Failed Russian Coup Through a US Looking Glass

So long as such patent intellectual and moral dishonesty permeates American thinking, how can there be a genuine U.S.-Russia dialogue with mutual respect? writes M.K. Bhadrakumar.

Willam Burns, when he was U.S. deputy secretary of state, makes a statement to the people of Ukraine in Kiev on Feb. 25, 2014. (State Department/ Wikimedia Commons)

By M.K. Bhadrakumar
Indian Punchline

The former U.S. president Donald Trump’s remarks regarding the failed coup attempt in Russia by Yevgeniy Prigozhin stood out for their sheer subtlety amidst the crass new western narrative that the dramatic events on June 23-24 highlighted “cracks” within the Russian system.

No one cares to explain what these “cracks” are but the coinage  conveys that Russia is heading for implosion. Per Trump, Russian President Vladimir Putin may have been “somewhat weakened,” creating an opportunity for the U.S. to broker a peace settlement in Ukraine.

Trump focused on ending the conflict in Ukraine and suggested territorial concessions to Russia as part of a settlement, taking into account the facts on the ground. However, the Biden administration is unlikely to follow up.

In this context, the remarks on July 1 at a lecture at the Ditchley Foundation in Oxfordshire, a ceremonial county in South East England, by the C.I.A. Director William Burns are of much interest. Especially so, as the backdrop is the battlefields of Ukraine.

NATO’s Catastrophe

Kiev’s “counteroffensive”, much against its wishes and almost entirely due to pressure from Washington, is floundering and it underscores  the catastrophic politico-military defeat that NATO faces.

Yet, Burns blithely claimed:

“Putin’s war has already been a strategic failure for Russia – its military weaknesses laid bare; its economy badly damaged for years to come; its future as a junior partner and economic colony of China being shaped by Putin’s mistakes; its revanchist ambitions blunted by a NATO which has only grown bigger and stronger.”

Each of Burns’ contentions is debatable. Again, he sees Prigozgin’s coup attempt as

“a scathing indictment of the Kremlin’s mendacious rationale for its invasion of Ukraine, and of the Russian military leadership’s conduct of the war… Disaffection with the war will continue to gnaw away at the Russian leadership… That disaffection creates a once-in-a-generation opportunity for us at C.I.A., at our core a human intelligence service. We’re not letting it go to waste (boasting about a new C.I.A. drive to recruit Russian agents via internet.)”

Burns, while serving as counsellor in the Moscow embassy handled the bloody insurgency in Chechnya (fuelled by the C.I.A.). He should, therefore, have no quarrel with the historical truth that Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov recalled the other day,

“Russia has always emerged more resilient and stronger after any difficulties — and it is hard to call it (Prigozhin’s revolt) anything more than difficulties. Moreover, we already feel that the process has started.”

Those who manufacture false and self-serving narratives often run the risk of becoming their consumers. The unfinished business of the disbandment of Soviet Union revved up American diplomacy in the early 1990s to the project to encircle and stymie the Russian Federation.

Its flip side was the attempt to transform Ukraine incrementally as an anti-Russia state and the ill-conceived decision by the Clinton administration on NATO’s expansion into the territories of the Warsaw Pact alliance.

Creating an Adversary

Being a first-hand witness of these strategic blunders, Burns is well-placed to remind President Biden that the C.I.A. plot to foster secessionism in North Caucasus and undermine the unity and integrity of the fledgling Russian Federation, the U.S. interference in Ukraine and Georgia, the dismemberment of the former Yugoslavia, the NATO expansion — all these trampled upon Russia’s legitimate security interests, which ultimately created an adversary out of Russia by the end of the 1990s. 

But Burns instead puts all the blame on Putin, who came to power in 2000.

So long as such patent intellectual and moral dishonesty permeates American thinking, how can there be a genuine U.S.-Russia dialogue with mutual respect?

Trump put the Wagner affair in proper perspective. Indeed, Putin may have become “somewhat weaker,” but that is largely because Prigozhin, an exceptionally gifted name caller and climber, cultivated a certain optics hinting at proximity with Putin and exploited it to amass great wealth and indulge in all sorts of nefarious activities.

Putin’s fault lies in his failure to clearly define inappropriate behaviour and that has “somewhat weakened” him.

On the other hand, this phenomenon is endemic to all top-down political systems, including the U.S., where no one is in a position to cross-check the veracity of the name caller’s claims that he is wired into the fountainhead of decision-making.

