Lindsay Mattison (backchannel Afghanistan), 1992

Interview with Lindsay Mattison, May 8, 1992
Interviewer — Metta Spencer

Mattison: I developed a relationship through the Academy of Sciences and our group was paired with the Soviet Political Science Association, which was the smallest and weakest part of the Academy of Sciences, and I guess it was traumatic — the separation of economics and politics — for Marxists it was a discussable subject. They had quite a brawl over a number of years to establish a political science association.

Spencer: As I understand it, they didn’t even have a department of political science at Moscow State until recently. Is that correct?

M: I don’t know. But Burlatsky’s recent book on Khrushchev describes, well, he is one of the people who helped start it. The president of the Soviet political science association was Georgii Shakhanazarov.

S: His name comes up absolutely everywhere.

M: So, our organization had done regional conflicts in Asia and in Latin America, so we had a set of conversations between, not sovietologists on this side, who are the normal counterparts, but people who knew something about Asia, Africa, and Latin America, and through the political science association, with people who knew something at the institutes — one on Africa, one the Oriental Institute, and they had a Latin American institute. The Political Science Association, though small in staff, relatively (it was really a kind of secret club, a network headed by Shakhnazarov) enabled me to break the standard exchange relationships with those institutes. Normally the director controls it and he sends his friends because traveling abroad is a privilege. This way we were able to reach in and select people — sometimes young, sometimes older people —and create a set of conversations that were much more intelligent. Shakhnazarov had had a long history in the international department — again, I refer you to Burlatsky’s book on Khrushchev. He describes Shakhnazarov in the international department. They were a speechwriting team for Khrushchev, with Arbatov and a couple of other people — Bogomolov, for example. And Shakhnazarov was grabbed by Gorbachev shortly after I got in bed with him, which was about ’86, and pulled in as the top political assistant to Gorbachev in the central committee. His area, traditionally he had been in the international department and had been, for a number of years, in charge of relations with communist countries. Dobrynin would be the person in charge of capitalist piggies, but Shakhnazarov was basically the person in charge of thinking about relations with communist countries. Shakhnazarov and I liked each other after two or three conferences. He speaks English, and we developed a decent relationship. The international department of the Academy of Sciences, I think traditionally is in the hands of the KGB, who decides who gets to travel abroad. There was a Central Committee department of comrades abroad.

S: My friend Olga calls them “abroadables.”

M: It was pretty well organized. I had my own KGB guy, a fellow named Valentin Aksilenko, who was quite famous, actually, in some circles. As a kid he was sent to Cuba, and I think he ran the transfer of things chemical to Cuba and Che and all the gang. In other words, he was a trade person. Then he was pulled back and taught Chinese and sent to China until they broke relations, which was I think a couple of years, but it took him about five years to learn the language. Then he was brought back and retrofitted and shipped to the U.S. where he was for about ten years in the embassy. And I think he became PNG’d.

S: PNG’d?

M: Persona Non Grata.

S: Persona Non Grata to the U.S.?

M: Yeah, I don’t think he can travel to the U.S. The computer gets hysterical. But Aksilenko is a very bright guy and he worked here ten years and he knew Congress. He had been in charge of the trade agreement and done a lot of lobbying and organizing on that, and Jackson-Vanik killed that. So he had real respect for lobbying on the hill, and I think the combination of my relationship with Shakhnazarov and Aksilenko’s — I don’t know, at that level the Central Committee and the KGB are much the same thing. You don’t, you know, they are just all cadre at the top. And I got to know —who is the guy who was in charge of North America for the Central Committee? He jumped out a window not long ago, after the coup. Georgi, I can’t think of his name.

S: I’m not sure I know. In charge of the U.S.?

M: Yeah, well, they call it North America. Wait a minute, let me look at this CIA directory here. Here we are . . . in departments of the CPSU.. .

S: My goodness, how did you get hold of a book like that?

M: Oh, some of it is publicly available, I don’t know. His name will pop up here. He is your regional account executive.(We laugh.) These things are pretty well centralized. Here we go, here’s the gang. Falin and India/USA. Here he is, Dimitri Andreyevich Lisovolik.

