gordon hahn
The recent terror attack in St. Petersburg, Russia, is nothing new. Russia has been waging a war on Islamic terrorism for the last 20 years. What started as a homegrown Chechen separatist movement was quickly hijacked by elements of the so-called global Islamist jihad - veterans of the Afghan-Arab mujahedin and affiliates of al-Qaeda. While many commentators in the West were happy to write off the Chechen terrorists as "freedom fighters", Gordon Hahn was one of the first in the West to sound the alarm in his book Russia's Islamic Threat. His predictions came true when former "President of Ichkeria" Dokka Umarov founded the Caucasus Emirate in 2007, the subject of his next book, The Caucasus Emirate Mujahedin. After the creation of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, most of the CE's fighters defected to join the Islamic State's jihad, where many have met their fate.

Today on the Truth Perspective, we interview Dr. Hahn about his work on Russia's Islamic threat, as well as his research on regime change and revolution. We'll also discuss ideas from his first book, Russia's Revolution from Above: Reform, Transition, and Revolution in the Fall of the Soviet Communist Regime, and his upcoming book Ukraine Over the Edge: Russia, the West and the "New Cold War". You can read his work on his Russian and Eurasian Politics blog at Gordonhahn.com.

Running Time: 01:38:25

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Here's the transcript of the show:

Harrison: Welcome back to The Truth Perspective everyone. I'm your host, Harrison Koehli and joining me is Corey Schink.

Corey: Nice to be back.

Harrison: Today we are pleased to be joined by Gordon Hahn. Gordon is an author and analyst who has worked for various DC think tanks over the years and his website is gordonhahn.com where he writes about Eurasian geopolitics, Russia, also Ukraine, Syria, US politics, everything that kind of relates to that milieu. He's written three books so far. The first is Russia's Revolution From Above: Reform, Transition and Revolution in the Fall of the Soviet Communist Regime, followed by Russia's Islamic Threat and The Caucasus Emirate Mujahedin: Global Jihadism in Russia's North Caucasus and Beyond. He has a new book coming out later this year called Ukraine Over the Edge: Russia, the West and the Making of the Ukrainian Crisis and Its New Cold War.

So Gordon, welcome to the show. To start out with, could you tell us a bit about the four books that you've written and about your background and how you came to write them?

Gordon: In the early '90s the former Soviet Union collapsed and so my first book basically grew out of my dissertation which was a study of Gorbachev's conflict with the communist party apparatus as he tried to implement reforms. That was Russia's Revolution from Above in 2002. And then I kicked around at a few things. I worked at St. Petersburg State University on a Fulbright scholarship for a year. I came back to the States and decided one of the easiest ways to continue employment in this difficult field, because 2003/2004 was relatively shortly after 9/11, and the big topic in the United States was jihadis and terrorism.

And also right around that time in 2004 there was a major attack in Moscow on the subway and I was in Moscow at the time so I decided to look into this whole question of whether there were jihadis in the North Caucasus or whether they were actually national freedom fighters and so forth and so on. And so out of that grew my book Russia's Islamic Threat. Then I basically continued on looking at North Caucasus jihadism and global jihadism and that led to Caucasus Emirate Mujahedin as a follow up to the previous book in which all the fighting in Caucasus Emirate Mujahedin confirmed that the previous book had been basically correct about predicting and showing at the time even, that already the jihadis had sunk their teeth into the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria as it was once called and about half the movement was already.. the jihadists were national separatists.

That's basically it and once the Ukraine crisis broke out, one thing that I discovered when I was working on the two books on Islamism as Russia's common threat, Caucasus Emirate Mujahedin, is that there were an awful lot of bias and distortion in the western media about what was going on; a complete failure and even I would say a deliberate distortion of this information, what now everybody calls fake news about what was going on in North Caucasus.

So that made me just a little suspicious when I was hearing all the news agencies reporting the same version of what was going on in Ukraine without any nuance whatsoever. I was following as it was going on so I was also seeing some disconnect in between the facts on the ground at the time and the reporting. The more I looked into it I realized that there's certainly a book here and that the version that the American people were getting from the mass media was a distortion of the facts of what was going on in Ukraine and the record needed to be corrected.
So I decided to write the book on Ukraine.

Corey: Well as everybody knows, in St. Petersburg there were terror attacks a few weeks ago and like you said, there in the Caucasus there hasn't really been a very objective assessment of what the Russian Islamic threat really looks like, but you really dive into it in your books so I was wondering, could you explain for us who aren't aware of what Russia's Islamic threat really looks like, why it is that you predicted this rise in Islamic extremism in Russia?