In the final analysis, Putin is answerable to the people. Remember how he “backtracked” on pension reforms in 2018? Reportedly, the Kremlin has started preparing for the 2024 presidential campaign, therefore, Putin’s handling of Prigozhin’s treason will be closely watched in the months ahead.

The bottom line is that Putin brilliantly succeeded in averting the massive bloodshed that the C.I.A. had reportedly predicted as imminent in its top secret briefings to the U.S. lawmakers in anticipation of Prigozhin’s coup attempt.

The Wall Street Journal carried an exhaustive report today titled Putin’s Corporate Takeover Of Wagner Has Begun, which shows that the Russian state is already holding a searchlight into the antecedents and labyrinthine activities of the vast business empire that Prigozhin created.

The Journal estimates that Prigozhin

“built one of the world’s most complicated and unaccountable corporate structures, a heavily-sanctioned spidergram of hundreds of companies in Russia and other jurisdictions that often paid their thousands of workers, mercenaries, line cooks, mining geologists, and social-media trolls in cash. Many of the deals Wagner-linked companies struck with African governments were informal, reliant on smuggling and illicit transfers and personally negotiated by Prigozhin himself… Prigozhin had transferred some of his holdings to employees in the weeks before the mutiny, potentially making them even more complicated for the government to requisition.”

How is Putin responsible for all this? President Biden refuses to be accountable even for his son’s shady business dealings. What Burns overlooks is that the Russian people are heads and shoulders above theAmerican public when it comes to political erudition — a legacy of the extraordinary heights of social formation in the Soviet era.

That is why the Orwellian media censorship that is happening in America today cannot work in the Russian society where people are literate enough to glean facts — unlike the gullible average American.

The Russian people have no love lost for oligarchs and will overwhelmingly endorse the Kremlin’s moves to bring Prigozhin to justice. Equally, there is no question that all sections of Russian society have rallied behind Putin who scattered the coup plotters without bloodshed. The western attempt to portray Prigozhin as some charismatic figure with mass base is all bunkum.

Defeat in Ukraine Shifts the Narrative

Such schadenfreude can only cloud rational thinking. Trump was not a career diplomat specialising on Russia but his intuitive cognition sensed that a window of opportunity has opened for the Biden Administration to take the Ukraine crisis to the negotiating table — meaning, the Russian state and Putin are here to stay and make an authentic interlocutor.

The only good part about Burns’ speech is that he refrained from bragging about defeating Russia. The proxy war turns out to be a flop and now the C.I.A. returns to the greener pastures of internal subversion of Russia. To that end, a new narrative replaces the discredited one of Russia’s military defeat. The Ukraine war has badly exposed the C.I.A.’s shallow understanding of Russia.

Burns caricatures Russia as “the combustible combination of grievance, ambition and insecurity that Putin embodies.” He says  Russia “constantly reminds us that declining powers can be at least as disruptive as rising ones.”

Hello, where does that put the U.S. in the pecking order? Among the “rising ones?”

M.K. Bhadrakumar is a former diplomat. He was India’s ambassador to Uzbekistan and Turkey. The views are personal.

This article is from Indian Punchline.

The views expressed are solely those of the author and may or may not reflect those of Consortium News.


14 comments for “Failed Russian Coup Through a US Looking Glass

  1. Dr. Hujjathullah M.H.B. Sahib
    July 8, 2023 at 04:40

    What a put down of Burns, of Biden admin, of U.S. media and, unbelieavably, also of the American masses by the ever sharp and cunning Bhadrakumar. Learned students of U.S.-Soviet/Russian relations used to consider Burns as the natural heir to the great Kennan but no longer so now. With this sort of intellectual recklesness clearly Burns has burned his bridge with the Kennanian tradition of enlightened restraint. There is no guarantee where this freshly Zombified U.S political leadership is going to take the world to. In case the Russians as still on the lookout for an American leader to rationally deal with, they can just forget it !

