By Paul Goble
Like many others, both intelligence professionals and political analysts approach every new situation by drawing on their past experiences, assuming that what worked earlier will work again, with Russian analysts in addition typically projecting on to others what their own intelligence services are doing.
Those two things explain the proclivity of many Moscow analysts of raising the specter of “Operation Trust”-type operations supposedly being conducted by other governments but in fact pioneered by the founder of the Soviet Cheka, Feliks Dzerzhinsky, in the first years of Soviet power, and routinely used by the Cheka’s successors since that time.
“Operation Trust” or just “the Trust” was a Soviet false flag operation designed to penetrate, disorder and ultimately hamstring the military wing of the first Russian emigration by suggesting that there was an underground monarchist organization within Soviet Russia that the emigration should take its orders from.
(For a good introduction to the complex history of Dzerzhinsky’s Trust, see the 35-page report at jmw.typepad.com/files/simpkins—the-trust-security-intelligence-foundation.pdf. For a discussion of some more recent Trust-type operations Putin has launched, see windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2017/01/putins-active-measures-achieve-second.html.)
Most leaders of the Russian emigration and many European intelligence services fell for the Trust operation, but not all did. And when the Trust was exposed for what it really was in 1927, an exposure that it is possible Moscow even played an active part, many assumed that the Russian intelligence services had suffered a serious defeat.
At one level that may have been true, but at another, it definitely was not. The exposure of the Trust as a Soviet operation discredited all those who had believed in it, most prominently perhaps V.V. Shulgin who was manipulated by it and whose influence in the emigration never recovered. And that gave Moscow a second victory, even if many didn’t see it at the time.
In an article provocatively entitled “May Failed at an Operation Trust,” Baranchik suggests that the Belarusian foreign minister has misled his president, cooperated with Ukrainian radicals, protected them against the legitimate actions of Alyaksandr Lukashenka, and otherwise undermined the unity of the Minsk regime (regnum.ru/news/polit/2254462.html).
What he does not do is to say exactly who recruited Vladimir May or whom May recruited and under what false flag. Instead, Baranchik insinuates that some dark forces are behind all this and counts on using the emotionally resonant language about a “Operation Trust” to disorder the Belarusian regime and reduce its ability to function.
The Regnum news agency editor has good reason to be angry at May: the latter forced him to leave Belarus and sought his extradition from Russia, something Moscow wasn’t prepared to give, because of Baranchik’s pro-Russian and anti-Belarusian reporting, much of it unsubstantiated.
And Baranchik has another reason to employing the “Trust” language: There are Operation Trust-like actions going on in Belarus, but they have nothing to do with the collection of insinuations he offers. They are organized by Russian intelligence officers presenting themselves as Belarusian radical nationalists in order to be able to promote disorders.
That is what Moscow’s special services did in Ukraine and they are doing it again in Belarus so that they can promote violence when it suits them, either to force Lukashenka to crack down harder than he otherwise might or to provide a justification that some might accept for a Russian intervention in the name of stability.
The Belarusian opposition and the angry Belarusian nation behind the current round of demonstrations is committed to precisely the kind of peaceful change that Moscow doesn’t want to see happen. It would make such activities too much of a threat to Russia’s own authoritarian regime, and so it is Moscow not May who has an interest in a new Operation Trust.