Invasion without a single shot. Is the strategy of Soviet services still in use?

My friends, you are in big trouble. Regardless of whether you believe it or not, you are at war and you may soon lose everything – this is how 40 years ago a former KGB officer warned Americans about ideological subversion from the Soviet Union. Four steps were to suffice for conquest: demoralisation, destabilisation and crisis, to finally reach so-called normalisation. In which phase is the West today?

The USSR has disappeared, but the diversion of services operates unchanged. The rules of the game were popularised by Yuri Bezmenov, a KGB officer who worked as a journalist for the Novosti agency. Trained in actions aimed at disinformation, he was one of the agents spreading propaganda leading to an ideological coup in the West. In 1970, he decided to change sides. As he claims in the book Love Letter to America, the event that prompted him to make such a decision was the “fraternal assistance” of the Soviet Union and its allies in 1968. To call a spade a spade, it was about the invasion of the Warsaw Pact troops on Czechoslovakia, which wanted socialism with a human face.

Bezmenov escaped to Canada, from there he went to the USA, where he held many jobs, but it was his analyses and lectures that brought him fame, warning the Americans of the consequences of the actions of his former colleagues.

Propaganda and disinformation were, of course, nothing new. In his dissertations, Bezmenov pointed to the ancient roots of the idea, reaching back to the strategies of the brilliant Chinese philosopher Sun Zi, who already described in 500 BC the idea of conquest without a single shot, only through ideological and cultural revolution in the enemy state.

Bezmenov’s information was dangerous for the Soviet Union, and today it is dangerous for Russia and all its allies operating in Western countries. Hence, both in the 1980s and now, his arguments are ridiculed, and he himself is called a paranoiac. Whatever one may say about him, the experiences of the old KGB agent seem disturbingly relevant.

Phases of self-destruction

When he was an agent, Bezmenov used techniques consistent with the instructions of his Soviet employers, and after fleeing the USSR, he tried to bring them closer to Americans. “This war has many faces, but it is still the same war,” he wrote. It had different names: some called it class struggle, others “anti-colonialism”, still others “peace movement”. Bezmenov called it World Communist Aggression. He also presented a generalised version of the operational actions that he and other agents carried out. He divided the course of the ideological coup in enemy states into four stages:


The first stage is the most tedious and long-lasting, but demoralisation is a solid foundation for future success, so necessary that it is worth dedicating 15 to 20 years to it. That’s how much time it takes to shape the beliefs of the young generation, which will eagerly proclaim the ideas presented to them.
Yuri Bezmenov, a KGB officer, worked as a journalist at the Novosti agency. Photo by Yuri Bezmenov – Original publication: "Black is Beautiful, Communism is Not." ISBN 0-935090-18-5Immediate source: https://archive.org/details/Yuri-Bezmenov_Black-Is-Beautiful/page/n29/mode/2up, Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=64680328
“In every society, there are groups opposing the leading values. In every country, there are tendencies going against the generally accepted moral norms and values,” Bezmenov said during one of his lectures in Los Angeles. The task of the aggressor is to correct the direction in which these groups are heading and to keep their ideas in a leading position.

Demoralisation must affect some areas of social life. It’s good to start by ridiculing the leading religion in the country, replacing it with other beliefs, sects, or exotic cults, which may indeed be intriguing but do not unite people into larger communities. “Let them be naive, primitive, it doesn’t matter, the point is that the religious values embraced by society are gradually destroyed,” Bezmenov said. “The most important task in this case is to break away from the ideas that keep people in contact with a higher entity, thus destroying some common, unifying value.”

  Another critical area of life is education. Already in Bezmenov’s times, progressive trends were used to influence other educational systems to place greater emphasis not on constructive subjects but, say, on knowledge about sexuality.

Ordinary social relations also needed changes. It was necessary to break the natural bonds connecting people, especially family ties, and to replace the relationships that unite entire societies with bureaucratic institutions, mainly serving control functions. “The average person will no longer focus on family, bonds of friendship, or even neighbourly relations. Instead, he will focus on the salary he receives from institutions,” Bezmenov explained. The justice system and law, in the understanding of the services, also required modifications.

The best effects were brought by actions that the masses could quickly assimilate. According to Bezmenov, this was already evident in his time, for instance, in movies. A policeman or a military man was usually portrayed as a brute or a degenerate, or a meathead abusing his power. On the other hand, the criminal is usually a cool guy smoking weed, who was wronged by society. Bezmenov: “The goal of such actions was one, to undermine trust in the institutions that maintain law, public order, and are supposed to protect the states and citizens.”