Gordon: Well basically you'd need to go back to the mid-90's and look at the history. So initially it's true that the initial movement, the formation of the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria as the Soviet Union was falling apart was a national separatist movement. It was inspired by many things; the long history of the North Caucasus resistance to Russian rule, dating back to the original conquest by the Russians, the fact that there had been national movements in the union republics, places like the Baltics and Georgia, somewhat less strong in Ukraine and other places.

So initially it was a national separatist movement. It was not a democratic movement. There's one particular author who covers the North Caucasus who at one point wrote something along the lines of he's seeing quite often North Caucasus militants writing about George Washington, that George Washington was mentioned more in their literature than Osama bin Laden. I don't know what literature he's reading from the Caucasus, the Mujahedin or the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria, but I've never seen George Washington's name mentioned once. My guess is if he was mentioned he wouldn't have been mentioned in a very positive light whereas I've seen lots of stuff from bin Laden and all the other jihadists on their website.

So anyway, by 1997 a guy by the name of Khattab who was a close associate of bin Laden, for example when Khattab was killed, bin Laden wrote a eulogy for him. He came to the North Caucasus and he became friendly with Shamil Basayev. By the way, Basayev had been in Afghanistan to the al-Qaeda training camps in 1994 but it was a whole conglomerate of about 30 or 40 Mujahedin who had been actually fighting on the side of the ethnic Abkhazs in their battle to separate from Georgia at the time. Basayev allegedly had received some training from the Russian GRU. That doesn't make him an agent of the Russian Security Forces by any means.

He then went to Afghanistan to be trained. They all got sick on something and they left, so they never actually received any training as far as people can tell. But this shows the desire to become part of the jihad. Anyway, by 1997 Basayev and Khattab began to set up training camps, not just for the jihadi in Russia but for training jihadists to carry out attacks in the West, and other places. I cited a whole bunch in the second book on Islamism, The Caucasus Emirate Mujahedin, court cases from the United States in which it's documented in the brief when they closed down certain benevolent foundations that were supporting jihad around the world that were based in the United States, that a large chunk of the money they were raising was going to the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria, so called national separatist movement and the rest of it was going to Afghanistan. So that shows that the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria was a high priority among global jihadists at the time.

This was by the way, 1997 now. We're already getting into the inter-war period. So the first Chechen war has ended and the inter-war period in Chechnya was absolute chaos. People were kidnapping people for ransom and it was just absolute chaos. There was a struggle for power within the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria. There were various groupings. One of the groupings was the jihadist group of Basayev and Khattab.

So by 1998 they had built up a critical mass of jihadi fighters, maybe a thousand or so who were willing to fight under the wing of Basayev and Khattab and they created a congress of the Dagestani and Chechen people which was an indication that they were planning to spread the jihad to the Republic of Dagestan which is next to Chechnya and the most important republic in the North Caucasus by sheer numbers and by the legacy of Islam that goes back much longer in Dagestan than it does in Chechnya and other places in the North Caucasus.

Moving on a little quicker, by July 1999 these forces - and you can actually find the video on the internet - of about a thousand to two thousand fighters crossing the border from Chechnya into Dagestan and the Russians eventually rallied the Dagestani people because many of the Dagestani actually don't like Chechens and at the time they weren't particularly receptive to Islamism and jihadism and they managed to fight back this invasion.

About a month later we had those so-called apartment bombings in Moscow and Rostov Na Donu and often that is portrayed as some kind of a plot involving Putin to garner additional support for his presidential campaign and so forth and one question that's always been is if the Chechens with jihadis had just invaded Dagestan why would you need to blow up an apartment complex to gain support? You have all the reason in the world to carry out a battle in Chechnya against these jihadis. Why do you need to risk an operation like that, blowing up 300 of your own people in central Moscow and so forth, to do that?

My own theory on that is that actually Boris Berezovsky was behind that attack and it was a way to either curry favour or entrap him into a situation because remember at this point Putin had just come to power. He hadn't even been elected President yet. He was only acting Prime Minister so he did not have a large support base. Even within the FSB where he came from as analysts endlessly report, he was not a major figure in the FSB and the KGB by any stretch of the imagination, except for the brief period when he headed the KGB/FSB for about a year from '98 to '99 and that was basically a fluke, he was not someone who originally was a high-ranking FSB officer. He was a mid-ranking officer in Germany when the wall came down and everything collapsed.