S: Oh. I don’t know him.

M: He not around to be known anymore. He’s in the international department.

S: Why do you think he jumped? Was he part of the coup?

M: Yeah, I think he was depressed. It was very depressing. They lost all their privileges. I think he stood in line and got to the end of the line and there was no food and there were no more special stores for the central committee. He had pissed away his life and they had padlocked the central committee, he couldn’t go to work, and he just got depressed. I also think that they believed in the triumph of socialism and it was clearly headed for the dumper.

S: Akhromeyov had some similar motivations, I guess.

M: Yes. My friend Aksilenko ended up in a mental hospital with stress. His doctor told him he needed fruit, sunshine, and lower stress. When I talked to him in January he said there wasn’t a lot of sunshine in Moscow, you couldn’t get any fresh fruit, and the whole place was going to hell, so he couldn’t figure out how he was going to …
In any case, Shakhnazarov was given a bunch of jobs by Gorbachev. Job number one was Afghanistan, because it was a communist country. So Shakhnazarov said to me, go find me the Mujahideen and let’s negotiate. And so I went around. I guess the first thing I did, they asked me to organize a delegation to Afghanistan, so I did that. I got Bill Sullivan, the former ambassador and a bunch of people. We took the first American group and flew in over the rockets and throwing flares out of the airplane and went to Kabul and met with Najibullah and all the fun people in Afghanistan. Primakov led the Russian delegation. There are six or eight stories in the Post from that delegation because we took a Post reporter with us. Afterwards, Shakhnazarov, they basically told us they were getting out.

S: When was that?

M: That was a year before everybody else knew. 87? I don’t know. When did they finally withdraw?


M: Then it was ’87. I don’t know. In any case, then Shakhnazarov asked me to set up negotiations with the Mujahideen. And there is in AID a training program for Mujahideen, run by a guy out of the University of Nebraska, so in various ways, he hunted all over Europe and in the exile community in the US and gradually got contacts. WE took six of the seven groups and rented a chateau outside Paris in Mont St. Jolie [?] and brought in Aksilenko, who by then was an important member of the Soviet Political Science Association, and Smirnov (William Smirnov), who was Shakhnazarov’s aide, and did negotiations with the Mujahideen. And Petrovsky, who is now at the U.N., just appointed. Petrovsky is one of the Political Science Association people.

S: Oh! I thought he was a career diplomat the whole time.

M: Oh, it’s an academic association, right?

S: So it’s not just an association for academics, but includes —

M: No, not at all. Everything was party in the country. You’re looking at a party network. The Academy of Sciences was a party network. It was all, every group had a cell, that’s how the country was run. There was a shadow government down the structure of every institution.

S: I drew you off course. Petrovsky did what?

M: He did things like pull the foreign ministry off us. They didn’t particularly like an independent negotiation coming out of the central committee. You know, they were professional diplomats. They were having trouble with the negotiations. But they issued visas, little things like that. They allow expenditure of hard currency by the embassy in Paris to keep people alive. You don’t make independent moves in the Soviet system, and Shakhnazarov was using his network [of thugs???]. See, Shakhnazarov is in that crowd that Ed Burlatsky put together years ago which became Andropov’s brains trust.

S: You said Ed. Fedor Burlatsky, the human rights man, huh?

M: Oh, he’s not a human rights man. He’s a 30-year veteran of the international department of the Central Committee.

S: Well, he was in charge of human rights when I was noticing him.

M: In parliament.He had that committee on human rights in parliament. He was editor of Literary Gazette. He’s to human rights like Stalin is to moon rockets. (laughs) I just had lunch with him the other day; he asked me for a job.

S: Really! No kidding.

M: (Laughs). No, he’s a good man. They’re all good people. He was in darkness during the Brezhnev period, but he was the top guy in the international department under Khrushchev.

S: I had heard that he didn’t come out smelling like a rose from the coup.

