Dmitry Mikheyev in 1987
“I CAN’T BELIEVE I WAS INVOLVED IN ALL THIS!”
Dmitry Mikheyev’s life trajectory is very similar to the fate of many Soviet dissidents: from a romantic Komsomol member to an ardent anti-communist to disillusionment with the West. Yet, very few achieved such high positions on “the other side,” and broke so abruptly with their anti-Soviet past.
We find ourselves sitting comfortably in a cozy apartment in a shabby block of flats in the city of Korolev, just outside of Moscow. The host, Dmitry Mikheyev, avidly tells me stories about how he fought with the Soviet regime. No, he did not struggle in the suburbs of Moscow, nor did he struggle in Moscow, passing from hand to hand books banned in the Soviet Union, which were printed on tissue paper. He fought inside the elite Hudson Institute, which developed the policies toward the Soviet Union for the administration of Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush. He fought in the corridors of Washington D.C. In the margins, as they say, of various Intelligence agencies of the United States of America. 1987. Dmitry Mikheyev hosts a speech about the creation of a shield of defence, which would be beyond the capacity of the USSR to accomplish. Today he is glad that he failed. (Potograph scanned from his personal archive.)
We look through his pictures. Here we see a photo signed by Ronald Reagan himself. Another photo shows Dmitry Mikheyev and former minister of defense James Schlesinger playing a strategic game, which imitates the Soviet-American negotiations about reducing nuclear weapons.
-I was playing as the “head” of the Soviet delegation, Schlessinger was representing the Americans, - says Mikheev. - According to the general opionion of the experts, who were obvserving us, the Soviets won. Then the best minds of the CIA, of the State Department and the Administration of the President analyzed the strengths and weaknesses of the parties’ positions and their tactics of negotiation.
Here is the flattering review of Zbignev Brzezinski on the cover of one of his books.
From time to time, Mikheev slaps his forhead and exclaims: “How horrible! Did I really do all this?”
- Dmitry, why have you agreed to have this conversation?
-I was helping the enemies of the Soviet Union, the Empire of Evil. Later in my life they appeared to me as horrors from the deep, of which I had no idea. It is inconceivable that I, as naïve as I was, in my benevolence and love for the world, my love for people and overall humanistic inclinations – I was helping people who weren’t humanistic at all, who didn’t care about freedom and democracy of many countries and people of the world. This is now a heavy burden on my concience. When I see that many of our liberals and even Ukranians are in the same shoes as I was back then… When I see that people repeat my mistakes, share my pat illusions and delusions, I want to explain to them what I had learned through my own experience, the things which I understood only through agony, unemployment and rejection, and re-emigration.
“To Dmitri Mikheyev, with the best wishes – Ronald Reagan” - this autographed photo was given to our hero by Ronald Reagan after his visit to Moscow in 1988. Photo: Personal archive
FROM GULAG TO THE WHITE HOUSE
In the year 1970, Dmitry Mikheyev, a graduate of the Physics Department of the Moscow State University, having gone through a series of public and personal drama, “chose freedom”. In 1970 he chose to try to flee to the West with false documents. Dmitry’s attempt ended with him receiving a sentence of 6 years in prison and labor camps on charges of high treason. After having served his term he worked as a blue-collar worker in Kiev, and then he was expelled along with two hundred incorrigible dissidents.
-In 1980 I found myself in New York. I worked as a watchman of a beer warehouse, and wrote articles in the Russian newspaper about American democracy. Apparently, I wrote not without talent that I got noticed by the “Voice of America” and was called in for a job. Soon I was noticed by Jamestown Foundation which patronized political immigrants from Russia and they suggested that I write a book about the SDI – recalls Mikheyev
The SDI, if anyone remembers, is the Strategic Defense Initiative, with which President Ronald Reagan wanted to defeat the Soviet Union. He promised to create a “protective dome” over America, which would completely neutralize any Soviet missile threats. In other words, the Soviet Union would have been defenseless against American missiles. The Kremlin did not want to get caught up in another arms race. Echoes of that conflict still form heated disputes between Russia and America about placing a missile defense system in Europe.
-I wrote a book in which there were three main theses. First, I pointed out the idiocy of the strategy of MAD,“ mutually assured destruction.” Second, as a theoretical physicist, I maintained that the building of such a system was technically possible with advent of powerful computers. Thus, I challenged the main Soviet counter-argument that such a system is contrary to all physical principles. Third, I argued that the creation of a nuclear defense system would neutralize the Soviet Union’s missile capability, and thus put an end to the Soviet claims of world domination. After the release of the book, I became a sort of celebrity among American ultra-conservatives.
