personally praying to all the gods that the Repubs actually run Jeb Bush against "I'm Ready for Hillary" (I AM sure they ARS stupid enough to do this).  This would demonstrate conclusively to a critical mass of Americans that the American political system is also corrupt beyond all repair, that there is an entrenched ruling class of oligarchs right here in the USA, served by an entrenched class of sociopathic politicians, and if they want their liberty back they're going to have to take it back FROM the repubs and dems by whatever means necessary.

Tabarnaque's picture

That's the way I see it. It is all about the USD and their control of the World financial/monetary system. Anyone deviating from it has been severly punished in the past. The problem is that Russia and China are not as simple to play as Libya and Iraq were...  

Global Observer's picture

Don't you think the West understands it? What do you think their game plan was when they initiated it by sponsoring the coup in Ukraine?

I don't think the Western elite want to save the dollar or maintain the monetary/financial hegemony of the West. I believe they are ready for a new international financial system, but must appear to their populations as being pushed into it, rather than choosing it. Russia is playing its part in the game. 

Ghordius's picture

define "Western Elite". from some media, the term is synonymous with the US only. in other, it's Wall Street and the City. in theory, it should comprise both America and Europe, including Turkey

meanwhile, Tabernaque is correct: most of the G20 governments want a reform of the IMF. which includes an increase of shares of the fund

in fact, there is only one IMF member that is opposed

Global Observer's picture

I would define the Western Elite as those controlling the Western governments. As to the make-up of their nationalies and professions, I am not sure.

The IMF reform, proposed in 2010, got the nod from the US Senate, when it was attached to the Ukraine assistance bill and passed. Now it is with the US administration and they can support it anytime. Merely increased IMF quotas and voting power don't do the non-Western nations in the G-20 any good. I don't know if the IMF reform includes the BRIC currencies in the basket for the SDR. If it does, that will be a game-changer. Or if the SDR is made an independent fiat currency and trade settlements made in it, that too will be a game-changer. But that doesn't seem to be part of the IMF reform either, i.e, there is no official IMF documentation that states either. But if one of them is and the US gives OK to it, it will be the US voluntrily giving up its privilege as the world's reserve currency or sharing it with non-Western nations, especially Russia. Not sure how they can justify it to the public.

But if the BRICS launch their bank and currency and the Western currencies are dethroned from their pre-eminent position in international monetary system, US agreeing to IMF reform will look like a victory for the West, gaining some control back when they thought they lost it all.

So I expect the sequence of events to be 1. On April 10, the US claims it needs more time to endorse IMF reform 2. BRICS launch their bank with its currency 3. Western currencies plummet against the BRICS currency causing economic depression in the West. 4. US agrees to IMF reform with SDR as an independent fiat currency for international trade settlements.

jeff montanye's picture

well that's certainly conspiratorial enough and it makes the state security organs look competent, but to what end?  if they don't "want to save the dollar or maintain the monetary/financial hegemony of the West", why not?  do they think having someone else run the world will be in their best interests?  why is this seemingly worldly-wise assumption, so often posited, that tptb are all-seeing and omni-competent, that they intend all the chaos and disaster that they produce, so seductive?

imo they are fallible, selfish, often critically lazy narcissists who frequently lurch from error to worse as they ride the roller coaster down from the pinnacle reached when the u.s. found itself on the winning side of ww2 with all its factories and most of its labor force intact and its main competitors either destroyed, in part or in whole, and/or tied to an unworkable economic "communism" or "socialism". 

Global Observer's picture

It is conspiratorial for sure, but it means the exact opposite of omni-potence. If they were omni-potent they would be able to protect the US$ and international monetary hegemony. Because they are not omni-potent is why they have to concede space to the elite of the emerging economies. But they cannot appear to be conceding ground voluntarily, since such a concession will be disastrous for Western economies. The concession has to appear inevitable, which it is, but something Western middle class is loathe to admit. Hence the conspiracy to effect the concession.

insect0man's picture

unworkable economic "communism" or "socialism".