M: His staff rose up and demanded that he be fired at the Literary Gazette. He says it is unfair, but I don’t know. I wasn’t there. Shakhnazarov and Primakov and Kasin(?) were all under arrest in a dacha down in the Crimea near Gorbachev. Burlatsky is a good man, I am sure he didn’t go along with the coup. Why would he? He spent 15 years in virtual exile as a protester against Brezhnev. Why the —? But the new generation doesn’t have any respect for those guys.

S: So is he going to work for you?

M: No. I couldn’t — you know, I am moving on. I’m dealing with the Yeltsin people. These guys are history. They should write books. In any case, we set up a set of secret negotiations and we did again in Bad Gotesburg [?] in Germany, and we sent somebody to Peshawar to meet secretly with the Mujahideen leaders, Rumani and the rest of them, and cut a deal to open the Salang Road and let the Russians out. The people around Gorbachev were terrified that the Muj would cut the Salang Road and that the army couldn’t get out. You know, it is a mountain pass. And Rumani controlled the road and we cut a deal that got Rumani to open the road and let them out. The liberals around Gorbachev were afraid that the road would be cut and the conservatives would yell that we have to go back into the country to rescue the troops and the whole thing would start over again.

I had a lot of meetings with Shakhnazarov. Primakov was peripherally involved, off and on. There was a brawl between the two of them in the Central Committee.

S: How so?

M: Well, Primakov likes a lot of credit for things. He is a very ambitious self-promoter. He was a journalist, among other thigns. He wore a lot of hats in the Middle East. But took the public position of the Russian government, which was that they wouldn’t deal with the Mujahideen without the PDPA or Najibulla crowd present. And these were secret negotiations that I was doing, because they were dealing directly with the Mujahideen. In the official talks they could not. That is why ________ and the gang never got anywhere, because they constantly had to argue on behalf of the PDPA. And Shakhnazarov was much pleased that we didn’t leak it or publicize it because it would have embarrassed them and it might have caused Najibullah’s government to collapse.

We’d do things like, the Muj would tell us they have to say so and so and apologize for this and do that. We’d write stuff and Gorbachev would speak over Radio Moscow, and the Muj would say, Well, I guess we’re dealing with the right guy here. (laughs.) We were getting no help from the State Department because Zalme Khalilizad, who ran the firm, is an Afghan didn’t want peace. They wanted to kill everybody in the country, like a good Afghan.

S: Who is this person?

M: Zalme Khalilizad, who is the person in the State Department in charge of Afghan policy. The Reagan people put a Pakistani at the National Security Council and an Afghan at the State Department in charge of the policy. I don’t know whether you know, Zia and Pakistan backed Hekmatyar and tried to make it a religious fight because they didn’t want the ethnic brawl with the Baluchis to spread into Pakistan, so they didn’t want peace in Afghanistan, they wanted a religious war. And further, they were getting enormously rich on the arms trade, narcotics, and so on, and huge US funding through the CIA of the Mujahideen. That was all in the hands of the military intelligence, ISI, in Pakistan and to this day they still control the nuclear program and so on. The CIA was not giving stuff directly to the Mujahideen; it was giving it through the Pakistan Intelligence. So US policy was, they just wanted to deal with the Soviets and talk. They wanted to set up more talks and so on, and the Soviets said they wanted to get out. So I would say it is a fair characterization to say the US government didn’t lift a hand to help the Soviets resolve it. But I went over and briefed them a lot.

Because we were not officials and because, wearing one hat, Shakhnazarov and Aksilenko and all the gang could be the Soviet Political Science Association, if we got caught in France or Germany doing these talks, they would just be citizen diplomacy and a group of amateurs rather than anything official, so it wouldn’t embarrass them, was the premiss.

S: Is this still something that would embarrass them?

M: There is nobody left. Shakhnazarov is the in Gorbachev Foundation, as is Gorbachev. I don’t know whether it would embarrass them. No. There is nobody there who cares anymore. Shakhnazarov probably has his own version of events. I don’t know. It probably looked different from inside the Kremlin or the Central Committee. But in any case, I think Shakh and Gorby really wanted to make peace. And I think Primakov wanted to get publicity as the peacemaker, he wanted to be public but he didn’t want to change his position, which was the official position, which was that they couldn’t meet without the PDPA.

