Moscow January 1990 Two months after the fall of the Berlin Wall
Viktor Pavlov battled against the relentless snowstorm that had started the previous night. As he manoeuvred between the dimly lit areas that separated the grey three-storey apartment blocks, Pavlov occasionally raised his head to check his bearings. Fortunately, he had walked the route many times to visit his immediate superior; the deputy head of KGB First Chief Directorate – Foreign Operations. During the twenty-minute metro ride and the five-minute walk, his mind had been focused on the topic of the meeting; a vision for the Soviet Union. Pavlov had been ordered to arrive earlier than the other guests; his superior had wanted to fine-tune the KGB position.
At the entrance to the apartment block, Pavlov attempted to wipe as much snow as possible from his coat and boots; entered the three-storey block removed his Ushanka-hat and knocked it against the bare damp wall of the stairwell and quickly climbed the six flights of stairs. His host had already opened the heavily secured door; Moscow was safe from criminals, but one had to be prepared for other eventualities. Perestroika had polarised the country; the hardliners wanting to a return to what they viewed as the glorious years of Communism; those who saw opportunities for themselves; and others who prioritised the interests of Russia, the Motherland. All had an axe to grind.
Mikhail Kuznetzov embraced Pavlov “Greetings my dear Viktor, I trust that you are prepared for our soirée ?”
“One of a little Georgian brandy, small talk and music?”
“Viktor, I’ve always enjoyed your sarcastic sense of humour. Is that the result of rubbing up to the Brits whilst you were in London? No Georgian brandy; rather Russian vodka to toast the future of the Motherland. As to small talk, we will subtly be going for the oesophagus, or the balls as your British friends would say. I’m referring to the Party hardliners, they present a formidable stumbling block to our plans; and yes, by the time the others leave this meeting they should all be singing the same tune; or else.”
“I’m not too worried about the Party. Towards the end of my time in London, I introduced a selection of Party industrial complex bosses to some of the ideas during their study visits to the UK. These are, in your language, the opportunists; I’ve continued this process of indoctrination since my posting to Geneva.”
“I know, but there is still resistance. As to those who are coming on board, we must have mechanisms in place to ensure that they don’t become too greedy and get out of line.”
“Surely, dear comrade Mikhail you don’t believe that we are incapable of that. Look at our history. At the end of the nineteenth century, both Lenin and Stalin had been part of the Okhrana, effectively the Russian arm of the British Secret Service. They fooled the British then; and with our experience since the Revolution, we are more than capable of the necessary deception to guarantee that we achieve our goal. It will be easy to control the Party; we will exploit their greed and use them as the puppets to convince the West, especially the USA and the British, that we are genuinely on-board with the idea of a short-sharp-shock transition to a market economy.”
“I wish I could share your optimism. But one thing is sure, using the Lenin’s analogy, we have to acknowledge that our ultimate goal to restore Russia to its rightful place in the world, after what I envisage is an impending humiliation, will require time and careful planning. Still, we are both young; perhaps we will be able to celebrate at the Revolution centenary commemorations!”
“Hopefully!” Pavlov laughed, “but we must continue surveillance and infiltration both at home and abroad; the information we have on the “special arrangement” between Reagan and Thatcher will be enough to bring down any government in the U.K. but we need more. I’ve already sown the seeds during my time in London and now Geneva. The dossier grows day-by-day. This will require the utmost security of our surveillance and infiltration; especially during the inevitable Transition period. We need dedicated staff and resources.”
“That has already been arranged.”
The intercom rang. Prior to opening the door to welcome the other guests, Kuznetzov walked over to Pavlov and gripped his shoulder.
“Remember; no mention of Triple Edge and especially the plan to create political instability in the USA and Britain as the key means to achieve our goal.”
The eight men were seated at a long table in one of the rooms of the large apartment; one that indicated their host’s status within the Soviet system; their host welcomed them and outlined the purpose of the meeting. The previous day had marked the end of Soviet New Year festivities. As Kuznetzov scanned the table, he was not sure if the seriousness in their faces attempted to conceal hangovers or uneasiness as to the purpose of the meeting. He sensed from his KGB training that some of those seated had probably met in smaller groups during the preceding days to coordinate their position.
Kuznetzov had asked Pavlov to start the discussion. He went straight to the point,
“I really hope that those around this table have grasped the situation that is developing in our country. There is obviously a need for drastic measures. If these are not introduced we risk a return to Communism and possibly civil war.”
He looked around the room for a reaction. It came from the hardline Moscow Oblast Party head who accused Pavlov of being a traitor and living comfortably in Geneva whilst actively promoting the break down of the Soviet State system. This intervention set the scene of two contrasting views of the Soviet Union and Russia. The group represented those who were attempting to hold onto power at all costs and the emerging power groups. They included; the Communist Party; the KGB; the military; two emerging entrepreneurs; and the person identified by the KGB for restructuring the Soviet industrial complex. The West would impose such a condition in one form or another in return for financial support to economic reforms; the KGB would have to maintain a tight oversight of the process.
The military and KGB dominated the discussion. They insisted that the Party would have to take a backseat role and accept that the Soviet Union would have to be broken up for Russian to become strong again. Ultimately, the Republics would be reunited; Russia, in any event, would ensure that power remained in the strong ethnic Russian enclaves of the future independent republics; especially those rich in natural resources; and would maintain the industrial and key research complexes in addition to its own abundant reservoirs of natural resources. With the rapidly increasing consumption of vodka, the discussion had become more heated, almost to the point of violence. Luckily, neither Kuznetzov nor Pavlov had mentioned their plan to install a malleable president whom they could manipulate to implement the first phase of their plan.
Suddenly, four of the opponents to the ideas outlined by Kuznetzov and Pavlov rose from the table in anger; retrieved their coats and departed to brace the storm outside; the vodka had taken its toll. Kuznetzov looked at the remaining guests.
“That was to be expected, it’s still early days. These are the kind of people who had had warnings of an impending accident at Chernobyl and did nothing about it, and we saw what happened. Eventually, they will see our point of view or they will disappear into oblivion. We must focus on our long-term vision,” he paused to refill his glass and nodded to the others to do likewise. He raised his arm. “To the Motherland!”
The others raised their glasses and in unison repeated the toast. Following a further twenty minutes of discussion to firm up their resolve to implement Kuznetzov’s plan, the remaining guests left.
Kuznetzov and Pavlov also prepared to leave,
“Viktor, I need to return to my dacha. This place is fine for my Moscow command centre but I need the space to think. By the way, I think we need to arrange for you to spend time at our Rome embassy.”
“Italy has always been a welcome trading partner. Whilst the cover will be to develop further links to help Russia through the impending turmoil that we anticipate; your main task will be to infiltrate the Mafia.”
Pavlov smiled. “I look forward to that. The quicker we start the better.”
Kuznetzov called for his transport and offered Pavlov a lift to his apartment.