The fight for better working conditions was often replaced by a senseless struggle that did not improve the position of the average worker. In the West, however, it ensured an increasingly high position for the growing centres of trade unions, often managed in line with the interests of the services. “It wasn’t about any improvement of working conditions, just ideology, nothing more,” admitted the former agent 40 years ago.

From demoralisation to destabilisation

The second phase is destabilisation, introduced when the hostile society is already saturated with ideas corresponding to the services that implemented them. The invader does not use its own armed forces for this. The society of the conquered country must do it itself, believing that it will live better as a result. This goal requires fomenting conflicts, demonstrations, and riots in the streets, organised for any reason, as every problem must be accompanied by the conviction that it cannot be amicably resolved. “No compromise, only struggle and radicalisation of claims,” Bezmenov emphasised.

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During the destabilisation phase, the so-called sleepers awaken, hidden agents who until now passed as decent citizens and enjoyed the respect of others. These can also be foundations funded by generous patrons from abroad or maintained with taxpayers’ money. Bezmenov mentioned, among others, progressive students from the Patrice Lumumba Peoples’ Friendship University, which in more than one study was described as a breeding ground for agents and terrorists.

The former Soviet agent reached for another example of a “sleeper” in his lectures. “It could be a homosexual, who 15 years ago worked as a dishwasher and nobody cared, and today he becomes a politician, because his sexual orientation is a political matter,” he admitted with irony.

Normalisation, or the arrival of the “saviour”

From chaos, it’s only a step to a serious crisis, that is, to the penultimate stage of ideological destabilisation leading to the seizure of power without the use of force. “The crisis occurs when the current state institutions die out, and instead self-proclaimed groups appear, instructing how democracy should look,” explained Bezmenov. “People are tired and irritated. A weakened country faces a choice: civil war or invasion from outside.”

Citizens need a saviour. And he arrives just in time. It can be a politician taking over the government with a firm hand, generously supported by external donors. The state may gain funds, but on terms set by the donor. In the country, normalisation takes place – the last stage.

The media, which the sponsor gaining influence has not spared earlier, begin to write about peace and change, weaving prospects of a better tomorrow and further liberal transformations. At the same time, the hitherto more or less aware agitators, who until recently encouraged the fight against the existing regime, are being dismissed. Today they are unnecessary, and those who cannot understand this must be removed in one way or another. The new power no longer needs unrest. It needs support and trust, which it has worked so long for.

Bezmenov forever alive

According to Dr. Michał Wojnowski, a historian and analyst studying the effects of Soviet “specpropaganda,” the actions Bezmenov wrote about are still being carried out. Only the way of their implementation has changed. “During the Cold War, as well as today, there was an effort to influence elections in the West. Back then, however, this was done through organisations or journalists who had to be recruited or bought. Today, a powerful weapon is, for example, social media. Thanks to them, the principles that the former Russian agent spoke and wrote about can be implemented more quickly and efficiently,” admits Dr. Wojnowski in an interview with TVP Weekly.
Hubert Speil with the President of Russia in 2013. Photo by Nikolsky Alexei / TASS / Forum.
Of course, Russia as the successor of the USSR does not forget about the tools that journalists were and are. Just three days ago, there was a stir about Hubert Seipel, a German journalist and writer, author of a biography (or rather a paean in honour) of Vladimir Putin. Seipel was considered an expert on Russia. And then it turned out that for his activity, as reported by Spiegel, he received hundreds of thousands of euros from Moscow.

It was not the first or last time that German journalists were in tune with the great Eastern partner. Since the late 1950s, the magazine konkret has been published in West Germany, which was particularly popular among leftist youth and progressive intelligentsia. The magazine was funded for years by the authorities of the GDR. Its publisher Klaus Rainer Röhl was the husband of Ulrike Meinhof, one of the most famous leftist terrorists, co-founder of the Red Army Faction. The magazine in its best years in the 70s was sold among students like hot cakes. Röhl later made a scientific, journalistic, and political career in Germany, working in the liberal FDP.

It went even better for the leftist troublemaker from the 60s and 70s, Joschka Fischer. His photo from 1973, showing him beating a policeman, went around the world. At the beginning of this century, it was published by Mainhof and Röhl’s daughter, Bettina Röhl. In Poland, these photos were shown by many media as evidence of Fischer’s turbulent but not shameful, perhaps even glorious, past, who managed to become the vice chancellor and head of diplomacy in Germany.