S: So you have some not-wonderful feelings about Primakov.

M: … I think he wanted very much to sit in [Gorbachev’s] chair. And he is very skillful. Notice, he is still head of the KGB.

S: Interesting! I was told he still had something to do with that massacre in Baku.Does that ring any bells with you?

M: I just don’t know. I have had direct personal experience with Primakov. I went to Kabul with him, I’ve been to Vladivostok for the opening of the port. At IMEMO, I have a relationship at IMEMO; Nodari Semonyia is one of my pals. Primakov is not an unknown person in the society. At the Oriental Institute, Nodari worked with him and he brought Nodari with him to IMEMO. I still work with Nodari. Primakov is a mixed person. Most of us are. I have no knowledge whatsoever of who set the dogs on people.

S: The people who were Arabists during the Gulf War looked to him.

M: He played a game on Iraq that you could see out in the open. He was trying to be the hero. That trip to see Saddam Hussein is the essence of Primakov, it’s all press, and what he was doing in that case was trying to translate himself from being a liberal academic. IMEMO was considered a capitalist, liberal oriented Western institute, and he was trying to turn himself into a person that the right wing and the military would support by saving their good old Saddam Hussein. He was playing the press….

S: I wrote a paper in which I called him an anti-war Hawk. It seemed to me he was on the side of people who were at that moment running this massacre in Riga [I meant Vilnius].

M: Oh, I don’t believe that.

S: Well, the people who were doing that were making him their standard bearer.

M: I did a conference during that period in which my lead speaker was Gennady Yanayev. For 3 or 4 days I was all over Vremya, me and Gennady! That was one of the funnier episodes of my career! Let’s trace one line of thought here.

After Afghanistan, the next thing for Shakhnazarov to do was Eastern Europe, and he presided over the devolution of Eastern Europe. If you see pictures of Gorbachev traveling, you always see Shakhnazarov at his side. If you see meetings of the Warsaw Pact, there’s Gorbachev and setting next to him is Shakhnazarov. And Shakh is very proud of having got through that without killing everybody. If you remember, he and Lukin and Bogomolov and Burlatsky and all the gang were in Prague in ’68 during the Prague Spring.

S: I didn’t know that.

M: That’s where they all decided it was full of crap, what they were doing.

S: Wow! That’s very interesting. Is there some way to prove that?

M: You can get pieces of it in the books that Burlatsky has written. You can get pieces of it from them personally. You can pick up — but that’s where they all came to the conclusion. You see, everything out of the international department was run out of Prague. All the peace committees. World Marxist Review, all of that. That’s where the international department had its window on the West.

S: Until when?

M: Until they closed it up about a year ago, or eight months ago. You know the World Marxist Review? [That publication is better known as Problems of Peace and Socialism.]That came out of Prague, right? That was controlled 100% by the international department of the Central Committee of the CPSU. If you go back and look at the staff of who the World Marxist Review is, you will find Shakhnazarov, Bogomolov, Burlatsky, all the gang. Lukin was there.

S: I don’t know Lukin.

M: He’s the Ambassador to the U,S, Vladimir Lukin. He was chairman of the Foreign Relations committee in the Russian Parliament. And Khasbulotov shipped his ass to Washington because he got tired of being challenged by him. Khasbulatov, the head of the Russian parliament, who hates Yeltsin and hates Lukin and —. Lukin was the original candidate to be the head of the Russian parliament and Khasbulatov beat him out and, like any good Russian, stamped him out.

S: Very interesting. See, some of these names I don’t know.

M: Lukin got sent back from Prague for protesting. He wrote an article saying this is a crock.