So this basically kicks off the second so-called Chechen war and once the forces of the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria are completely routed by 2001, it takes almost a full year for elements to get back together in the mountains of Chechnya and those elements are basically the jihadi elements and they basically come to a compromise. The jihadis and the national separatists and that compromise basically consists of Aslan Maskhadov remaining president but promising that eventually they're going to switch to an all-out jihadist organization. And he agrees that from now on, any decision that he takes and any interpretation of the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria constitution has to be consistent with Sharia law and they create a committee led by another jihadi who then succeeds Maskhadov, Sadulayev and he is the one who basically decides if the Maskhadov decisions are consistent with Sharia law.

So at this point you can basically say that the jihadists at a minimum, consist of about half of the movement and are basically gaining the upper hand within the leadership. At a minimum we have a 50/50 compromise, right? And then over the period of 2002 to 2007 there's a battle to actually follow through on this plan to move to a full-fledged jihadi organization and this is reflected in debates on their websites and by I believe January of 2006 Basayev is announcing that "in summer 2006 we're going to conduct a meeting of the Council of Ulema and we're going to announce a decision about creating a jihadi formation".

But Basayev is killed in June I believe, or July 2006 so then Maskhadov is basically forced to concede and Maskhadov was killed at some point, (March 2005) I forget exactly when he was killed now. I'd have to go back and look. I've already forgotten it's been so long and basically Umarov takes over. Dokka Umarov was a high-ranking mujahed to be sure. I guess you could say he was in that inner circle of top 10 or 15 mujahedin and he takes over and he, in October 2007 then declares the Caucasus Emirate and there's a split completely. He basically shuts down the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria operation. He breaks up all ties with people like Akhmedov in London who was then the foreign minister of the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria and many of the people who were leading forces in the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria who fled abroad after the second war.

So basically many of the national separatists are now abroad and those who have remained are the real hard core fighters, the more radical ones, the more determined ones and of course they're more susceptible to a radical ideology, especially after being routed in the battlefield in 2006. And we all know that the Russian military forces are not the most gentle. And that also is a factor to be sure.

So by 2007 now you have the Caucasus Emirate and then we see a gradual increase in the number of jihadi attacks leading from 2008. One way to trace that is looking at the number of suicide bombings so that by 2011 I believe it was 16 suicide bombings. You had about 14 in 2010, eight I believe in 2009 if I'm not mistaken. I'd have to go back and look at the numbers. But back in 2008 and 2007 and 2006 you weren't talking more than one maximum per year. So we're talking about a large number of suicide bombers, not just in the Caucasus but in Russia and so forth from 2007 to 2012.

Then the civil war breaks out. I'm going through this in a very superficial way. Then the civil war breaks out in Syria and largely because the jihadis are not overwhelmingly successful in the North Caucasus although by 2011 was a sort of peak when there were 600 or 700 attacks and as I said early, 16 suicide bombings. I'd have to go back and look at the numbers. But still the prospects of carrying out real jihad and getting real fighting experience on a real battlefield, you know not carrying out guerrilla operations and hit and run operations, but real battlefield experience, and also getting access to the training that might be afforded by al-Qaeda at the time, many of the mujahedin began to leave and go to Syria.

And this was reflected in a sharp fall in the number of attacks in 2012, another fall in 2013, another in 2014, and by 2013/2014 you had hundreds of North Caucasus fighters fighting in Syria in various groups, in most of the groups. Often they were groups of foreign fighters and in most of the groups, either Chechen or Dagestani was the Emir, that is the leader of the group. The most famous of all was Tarkhan Batirashvili who was an ethnic Chechen Kist which is basically an ethnic Chechen from the Georgian Valley of Pankisi Gorge in Georgia and he went to fight with one of these groups in Syria and then he switched over to the Islamic State and he became the leader of the Northern Front for the Islamic State straddling Syria and Iraq, mostly in Syria, around Idlib by the way, where the recent chemical attack happened. And they were very prominent in this region.

So by 2014 you had large numbers of men and North Caucasus fighters and other fighters from Russia and Muslim fighters, Tatars, Bashkirs, also people from Central Asia and often these people were in one group. I skipped over the fact also earlier that ideologically, long before 2007, the Caucasus Emirate was ideologically compatible entirely with al-Qaeda and in fact with another teacher who supported al-Qaeda, Abu Asim al-Maqdisi who, according to one of the leading research centres at West Point for global jihadism, they characterize around 2012, 2013 as the most influential jihadi theologist/philosopher in the world, more influential than bin Laden. And he in 2009 endorsed the Caucasus Emirate as a legitimate jihadi organization. He developed a close relationship with the leading ideologist of the Caucasus Emirate, an ethnic Kabard who was the Qadi of the Sharia court, the judge of the Sharia court of the Caucasus Emirate.