“The Russian penetration of Western countries is visible to this day. France and Germany were and still are subjected to special penetration of the Soviet and Russian services, as these countries want to become independent of the USA. The whole German policy is aimed at throwing Americans out of Europe. The interests are therefore convergent,” explains Dr. Wojnowski, pointing to the fertile ground on which Russians also land today.

Effective blows

“What destroyed Europe in the traditional sense, that is, Europe based on Roman law, Greek aesthetics, and Christianity, was Marxism. It was the worldview of Marx and Engels, modified by Lenin, that made an ideological coup on the Old Continent. But its influence in the West began earlier than during the cultural revolt in the 60s. In the 20s in Frankfurt am Main, the famous Institute for Social Research, or the Frankfurt School, studying and propagating Marxist thought, was established. Documents are now available that show clear penetration of the Soviet services in this institute,” notes Michał Wojnowski.

Although the Bolshevik revolution could not be exported beyond the Soviet Union, there was a reflection in the West that this ideology needed to be modified, which also happened with Moscow’s consent. “The countercultural movements that grew up in the 60s were supported by the security organs of the USSR. The scale of this support is debatable: some believe it was fundamental, others that it was marginal, but the undeniable fact is that they were beneficial for the Soviet Union. Especially the pacifist movements, which demanded the disarmament of NATO, promoted anti-war attitudes, but interestingly only towards the West, not the Soviet Union. Peace movements were naturally infiltrated by Soviet special services just like many other institutions that often performed similar tasks as the mentioned services,” Wojnowski recalls.

He also points out that Western Marxism is creative, which is why its next mutations arise. “Minorities are put in place of workers. Herbert Marcuse writes directly about ‘fighting minorities.’ The working-class proletariat at the end of the industrial era has been replaced by other social layers, including ethnic, sexual minorities, or migrants as permanently conflicted with reality,” says the expert.

New Marxism began to see other social groups as the lever of revolution, but, as the historian emphasises, it also did something much more dangerous: it engaged in linguistic manipulation. “Marcuse redefined the concept of tolerance. And today it really only applies to those views that are consistent with the left-wing line,” notes Wojnowski.

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New Marxism is mainly directed at the intelligentsia, influencing the ideological stance of opinion leaders. It does not have to manifest itself only in the social or political sphere. Antonio Gramsci, an Italian historian and philosopher, believed that gaining power involves taking over “cultural hegemony,” which is key to gaining political power. Therefore, new Marxists appreciate the role of art, literature, film, and theatre, which they readily support.

Where is Europe?

Can the West oppose these trends? “I seriously doubt that such a process will occur. Especially since we see the centralisation of the European Union with a leading role for Germany and France, where ideological formatting is based on the principles of new Marxism. Conservative circles have been pushed to the margins. What’s more, groups considered right-wing are strongly linked not with anyone else but Russia, and it also supports extreme right-wing and anti-EU forces, which paradoxically see the empire from the east as a bastion of old values,” says Dr. Wojnowski, noting that Russia has never been bothered by playing both for the extreme right and the extreme left, as both of these currents destroy the old order, i.e., European civilisation in a conservative sense.

And considering the influx of culturally foreign elements, such as migrants from Africa and Asia, the chances of reversing trends that destroy the existing European values in the West are, in his opinion, slim. “It would have to be associated with the return of Christianity and values that unite people. Meanwhile, it’s moving towards something post-civilisational, it’s even hard to precisely define,” he admits.

So in which phase is Europe, considering Bezmenov’s theses? “Europe has long been past the demoralisation phase. We are in the phase of transition from destabilisation to crisis,” believes Wojnowski. “For me, a pivotal date in Poland was 2021 and the storming of migrants on the eastern border. Just look at how deep divisions this phenomenon has caused both among political elites and society. What’s more, both Russian analysts and those from NATO believe that similar destabilisations will deepen throughout Europe.”

Yuri Bezmenov’s theses resurface during every major conflict or phenomenon changing the geopolitical situation in the world. Everyone then recalls his diagnosis as a grim memento, only to quickly forget about it in the following years under the pressure of a wave of ridiculing criticism. Because who would want to live with the name of a fool or a paranoiac, as Bezmenov was called?

– Sławomir Cedzyński

TVP WEEKLY. Editorial team and jornalists

– Translated by jz
The author is a journalist of the i.pl. portal
Main photo: The counter-cultural movements that grew up in the 1960s were supported by the security organs of the USSR, experts claim. The photo shows left-wing demonstrators in West Berlin protesting against the Vietnam War in 1960. Photo by Peter Probst / SZ-Photo / Forum.
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