- In that time, the SDI was at the center of very` fierce debates. There were many people who feared that SDI might to undermine strategic stability.
-True, I was sent to special courses, where I was taught public speaking including mastering the art of gestures; then they drove me around the entire country where I strongly denounced supporters of detente before an audience of thousands of people. And then I was contacted by General Daniel Graham, former head of the Ministry of Defense, and then – Reagan’s personal advisor regarding the SDI. Then I received a call from Reagan’s scientific advisor, Jay Keyworth, and was invited to work in the Hudson Institute. This was the core of American neo-conservative establishment. People arrived here from the president’s administration. People went to the president’s administration, all from here. Mikheyev explains “the Soviet Team” tactics at a strategic game against the Soviet Union. Ex-US Secretary of Defense James Schlesinger (second from the right) takes notes. Photo: personal archive
- When did you start sobering up, as you put it now?
-Trust me. I was honestly happy with the collapse of the Soviet Union. Nothing was holding Russia back from joining the family of democratic nations, from building a market economy, and so on. From communication with General Bill Odom, former director of the National Security Agency, who was the head of the Department of Strategic Studies at Hudson, I started to understand that my enthusiasm on this topic was not welcome. He once told me: “Dmitry, I understand your enthusiasm for the new Russia, but do not share it. Russia will become strong again and continue its imperial policy.”
I gradually started to realize that they were disappointed with the loss of an enemy. The global American empire needs an enemy for internal consolidation. Islamic terrorism is not the enemy they need. Terrorists are too chaotic, disorganized, always bickering amongst themselves. China was just beginning to develop and presented no real threat. The Soviet Union fell apart and Russia, you know, asked for five billion dollars to survive. They laughed at her, mocked her… “These Russians can’t even handle a few thousand Chechens.” The enemy must be great it must be able to field hundreds of divisions of soldiers to the battle at Armageddon. Therefore I was asked to seek signs of Russian neo-imperialism being revived. You can’t imagine how much effort it cost me to have my book “Transformed Russia” published which called for support and partnership with Russia. And then they told me: “Dmitry, we do not need you with such views. Thank you! Good-bye!”
- Just like that? -General Graham loved to repeat this: “as long as we’re in one trench, shooting in the same direction, I don’t care what your views are.” Very straightforward. But if you somehow change your point of view, the system will sling you out of its ranks. That is, you can keep your accounts in Twitter, write whatever you want on Facebook, even give lectures in Universities, but there will always be an informational vacuum around you. You will be labeled as a loser, as somebody with ax to grind.. You will be reduced to insignificance; all your past accomplishments would be forgotten. I have a reference letter from Daniel Graham, where he calls me a “national treasure of America.” It didn’t help me to find a job.
This must be understood by all liberal opposition: as long as you’re needed – they will be there for you. Once you cross the line you are into a country known as “Oblivion.”
- Judging by your fate and the fate of Russia, which in the 1990s was led by Western values, and later began to rise from her knees, then the Ukrainians will eventually also understand that they are being used, and they will also see the light?
-Sure. First, the West won’t give them significant money, and if Americans do start transporting their shale gas to Europe, Ukraine will be left with only 10% which they are supposed to be happy about. Of course, then the Ukrainians will sooner or later realize that they are being used. But the fact is that after they have destroyed everything, after the country was split into separate parts – it will be incredibly difficult for them to recover. I am afraid that there will be a permanent state of decay like in Romania after the overthrow of Ceausescu. It seems to me that they do not have some kind of pole to lean on. Perhaps, it is their lack of experience in running an independent state.
RUSSIA AGAIN DESIGNATED AS THE ENEMY
- Judging by today's events, the United States managed to find the enemy in the face of Russia.
- And I can even tell when the search for the enemy came to an end: during Putin's speech in Munich in February, 2007. I had watched the video of this conference many times. In the front row sat the representatives of the American establishment. I met in person some of them. So when Putin said very softly, very delicately that the time of American dominance had ended, on the face of one of the most influential people in America, Robert Gates, the CIA director under Bush Jr. and the Defense Minister under Barack Obama, flashed a very curious expression. On the one hand, I saw him puzzled - how can it be that someone has publicly challenged American hegemony? And at the same time I saw relief on his face, eventually into the light had come the true enemy. And since then, life in America has become more relaxing and comfortable. You know, they live in a black-and-white world: there is good and evil, with US or against THEM. There’s no third way. The existence of large "gray areas" gives them trouble.