As opposed to the rainbow corporate fascist collectives presently masquerading as "businesses"?

Latina Lover's picture

To the writer of the Diplomat:


As is well known,Obama's USA and the EU is rife with corruption at every level. Like all autocracies, this corruption can persist because information is tightly controlled to limit people’s knowledge of it. Russia, China and the BRIC's extensive means to collect information on the all the corrupt elements of the Western powers. By exposing this information, they would be able to gradually undercut the American and European people’s support for the system the western banksters have built. Of course, at any time Russia, China etc could agree to withhold further information if their demands not being attacked via color revolutions are met.


There, fixed for you asshole.

HurricaneSeason's picture

The reason for bombing Syria is Iran and the reason for overthrowing the Ukraine is Iran and the trouble with Russia, Israel and the Saudis is Iran.

Putin was going to give Iran missiles and that stopped the planned bombing of Syria.  Israel and the Saudis are furious.  They wanted to take those Russian bases that were leased until 2042 and line missiles all along the Russian/Ukraine border and go back to the bombing Syria/Iran plan.

The military industrial complex needs another war. They could have offered to not place NATO missiles or give the Russian bases back in Crimea (if the Ukraine overthrow had went as planned) in exchange for bombing rights for Syria and hope to draw Iran in. Instead massive bills in Ukraine will need to be paid and Obama will keep begging for a Ukraine redo. Ukraine is over.

jeff montanye's picture

the military industrial complex needs another war like a weasel needs another meal.

insect0man's picture

What's more profitable: to maintain an infrastructure - or to rebuild it?

Who does the rebuilding?

That's an often unrecognized tentacle of the so-called military industrial complex.

It's a calculated part of the cycle described in Romans 1:25+

Are we there yet, again?

Reptil's picture


Add to this the piece: "Shale Gas" and the puzzle is complete.
It has several "advantages":
- it makes the receiving country dependent on this puff of fossile fuel (geopolitical) in the capable hands of Chevron of course.
- It makes the development of renewables and alternatives (Polywell fusion!) less attractive politically (financially it's in practical terms not an issue)

- It totally fucks up the recieving region's groundwater and/or available aquifers like it did in the USA (a blind spot for most yanks). Forever.
- And of course it messes with Gazprom's natural gas imports to europe, diminishing the political resistance to a more agressive approach towards it's soon to be former energy supplier.

I'd pose that the coming two years are going to be crucial for the next 50, maybe more, as the big choices are being made. That's why these fuckers are in such a hurry. They themselves know the petro-dollar game is almost up, as you said.

Obama was pushing it like a used car salesman, along with the TTIP-Tafta (which is, according to him, good for small and medium business).
The problem they have right now is that the europeans are looking at what happened (for the first time it seems) both NAFTA and Shale Gas in the US. And, apart from Romania and Bulgaria (utterly corrupt leadership), they ain't liking it much.

Here's Kerry with the big lie, that he sneakily sneaks in, that NATO is somehow "obliged to help it's partner Ukraine". Article 5 is NOT on the table, since Ukraine is NOT a NATO member. But Kerry is, like Obama, wading in disinfo shit and calling it anyway.
Bonus is the Quatar boys from Al Jazeera smearing another coat of lies on top, that Russia "invaded" Crimea. (it gets old really quick)

Canadian Dirtlump's picture

Indeed. Who the fuck is this troll. You need to have an iq below room temperature to be rooting for the west.

fonzannoon's picture

My russian in laws have no dog in this fight. they still thank god every day they were able to make it here. They are so thankful for what they have and before every meal they make a speech (all russians make speeches, for such quiet people they never stfu at meal time) about how they hope and pray where they live never turns into where they ran from. They know the deal.

TahoeBilly2012's picture

"How To Help The Zionists Acheive One World Order" (by some dumshit 'Merican). You can help by not helping.

disabledvet's picture

This comment is in fact a total falsehood.
Going into Russia "is not the droids you are looking for."

Having said that the enormity of the value of this piece of real estate cannot be over-stated.