S: When:

M: ’68 or whenever Prague Spring was. Whenever they sent the army in. He was in Prague as a ‘journalist’ during the invasion of Czechoslovakia. He was recalled, and the guy who saved him was Arbatov. Arbatov put him in the USA Canada institute and told him to shut up and made him a China scholar, so he spent the next few years studying China. He studied American relations with China. He is the Ambassador to the US of A. Do you have the biography book that came out last year by that guy at Oxford? For $37 you can get the biographies of all the people who are not important anymore but were. It was published, like in September, right after the coup.

S: No, I certainly don’t have it, I’d like to.

M: Here, it’s “Soviet Union, a Biographic Dictionary” by Archie Brown, MacMillan. As long as you are studying these characters— for instance, his main contact is Shakhnazarov and Smirnov. I’ve sat is Smirnov’s dining room with Archie Brown. If you read the biography, it’s maybe 500 people in the Soviet Union. If you read his biography of Smirnov, you’d think Smirnov’s was God. He plugs him because that’s his source. [We laugh.] It’s like, you know Jerry Hough?

S: Yes.

M: Well, Jerry gets all his stuff from Nodari Semonia and anytime Jerry writes it’s always the Semonia stuff, until Jerry went crazy about a year ago and started picking on Yeltsin.

S: I know! I’ve seen him on television say things that, well, crazy is not an exaggeration. He’s really off his nut.

M: I know. But he reflects the view of those academics, those institutions. The Academy of Sciences is the peak of the party elite and the central structure, and when it went down, it took them with it. And Jerry’s whole life went down the tube. Here, listen. Georgy Shakhnazarov: “a leading party intellectual and influential adviser to Gorbachev, Shakhnazarov, an increasingly important figure, is a strong advocate of a more objective, systematic study of politics. Armenian, born in Baku, blah blah blah, let’s see. As an academic, along with Fedor Burlatsky, one of the two main advocates of the institutionalization of political science in the Soviet Union. His book, Socialist Democracy, in ’72, advocated a freer and fuller flow of information.” (That was a bad year to advocate that!) He has been president of the Political Science Association since 1974. Vice President of the International Political Science Association from 74-78.”

S: I need to get this thing.

M: I am sure they are remaindering it because there’s nobody in it of any relevance now. He says, “While maintaining close links to academic life, Shakhnazarov spent the greater part oaf his career working for the Central Committee apparatus. First brought into Yury Andropov’s group of consultants in the socialist countries department of the Central Committee by Fedor Burlatsky in the early sixties (how true!), Shakhnazarov remained in the department after Burlatsky left [because Burlatsky opened his mouth!], apart from a spell in Prague in the early seventies on the journal, World Marxist REview.” When did they invade Prague? I can’t even remember.

S: Sixty eight.

M:“From 72 to 86 he was deputy head, from 86 to 88, first deputy head, of the Socialist Countries Department. In ’88 he became one of Gorbachev’s full time aides.

S: You get along with him all right?

M: Shakhnazarov? I love him. I’m mad at him right now because he won’t answer me on the fax, but —

S: Let’s go back to this Prague bit. They were all there in Prague at the time of the invasion and —

M: They weren’t just there. That’s where all of the solidarity committeess, everything was run from there. What people don’t seem to realize is that it was those very people who got a chance —. It’s just like, if the KGB could travel abroad they’d suddenly realize that they were running 70 years behind everybody else and that life was better over there and that the whole thing was insane. That’s why the whole Gorbachev thing came out of Andropov, the KGB, and the INternational Department. Those were the only guys who weren’t afraid to talk to each other about what they saw. They are the ones who monkeyed around and arranged Gorbachev’s elevation. That whole thing was done by them.

S: It’s beautiful.

M: So here are these people who supposedly were in charge of the international conspiracy, and the sales department of international communism, who get clientitis [?] and turn around and overthrow the whole damn system. It’s the people that I knew in the KGB — the international part of the KGB, not the gangsters who did the domestic part of the KGB — and in the international department of the KGB who are the most progressive folks in the country. That’s why the thing was a revolution from the top, which meant that it had no grass roots support.Nobody else in the place could. They were like people at the bottom of a well.