- What is goodness for Americans?
- You know we all look at the world through one or another lens.. Let’s assume that the American lens is triangular that gives a very strong distortion of reality. Russia’s lens is round, it also gives some distortion in the periphery, but in general it gives a much better approximation of the real world.
Three sides of American looking lens are: racism, Puritan fundamentalism, and the notion of exceptionalism.. American Racism is certainly not everyday racism, but a deeply rooted idea in the psychology of the American establishment about the superiority of the Anglo-Saxon race, which has been around for 400 years. Protestantism for them, in simple terms, seems to express the will of God better than other Christian denominations like Catholics and Orthodox do. So, we, the Slavs and Orthodox Christians, in their hierarchy are placed much lower, although higher than Muslims.
Exceptionalism is the idea that they were chosen by God and Nature and have the exclusive right to civilize other nations and bless them by imposing the American way of life on them. You do not read about it in books, but believe me - it is rooted in the subconscious of a few percent of the people who run American policy. And the fundamental challenge in the relations with the United States is not that we have to prove we are right regarding some issues, but to get them to look at the world not through their triangular lens, but through the round lens. Dmitri Mikheev and Ray McGovern (left), former CIA analyst, who split with his "corrupt intelligence" are pictured at the Russian-American forum in Moscow. September 2014. Read the interview with McGovern in theforthcoming issues of "KP." Photo by Edward Lausansky
"OUR LEADERS ARE EXHORBITANTLY COURTEOUS”
- I think part of the problem in the relations with the US is that they live practically on an island. That is, that the chaos is somewhere out there and it does not concern them that much. The best way to correct their triangular lens into a round one would be if, in the neutral waters of the Atlantic and the Pacific oceans, some three of our missile submarines surfaced undetected, and hung around there as much time as they needed to fire a volley, and then they would peacefully sail back home. So that the Americans realize that if they continue to sow death and chaos in the Ukraine, or attempt the same tactics in Russia, they will get their beating.
- Are you sure you want to have this idea published? After all, you will be bullied, called a hawk and a warmonger ...
- I am sure.
- Then I would say, first, that I am glad that they failed to build an effective SDI system, which could leave Russia without weapons of deterrence and retaliation. Second, Russia should cultivate the image of itself as a strong opponent who they know they can’t bend. They will libel her, they will denounce her as a servant of the devil, but they will respect her. I do not know about showing submarines ICBMs, but the American elite knows, and ordinary Americans are worthy reminding that it was Russia who defeated the top three European armies of the time – the armies of Charles XII, of Napoleon and those of Hitler.
- I do not think US-Russia relationships will get much worse, but let's imagine how the events will develop further. Well, they have declared a bunch of sanctions, and they do not work. They have built dozens of military bases around Russia, and what next… go to war with Russia?
The Anglo-Saxons are the greatest pragmatists. They have a principle: If you cannot beat them, join them. Russia needs to remain firm, calm and confident. Then they will reach a certain limit and ask themselves: So what? We quarreled with Russia, we didn’t get Ukraine. Our allies, France and Germany, if they don’t revolt, they will quietly sabotage the anti-Russian policy. And then the mechanism of American democracy will start working. The Republicans will say that Obama is to blame for everything, and the next administration will offer Russia a new “real” reboot. They will begin to negotiate seriously.
- You advised Americans how to deal how with the Soviet Union. Give us advice on how to behave with the Americans.
- For a start, I believe our leaders are too polite. In public appearances they must be sharper; they mustn’t hesitate to get personal. I would suggest watching more American westerns. Remember Clint Eastwood? This is the style of communication that Americans understand and respect. This style is inherent in their cultural code regardless of their social origin, color and religion.
From the dossier of “Komsomolskaya Pravda”:
Dmitry Mikheyev graduated from the Physics Schoolt of the Moscow State University. In 1970 he was sentenced to 6 years in prison for trying to cross the border under a false identity. In 1979 he emigrated to the United States. He worked for the radio station “Voice of America,” and as a senior researcher at the Hudson Institute. In 1998 he returned to Russia. He works in the field of business education.
Перевод: Элина Уэйли