Will the Russians defend? We've given them free reign for twenty years now...and a very valuable economy has been the result. Losing Ukraine would be a crushing blow to a "Eurasian Empire."

jeff montanye's picture

"we've given them free reign (sic, rein) for twenty years"? by only advising them to collapse their economy imf style and not bombing them like we do so many other countries?  damn we're nice.

Dr. Engali's picture

That's a sad statement. As bad as things are getting here, it's no better any place else. Government .... I hate it.

fonzannoon's picture

It definitely is, and it's what all the Putin ballsack suckers on here minsunderstand. Thinking they have to pick a side. 

jeff montanye's picture

no no no.  that the u.s. is a better place to live than russia is not not not owing to the work of the u.s. government over the last (pick your starting point) nor to the wall street power brokers that, in part, own it.  it is due to the excellent work done by better men and women, some of them actually in government and even on wall street (not too many of the latter, imo) in prior times and other, less heralded people more recently.  it is the evil actions of the recent pretenders to power in the u.s. that are the problem.

russia is no paradise and putin no savior, but right now he is damn useful in bringing some rough justice to these utter pricks that have highjacked what once was a reasonably good argument for constitutional democracy and free enterprise.

johny2's picture


in usa you get better deal on your fast foods, car and other toys. it is mainly thanks to the system where resources and labour are taken at low price often accomanied by the presence of usa manifactured loaded arms. sure it is possible we should all thank the system in which we are higher up on the pyramid scheme. still some of us would like to think it is better to have less materal goods in order to have more of dignity. 

enjoy your high level of living standards, but spare a thought sometimes that it may be thanks to 100 of others humans being lower in the pyramid.

and this time i saved some time and only checked writter of the article, skipping it and going straight to comment section to see if some good information or insight can be found. 

zh posting diplomat crap is a sign end of the timeline is near?


fonzannoon's picture

Johny I hear you man. When I say my russian in laws are thankful, I think they are just thankful in a genuine sense that they are able to have a better standard of living here. They don't understand the system enough to realize why they have it better. If they did they would realize that their fears of it deteriorating into the system they ran away from is already well under way. These people are really old and there is just no reason to attempt to point this out to them.

johny2's picture

I understand your care for relatives and I even understand the point of the view where it is looking after number 1 always the first priority.

flapdoodle's picture

One has to be very careful on the topic of "standard of living". Having traveled extensively through many countries, my own opinion of the "standard of living" puts the US quite a bit lower on the scale than would most Americans.

Fast food joints and strip malls, poor quality, highly processed and nutrient poor food, 512 channel cable TV and hobbies do not IMHO make for much of a life...


flapdoodle's picture

One has to be very careful on the topic of "standard of living". Having traveled extensively through many countries, my own opinion of the "standard of living" puts the US quite a bit lower on the scale than would most Americans.

Fast food joints and strip malls, poor quality, highly processed and nutrient poor food, 512 channel cable TV, cheap electronic gadgets, hobbies and video games do not IMHO make for much of a life...


johny2's picture

i agree about #living standards# being a very wide meaning term. The point is mainly that society is the pyramid scheme. us citizens are on a higher level than those in africa, asia, s. america, regarding the energy input and energu output, generally speaking.

the other point is: what are articles from diplomat doing on zh? i know i am just the reader and one of many, but still can ask the question many other readers do as well.

dogismycopilot's picture

i studied soviet military history for a very long time and was brainwashed to hate all "Russkies" and to want to "kill communists" from cradle to my late 20s - i mean, can you beleive this shit IN THE 1980s I ONCE SENT A CARE PACKAGE TO THE MUJAHADEEN AS AN 11 YEAR OLD TO KILL GODLESS COMMUNISTS!

lucky me, the cold war ended. I left the military. pulled my head out of my ass. i went to b-school, started travelling and meeting Russians without the intent of killing them and guess what? THEY'RE NORMAL PEOPLE AND NOT TO DISSIMILAR FROM AMERICANS IN FACT I FIND THEM QUITE MORE INTELLIGENT THAN MANY AMERICANS.

regrettably for your in-laws, the Soviet Politbureau has followed them to America. Obama & Co. 

you can run, but you can't hide. 