S: You are suggesting that a lot of this had already happened in the seventies. They knew each other, knew which side they were on.

M: They knew each other in the sixties. These are the children of the Twentieth Party Congress. That’s how they call themselves. They know each other as the Children of the Twentieth Party Congress. You can reel them off. Go to read Burlatsky’s book which just came out, on Khrushchev. That will give you fifteen names of the folks and it will give you inside scammy on what they were thinking about. And they were all related to communist countries. They were in that department of Socialist. They weren’t around Dobrynin, they were around Andropov.

S: What was Dobrynin place?

M: Well, he was off in the US most of the time. But in the Central Committee he was basically the person worrying about capitalist countries. He was a hardliner. You didn’t want to be soft on capitalism. These guys who were looking at socialism saw that it didn’t work worth a goddamn. And they also got to go to Western Europe and so on. If you talk to Shakhnazarov, he’s a Westerner. He’s a civilized human being. You talk to the rest of those guys in the Central Committee and you’re dealing with gangsters and thugs. But here’s a guy who’s a professional political scientist, and actually believes in data and polls and Smirnov runs around giving papers at the International Political Science Association just like a normal person, whereas most of the Academy of Sciences is just rhetorical bullshit.

S: Yeah. What sort of people were they closest to in the West?

M: I don’t think they were close, they were unknown in the West. Shakhnazarov wasn’t known here. They State department didn’t know who he was when I was doing the Afghan negotiations. He was always floating around in the socialist world. Now, he had a relationships with, oh who was the World Law Institute, the Institute for World Order Studies Model?


M: No, I just got them together because I did a conference in Moscow, the last conference in Moscow in December. I was with Shakhnazarov and Yakovlev and the gang and helped take down the flag in the Kremlin and pack up and get them out of there. I took the guy from the Supreme Court, Scalia, and Governor Ashcroft of Missouri and a whole gang of about 50 Americans over there and did the final conference on the Union treaty.

Well, let me just march through this. After Eastern Europe, Shakhnazarov asked me to, he had as the person in charge of Communist Countries, he had something called the Institute for Social Sciences, which was a secret institute in Moscow which trained Third World cadre.

S: A secret institute? Why secret?
M: Because it was training all the foreign communists from Asia, Africa, and Latin America. It’s on Leningradsky Prospect, near the Airport Metro, and it’s about six buildings. I had a hotel, a swimming pool, a dormitory for 750 people, classrooms, and that’s where the great international communist conspiracy comes from! It belonged to the international department of the Central Committee. And Shakhnazarov basically gave that to me a year ago, saying: Think of something to do with it! And so I was setting up a centre for constitutional democracy and I brought in congressional delegations. I was setting up a relationship between the Supreme Soviet and the US. Congress. And it is headed by Krasin, who is an old sidekick of this gang in the international department — goes back to the period we are discussing in the inaternational department and is going to write a book saying: We did it! Ha, ha, ha!

S: Krasin?

M: Yeah, Yury Krasin. K R A S I N. And that set of buildings is now the Gorbachev Foundation.

S: How many people work there now?

M: Well, remember when I first started going there, they had all the Iraqis, South Africans and all the wicked fairies from abroad. That’s where the trained the party elite. And they have a couple of dachas out in the countryside where they teach the real ____________________. This is not Lumumba University. This was the Central Committee’s Institute for training foreign communists.

S: How could they keep something like secret? They surely didn’t try to keep it completely secret.

M: The CIA spent its life trying to penetrate the institute. I don’t mean completely secret. There are a couple of KGB defectors that I know here, one of whose wife taught at the institute. But they didn’t put out any press releases and you’ll never get an alumni list. And you can go down the basement now, probably, and get some manuals on how to overthrow governments or run an internal security mechanism. But these are the people they trained — Mengistu and people like that. That was the international department of the Central Committee.

S: Do you know Alexander Likhotal?

M: No.

S: He was Gorbachev’s spokesperson for the last few weeks.