  2. jamie
    July 7, 2023 at 16:41

    Personally, I have hard time believing that Prigozhin genuinely attempted a coup; Russian are quite good in creating illusions, engineering realities, better than the west I would say; the results/facts are that Prigozhin has not been imprisoned and is actually free to move from Bielorussia and Russia apparently, he has been allowed to build an army at the step-door of Europe, on the border of Poland, in Bielorussia where nuclear weapons are been deployed. Moreover, now Putin can no longer be held accountable for what Wagner group does in Europe, Africa, etc, what could Putin better hope? A mercenary group which is now free to do whatever it pleases for mother Russia, without Russia being accountable for or damaging Russian leadership?
    Two thousand unarmed people in US have invaded and almost took over The Capitol, while 25000 heavily armed and well trained mercenaries stopped hundred kilometers away from Moscow?
    I think we have been played; Russia is a formidable strategists, where the west see a failure, Russia see a success, and having conquered thousand square miles along the Azov sea is all Russia wanted.
    I think Russia is truly preparing for war against NATO, attack as they say is the better defense.
    Unfortunately, Europe is far from being ready not even next year.
    Just a simple skirmish between Polish forces and Wagner group would have an impact on European’s economy and sink it even further triggering a much deeper crisis than during the covid pandemic
    If the war is not stopped by the end of the year, I have the feeling the war will spread to Europe in 2024.

  3. Robert Emmett
    July 7, 2023 at 07:37

    With the West’s foundation of lies now cracking & crumbling from its own blitzkrieg of untruths (even as it projects that breakdown onto others), it seems there is a faster, more furious yet sloppy perpetuation of lies that becomes glaringly obvious. (I guess unless you’re an average American non-gleaner)

    “President Biden refuses to be accountable even for his son’s shady business dealings.”

    Uh, “the big guy”, when viceroy of the Ukes, reportedly threw around & gathered in a bit of shade for himself in that snake pit of corruption.

    Looking glass? Look at his photos. Shades of Mr. Shadowland.

    Keep on gleaning!

  4. Maricata
    July 6, 2023 at 16:51

    NATO is arming for third world war.

    This is all part of a long planned process of a US intermarian.

    Pepe Escobar wrote about this new intermarian but he did not go deep enough into history.

    CovertAction Quarterly spelled it out nicely last year in March, I believe.

    Dave Emory, as can be assumed, was way ahead.

    For readers perusal I will leave portions of the article and sites.

    Stratfor is mounting the greatest effort to achieve this new intermarian.

    They are a PMC.

    The capitalists want war. And they are achieving many of their goals in face of no real opposition.

    War is a social cleanser for the bourgeoise and a grand way to make profits and seize land.

    For your critical analysis.

    Pepe Escobar and Intermarian today
    March 24th


    Ukraine and Intermarian/Promethean Network

    Recruiting Nazis Covert Action Quarterly

    After the Russian Revolution, the West backed first a military invasion and then the White armies against the new Soviet state.  When these efforts failed, the West then backed Polish leader Joseph Pilsudsky and Ukrainian nationalist Simon Petlyura’s Russo-Polish war based on the dual concepts of Intermarium and the Prometheus project.

    Once again, now led by the U.S., rightwing anti-Russia forces are looking to Poland and its ultra-anti-Russian allies to lead an increasingly aggressive front against Russia.  

    The U.S. has been pouring weapons into Eastern Europe, backed up by an aggressive program of military training and military exercises. An aggressive system of bilateral military agreements between the U.S. and its East European allies threaten to pull Western Europe into a multilateral conflict with Russia via Article 5 of the NATO charter.”

    One needs to do a search for the site for I am away from my files.

    Here are audios by Dave Emory.


    FTR #1098, FTR #1099, FTR #1100 and FTR #1101– Fascism: 2019 World Tour, Part 8 (The Intermarium Concept), Fascism: 2019 World Tour, Part 9 (Intermarium Redux: “Will the National Socialist Revolution Begin in Ukraine?”), Fascism: 2019 World Tour, Part 10–The Intermarium Continuity, Fascism: 2019 World Tour, Part 11–The Intermarium Continuity, Part 2 (Reflections on The Pivot Point)


  5. Daniel
    July 6, 2023 at 13:22

    “Those who manufacture false and self-serving narratives often run the risk of becoming their consumers.” Brilliant line among many here. And that’s the long and short of much going on these days – in all Western nations.

    Our institutions can no longer be viewed as trustworthy or reliable because they are operating within and believing in their own self-created fictions. What will break the spell they have cast over themselves and their blindly obedient followers?

  6. Jeff Harrison
    July 6, 2023 at 01:25

    Burns is just an apparatchik.

