Moscow’s mouthpieces are now resorting to direct threats of terrorism against Americans as a way to “force” the U.S. to rethink its position on Vladimir Putin’s war.
On Russian state television, the initial bravado about conquering Ukraine in days has been replaced with poorly concealed desperation—and outright terrorist threats against the United States. Experts on state-controlled television are now pondering whether American support for Ukraine would only change if “dozens or hundreds” of caskets draped in U.S. flags started arriving from all over the world.
During Tuesday’s broadcast of the television show The Meeting Place, hosts and panelists discussed Ukraine’s planned counteroffensive. While the Ukrainian will to defend their homeland is undeniable, the Kremlin’s mouthpieces are firmly convinced that it could be overcome—if only Americans would get out of the way. With former U.S. President Donald Trump no longer in office, convincing Washington to see things Russia’s way is not an option. As a result, Russian propagandists are now suggesting persuasion through violence.
Dmitry Drozdenko, deputy editor of the Russian military publication Arsenal of the Fatherland, declared that subversive activities are a part of any war. Since Ukraine is starting to bring war back to Russia, Drozdenko suggested the revival of SMERSH—a counterintelligence agency, named after a contraction of the phrase, “Death to spies.”
Host Andrey Norkin asked the experts whether Russia should resort to extraterritorial actions that extend beyond Ukraine. He mentioned Pavel Sudoplatov—a historical figure who was involved in planning and carrying out assassinations and sabotage actions in Western countries—as the kind of actor the nation could really use right now. Sudoplatov was involved in the assassination of Leon Trotsky in Mexico, Ukrainian political and military leader Yevhen Konovalets in Rotterdam, and ran networks of “illegals” in NATO countries.
There was no need to look that far back into the past, given recent allegations against Russia of state-sanctioned attacks and murders abroad, including but not limited to the poisoning of Alexander Litvinenko in England, the killing of Zelimkhan Khangoshvili in Germany and an attempted poisoning of Sergei Skripal in England. Indeed, pundits brought up the names of Ruslan Boshirov and Alexander Petrov—believed to have carried out Skripal’s attempted poisoning—as the ones who might carry out the killing of Natalia Vovk, whom the Russians are accusing of blowing up Darya Dugina’s vehicle.
Viktor Olevich, a lead expert with a policy group The Center for Actual Politics, noted: “Subversive actions are already taking place within the Russian Federation, in Moscow. We already have casualties. There is no doubt that we may witness certain events on the territory of third countries, not just Ukraine. Definitely.”
Co-host Ivan Trushkin decided to take it further: “Pardon my fantasy, but what if some Pentagon official, who was responsible for handling Ukraine, chokes on a cherry pit? Would that help to stop subversive activities on our territory?” Olevich cautiously replied: “They most likely won’t stop, but with time, tit-for-tat actions could change the situation. I just wouldn’t count on it having an immediate effect.”
Fanning himself with a green folder, Norkin surmised: “Everyone is carefully dropping hints over here… but last Saturday’s CNN report said that all the processes happening in Ukraine are being crafted and directed only by Washington—not that anyone ever doubted it.” Trushkin pondered which measures would make “the American handlers” understand that they have to stop their activities in Ukraine. He surmised: “As long as there are powers outside of Ukraine, willing to send people, give them weapons, fill their heads with radical information, it seems to me that we will be unable to attain a total victory.”
State Duma member Alexander Kazakov said: “Within the next two weeks, if five SBU (Security Service of Ukraine) colonels and one CIA colonel were to perish by any means—ran over by a car, fell out of a window, got shot, died in an explosion—in America, Europe or elsewhere, will that change anything in terms of the terror directed at us? Nothing… Of course, it would be cool to see the five SBU Colonels die, but how effective would that be?”
Another expert vehemently disagreed. Igor Shishkin, Director of the CIS Countries Institute, argued: “It has to come back to bite them and doesn’t have to be limited to some Colonel falling out of the window. Americans have plenty of agencies and bases, located in hot spots, where something could fly over to that base and cause several dozen or hundreds of coffins to go back to the United States. If they start getting caskets, draped in stars and stripes flags, after every terrorist act they’ve authorized, it will finally force them to think.”
“Enemies of the Motherland have to be destroyed.”
Even as Russia vehemently objects to being designated a state sponsor of terrorism, the terrorist mentality projected on state television is undeniable. Last Tuesday, the host of a popular state TV program The Evening With Vladimir Solovyov, Vladimir Solovyov, openly identified himself as a terrorist, as he described his ideas about destroying Ukrainian cities along with civilians, as needed.
The terrorist mindset seems to be prevalent not only on the state-controlled television, but also among Russian lawmakers.
During Tuesday’s broadcast of Solovyov’s program, retaliation against enemies of the Motherland was a hot topic of conversation. Panelists condemned the statements about Darya Dugina’s demise that were made by Ilya Ponomarev, a former member of Russia’s Duma who currently lives in Kyiv. The Sudoplatov name was again fondly invoked. Military expert Alexander Artamonov, who also serves as editor-in-chief of Radio Sputnik in France, said of Ponomarev: “I don’t know whether Ilya could be put into a sack and brought here, but if not—he should be liquidated on the spot. If you read the works of classics, upon which Sudoplatov was taught, you respond to the white terror with red terror.”
State Duma Deputy Andrey Gurulyov articulated the fate that should befall Ponomarev and any other perceived enemies of Russia: “As Iosif Vissarionovich [Stalin] said, “No man, no problem. Enemies of the Motherland have to be destroyed.”