Anusocracy's picture

Glad you were intellectually capable of saving yourself. I wish more people were like that.

BTW, is that a Jack Russell?

jeff montanye's picture

also congrats.  now to be able to see bush,etc. and co. as the professional wrestling opponent/business partner that they are.

Global Observer's picture

It is quite possible they hoped and prayed for things to stay the same or get better in Russia just before they collapsed.

the phantom's picture

I stopped reading after, ----" ever since through high profile gestures such as the UN General Assembly Resolution denouncing the Crimea referendum, and President Obama’s excellent speech in Europe last week."

So a non-sequitor of "nukes going off in Manhattan" is a great  speech?  I thought it was terrible.

AlaricBalth's picture

The authors name in Zachary Keck, not Zachary Zeck and he is still a grad student at George Mason University. Formerly interned for John Nagl, a lifetime CFR member, at the Center for New American Security. Young Zachary is still quite impressionable and is clearly trying to fast track himself into the ranks of the foreign policy elite. The only way to achieve his goals is to ingratiate himself to the powers that be, and just maybe he will receive a coveted nomination to CFR.

HardAssets's picture

Thanks for the intel on the author.

That's just great . . . another brown nose in training.

The real American patriot George Mason ('Father of the US Bill of Rights") is probably spinning in his grave if this is what they are turning out from his namesake today.

IronForge's picture

No wonder...

GMU and Georgetown (regrettably, my Brother's Alma Mater)

Too close to the Capital to not be affected by all the Special Interest/Dominionist Scheming

JR's picture

Yes, not only did Zachary Keck intern at the Center for a New American Security (CNAS), he interned "in the U.S. Congress where he worked on defense issues."

Perhaps a better headline for Zeck’s article is “How to Undermine America From Within.”

CNAS is the left-wing branch of the right-wing warmongering neocons. It exists to stamp out individual thinking, “the gravest sin in the Communist pantheon,” in tandem with the neocon collectivist propaganda to draw the US into “endless military intervention in the Middle East, with the only differences being tactical.”

Justin Raimondo, in a hard hitting May 2009 column, “The New Neocons,” uncovers the dark roots of the CNAS that underlie Zeck’s “training ground.” Writes Raimondo:

“These ‘national security Democrats,’ as they defensively called themselves… replicated the neocon strategy, first, with a think-tank: the Center for a New American Security, founded in 2007 and funded, as the Wall Street Journal reports, by 'foundations such as the Rockefeller Brothers Fund,' as well as 'some government money to study particular issues'…

“Ready with their policy prescriptions when the Obamaites were swept into power, CNAS personnel flooded into the new administration (John Podesta, head of the Obama transition team, is on the CNAS board).

“Groups like CNAS are financed to the hilt by big corporate interests and the politically connected plutocrats who profit from war and our foreign policy of global intervention. Their intellectual handmaidens in the growing constellation of left-neocon Washington outfits are nothing but the latest window-dressing for the same warmongering, corporatist agenda.”

Zeck also writes a monthly column for The National Interest, which today features  an article on Why Palestine Must Recognize Israel as a Jewish State by Chuck Freilich,  a former Deputy National Security Advisor in Israel and now a  Senior Fellow at Harvard's Kennedy school).

But then again as Zachary Keck states, perhaps as a disclaimer: “I was raised both Catholic and Jewish and I turned out quite well.... especially in the month of December.”

With the inception of the CNAS, Raimondo summarizes the political conformity of the War Party’s Zampolit (political police): “The left wing of the War Party raises its ugly head.”

Aussie V's picture

Someone should post a snail mail letter to Zach.

Someone should pretend to be a Russian Agent with a Pen loaded with Polonium.

Informing Zach he is now a marked man after writing his opinion piece of "How to unseat our President Putin"

One wonders how courageous Zach would then be with his writings of how to destabilize a foreign democratic country when a polonium poke is only a step away??

I can dream can't I??