  7. July 5, 2023 at 20:38

    Thanks for the perspective, Mr. Bhadrakumar. Burns speaks of Russia’s insecurity as if it is somehow inappropriate. So odd, that, given that it was William Burns himself, writing in secret communications, warned his superiors and colleagues that ALL RUSSIANS, from the government to the liberal elites, saw the possible entry of NATO into Ukraine as the crossing of a very grave red line and existential threat.

    Russia’s insecurity, to whatever extent it exists, is directly attributable to the continued, intentional provocations of the State which has never let go of the need for a bogey-man to justify its own imperial expansions and massive spending on euphemistically-described “defense” material; nor relented on its attempts to undermine Russia’s own national integrity directly and via its vassal states and organizations.

  8. wildthange
    July 5, 2023 at 20:23

    Perhaps since our intelligence agency was so well informed it may have been a sting all along. Perhaps the CIA was helping foment a rebellion like the Bay of Pigs where a massacre was used to try and discredit Cuba and inflame its people. Perhaps were promoting a massacre like the Hungarian revolution that Allen Dulles said was well worth it for propaganda value.
    Maybe Russia simply played us and perhaps made a handy profit in the process. Our tactics may not be as secret to the world as they are to us.

  9. IJ Scambling
    July 5, 2023 at 19:23

    So very cool and clear. Orwellian, indeed, as with the response to: Russia “constantly reminds us that declining powers can be at least as disruptive as rising ones.” Can anyone listening have responded to this with a straight face?

    BTW the spider of the spidergram clambered out of Belarus today (according to MSM “news”) and returned to St. Petersburg to retrieve a personal arsenal of weapons, then turned back to Belarus.

    On “Judging Freedom” Larry Johnson, too, spoke at length on Burns, and called this possibility of Prig’s Return baloney, but earlier the Judge and Phil Giraldi had seemed stunned by it.

    It came via MSM and a Ukrainian newspaper linking to St. Petersburg.

    Here’s the supposed source of Prighozen’s newest activity (has a translate button):


  10. Robert
    July 5, 2023 at 19:04

    Our involvement in this war gets dumber by the day and it started as a very dumb and unnecessary war. The Biden Administration is filled with lifelong deep staters who were destined for their current roles from Ivy League on, and many reached their present position by family ties. Washington D.C. needs a 180° turn on foreign policy, realizing that we are no longer king of the world. Unfortunately the Blinkens, Sullivans, and Nulands live in a D.C. bubble, not the real world.

    There will be a lot more blood and guts spilled for no good reason before the non western world finally convinces Washington that their $850 billion dollar per year military is basically a paper tiger and that, like China, it would be better for everyone if they decided to build stuff rather than blow stuff up.

  11. shmutzoid
    July 5, 2023 at 18:38

    I looked in on CNN last night for a bit just to see how the National Security State was framing issues these days. …… The host and three s’posedly “informed” guests each took turns telling viewers how “Putin is definitely now weakened” ……’Cracks in the Russian state” —–> a favored cliche.. ——–The total turn from reality signals the empire’s intention to forge ahead with its proxy war. …The citizens are meant to be kept in the dark about facts on the ground and any historical context to US/Ukraine/NATO/Russia relations.

    Mainstream media/corporate “news” is but one component of the pervasive/life long propaganda/mis-disinformation citizens have heaped on them. ———– An empire-centric “education” is the other main component.

    Full Spectrum Dominance. —– that’s not only about the US dominating the world economically, militarily and cyber-wise—– it’s also about controlling the minds of people IN the US.

  12. AlanP
    July 5, 2023 at 17:53

    Why do you call Oxfordshire a ‘ceremonial county’? It’s a county. It’s my home county. Never heard of a ceremonial county. What do you mean? I like the article, but this is irritating me ‘cos it’s just an administrative area, where many thousands of ordinary, normal people live!

  13. Valerie
    July 5, 2023 at 16:20

    Anyone interested can read the full annual lecture here and watch the video:


    Btw, although the speech/lecture given by Burns was publicy promoted and revealed, the question and answers afterwards are “off the record”.

  14. anaisanesse
    July 5, 2023 at 15:30

    As usual, an outstanding contribution from Mr Bhadrakumar. How William Burns can even face anyone without shame is a miracle, when someone with his experience can spout such reams of lies and perhaps even believe them. I had not rememebered his 2014 “contributions”, but have just seen Alex Christoferou’s clip from Zelinskyy explaining that all of his Ukrainian government’s plans and decisions are shared with the CIA. Burns seems very unobservant for a person in his position.

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