Director of Moscow Carnegie Centre as a promoter of Kremlin narratives

It is time for the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace to read Thomas Smith’s work about Russia. Sir Thomas Smith, an English diplomat and trader, visited Moscow in 1604, took notes, and then provided guidance to future travelers to the city based on his findings. Modern Western politicians and researchers can still apply some of this advice, thus warranting a revision.

“The residents of Moscow are extremely sneaky and closely observe everything that foreigners do. Concurrently, delegates from various countries visit this commercial hub, and since a few of them are fluent in our language, let’s exercise caution and mindfulness in our dialogue, keeping an eye on the identity and subject matter of our discussions.”

Sir Thomas Smith’s Voiage and Entertainment in Rushia (1605)

Three centuries later, in 1910, the world saw the founding of one of the most renowned think tanks, and about eighty-three years later, in 1993, the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace opened a branch in Moscow.

Initially, the Moscow Carnegie Center (MCC) served as a consulting center to help Russia align its policies with those of democratic nations. Some media outlets even accused it at the time of serving the CIA’s objectives in Russia. However, after a few years and Vladimir Putin’s rise to power, everything changed completely.

“For various reasons, I cannot help but talk here about two political tricks of Tsar Boris Godunov. The first is this: on his orders, fires were set in four parts of Moscow. The prince himself, together with all his boyars and courtiers, took part in putting out the fire and showed extraordinary dexterity. After the fire had subsided, he showed all the victims his mercy by rebuilding their houses and compensating them for all their losses. All of this was done to silence the rumours that were spreading everywhere about the unusual way in which he had achieved supreme power. With this trick, he again turned his people, who were already on the verge of rebellion, into good subjects.”

Sir Thomas Smith’s Voiage and Entertainment in Rushia (1605)

Even in 2015, following Russia’s takeover of Crimea, the most influential American foundation in Russia faced accusations of serving the Kremlin’s interests. The International Crisis Committee (ICC) released a communiqué that largely reiterated Kremlin propaganda narratives following the “Boisto Initiative,” a meeting on Boisto Island where some representatives of the old American and Russian elites discussed the possibilities of resolving the so-called “Ukrainian conflict.”James Kirchick, an American journalist, researched this topic. 

Despite this, the Center carried on with its operations, and Dmitry Trenin, the director from 2008 to 2022, was able to influence elites in the background of public policy and was a frequent visitor at many events in the West. 

Now think of this, Trenin is also the author of over 10 books published in Russia, the USA, Germany, China, and other countries. He has served as a senior research fellow at the NATO Defense College and fellow at the Institute of Europe of the Russian Academy of Sciences. He has been a senior network member of the European Leadership Network since 2014.

It is hard to imagine how many meetings Mr. Trenin held as head of the Carnegie Center, and how many Americans and Europeans he influenced with Russian propaganda narratives. He used to do it in private, but now he targets the Russian audience and does it all in public.

The Russian government eventually shut down the Carnegie Moscow Center in 2022, most likely as a result of its reduced ability to sway Western politicians. But Dmitry Trenin was appointed director of the Institute for World Military Economics and Strategy, a new and more suitable position.

He was interviewed on April 7, 2024, by TVC, a Russian TV channel. Among other things, the interview features the former head of the Carnegie Center repeating xenophobic and blatantly false statements from the Kremlin. According to him, there is a “neo-Nazi regime” in Ukraine, and the population needs to be “re-educated”.

His latest remarks sound wildly at odds with his long history of formally representing the interests of the American foundation and receiving funding from the US government. He asserted a number of things, including “Biden is the master of Ukraine,” “The United States is weak,” and “Russia is getting stronger thanks to the war in Ukraine.”

“Even if Trump wins, I think that the people and forces that are grouped around Trump will largely maintain the foreign policy vector that is currently in place. Perhaps there will be more emphasis on confrontation with China. Perhaps there will be some attempt to offer us, in my opinion, an unacceptable peace in Ukraine. Perhaps we need to be prepared for this as well. We should not run into hugs that do not exist. Because even if someone offers us an embrace, they will try to strangle us in the same embrace. I think it makes no sense for us to rely on this. We need to rely on the fact that in the foreseeable future, as I have said here many times, we will probably have a confrontation for 15-20 years. Perhaps it will descend in intensity somewhere to the level of confrontation with the United States, and then it will turn into confrontation again. It will not end with Ukraine, there is the Arctic, the Caucasus, Central Asia, cyber, space, many things, and we will have to fight on all these fronts”, he claimed.

The former head of the ICC also paid attention to the topic of possible nuclear strikes that the Kremlin is scaring Western countries with (the key word here is “scaring” because we have read Thomas Smith and know how it works in Russia).

However, the epicenter of the speech of the once-handshaked and respected Russian political expert in the West (we hope it is in the past tense) was the justification and interpretation of Putin’s goals, which were announced at the beginning of the war against Ukraine. 

This political analyst believes that Russia needs a military victory over Ukraine, the complete destruction of its political elite, and all those who disagree (the grandfather of fascism, Hitler, must be applauding such a speech somewhere in hell). 

The former head of the Carnegie Moscow Center says bluntly that even if Trump becomes president and can offer a peaceful settlement by freezing everything along the line of contact, Russia should not agree to this because the confrontation with the United States will continue in the future on all other fronts. After all, in his opinion, the United States is going through processes that weaken its influence while giving Russia hope for a brighter future.

This story, in which an ex-top manager of an American organization defends Russia’s interests after the ICC’s closure while dismissing US efforts to establish peace in the world, clearly shows a key gap in American policy towards Russia. The American elite treats Russia as a rational actor. Not even that; the American elite treats Russia as a player. Whereas Russia, because of its specific historical evolution, is not a player by nature. A criminal in Russia gains trust in order to eventually seize someone else’s property, and criminals understand only one language: the language of brute force. 

“However, Tsar Boris died a premature death. No wonder a noble Frenchman said: “People rarely see tyrants and usurpers who live a long life, live it in moderation, and die a peaceful and natural death.” 

Sir Thomas Smith’s Voiage and Entertainment in Rushia (1605)
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