M: No. In any case, in December a year ago, there was a coup, essentially. The coup did not happen in August, it happened in November/December. And when I went in there with a delegation in January and was at the Institute, it was the first time Shakhnazarov basically every time I would meet with him privately at the Central Committee, there was a KGB type with him, telling him what to say.

S: From that point on?

M: Well, at that time. I don’t know when it began. I know it was there in January, kind of as they went into Lithuania and so on. And I am utterly convinced and I have certainly had many other people in the top confirm that Gorbachev lost control of the government at that time. It started with the meeting in November when the industrialists all came to town and told Gorbachev to stop his economic reforms. That’s when he abandoned —who was that economist?

S: Yavlinsky?

M: Yeah, Yavlinsky. That’s when he abandoned the Yavlinsky plan. And they put the right winger in as head of the media, who took over the television. That was in December, I guess. And by January, as far as I am concerned, Shakhnazarov and Gorbachev no longer — they weren’t exactly prisoners, but they sure as hell were basically being watched. And this guy would bully Shakhnazarov in my presence in a private meeting.

S: Do you know who he was?

M: Yeah, but he wasn’t very important. He was just one of the bad guys. They had a lot of bad guys. He was a schmuck. He was nobody who has emerged as a coup leader or anything — just a toughie. And it was then that the Lithuanian stuff happened and they unveiled Gennady Yanayev and my conference was his first political speech. That was when Yanayev suddenly became Vice President. And I don’t think they got loose of all that until late in the spring. I think they gradually somehow squirmed out from under it and Gorbachev got more free.

S: Well, I believed that all along. As a matter of fact, I published something in which I said that I thought was what was happening, but it kind of hard to sustain when, after the coup and after being out of office, Gorbachev still doesn’t say that that was true, that they had him by the throat.

M: Yes, I’ll agree. It is a very interesting puzzle whey they don’t talk about it. But I have certainly talked to fairly important people who certainly say, Yes, we were had by the throat. (Laughs.) I would say Shakhnazarov said it, the sucker! He was browbeaten because his son — you know, the famous movie producer who was his son? — his wife had taken the kid and fled to America, and he was using me (he being the KGB man) to harass Shakhnazarov about his kid — about Shakhnazarov as a grandfather to get his kid back. And Shakhnazarov basically told him to stick it in his ear, he wasn’t goinga to discuss it,

S: Why?!!

M: Because they were trying to threaten him. You know, it is embarrassing for somebody in the leadership to have their family flee abroad. But harassing the number two or three guy in the country, you know, the schmuck cadre from the Central Committee, you know you don’t do that to the president’s top political aide if he’s in control! Three weeks before that he could have said, Take this guy out and shoot him! I mean, Shakhnazarov has ordered up airplanes for me, and flown my delegation to Afghanistan over the rockets, and had Najibulla appear at my table for conferences! And this clown is browbeating him and telling him what he has to tell me about upcoming activities and conferences and usurping the Institute for Social Sciences! You’ve got to be joking! I mean, here’s this guy sitting in the Central Committee!

S: So somehow they got out from under their thumbs, you think?

M: Yeah, and I have no idea how. I agree with you. That’s a very interesting period and a very interesting point that none of them ever said how much trouble they were in or ever used it as an excuse to say, no they didn’t send the troops in. I’ve always been baffled by it and I have harassed more than one of them, but..

S: Have you ever asked them point blank?

M: No, because I was always doing business with them up until December. I was trying to help them. And Shakhnazarov is not somebody you harass. I asked him once had he been surprised. When they set out with Gorbachev to do this whole thing — God knows what you call it — perestroika? Join the human race? I asked him, had anything surprised him? He said, absolutely, that the speed with which it moved, especially Eastern Europe, and by then the republics were beginning to jump up and down — that they had no idea. It was like a toboggan ride, once they got sliding down the slope. They thought they had more time. But I’d say they did a pretty good job. They didn’t blow up the world. They didn’t kill anybody. And they were like Snoopy on his dog house

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The Russian Quest for Peace and Democracy, by Metta Spencer, published by Lexington Books