So ideologically there was this compatibility. This is why you had these groups go to Syria and many of them now come into direct contact with elements tied to al-Qaeda. Many of these groups that the Chechens were amirs of were fighting under the al-Nusra Front, which is an al-Qaeda affiliate.

Then you have the rise of the Islamic State as I mentioned earlier. Tarkhan Batirashvili went over to the Islamic State. So now you have a battle inside the North Caucasus about which group working under whose wing we're going to go. Are we going to go under the wing of the Islamic State and justify a caliphate or are we going to stay with the flagging operation called al-Qaeda who hasn't pulled off a major attack in a long time? They don't have a caliphate. They don't have some 30,000 fighters by that time, right?

So a battle begins to emerge within the Caucasus Emirate about which side to join and eventually, to make a long story short, with the death of Dokku Umarov five months before the Sochi Olympics and the replacement of a new Amir, Dagestani, it was inevitable given Dagestan's preeminent in the North Caucasus that a Chechen would be replaced by a Dagestani at this time. Dagestani is then killed. His successor is then killed, a guy by the name of Amir Asildarov in Dagestan, also Dagestan.

And as a result the majority of the mujahedin see that the operation is not going very well and they decide to declare their loyalty in late 2015 I believe, early 2016, to the Islamic State. They declare the loyalty oath to al-Baghdadi and basically from what I can tell, initially there was maybe 10-20% who appeared to remain with the Caucasus Emirate to support al-Qaeda but the bulk of the amirs from Chechnya and Dagestan and even Kabardino-Balkaria and Ingushetia, they all followed Amir Asildarov who was killed last December, to the Islamic State.

By now you have very few mujahedin in the North Caucasus who were fighting under the banner of the Caucasus Emirate, if there are any at all. Those who are fighting under the banner of the Caucasus Emirate are fighting in Syria and there are still several groups who still fly the flag of the Caucasus Emirate, one group called the Caucasus Emirate Isteria. But the bulk of those who are located in North Caucasus are loyal to the Islamic State.

Harrison: So would you say that the most radical elements are the ones that went to Syria because there are still obviously a lot of radical jihadis that are still in the Caucasus region and still in Russia in various regions of Russia. So how would you categorize the ones that are still there? In Europe, in the news you hear a lot about the threat of the returnees or migrants coming into Europe and staging terror attacks. Are we seeing something similar in Russia or is it more still a home grown thing or both?

Gordon: The whole home grown thing is exaggerated as mentioned earlier because a lot of this has to do with the outside influence so even though fighters may have been fighting because they don't like in part, or initially, the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria because they didn't like the Russian regime, they wanted to be independent, over time they began to switch to a purer religious motivation.

So first question you asked, basically it's true, it's logical, right, that the more radical ones, the guys who really wanted to fight, those are the ones who went to Syria, right? And they've been there for a while. Many of them have been killed. Many of those who went initially in 2012 have been killed and I imagine many of those who were there in 2013/2014 were killed. You don't survive there very long. But certain with the rout - the key here is ongoing rout or apparent rout of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, a lot of these fighters, and in fact Baghdadi gave an order that they should begin to disperse and go back home. So there's no doubt that we should begin to see some of these guys traversing Azerbaijan and very likely would see something happen there as well, not just in Turkey, but Azerbaijan on their way back home to the North Caucasus or in some cases to Dagestan.

The Russian security services over the last year-and-a-half have claimed to arrest quite a few people who have fought in Syria and Iraq. Probably some of those are exaggerations. In some cases it's real, in some cases it's not, it's a way just to throw in an extra charge on somebody you don't like. But certainly there are some that are returning. Some are being arrested, some are not. The St. Petersburg attack was more someone who appears to have been simply a lone wolf but even the lone wolves, people like the Tsarnaev brothers who blew up Boston, the Boston Massacre, these are people who again, we're talking about a virtual movement in many ways that's on the internet. Many people are inspired by these guys and that's a global pattern. In fact the people from the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria became the Caucasus Emirate specifically because they were under the influence of the propaganda of al-Qaeda which they largely got from the internet. So if a whole organization is transforming its ideology under the influence of the web, we can expect that many individuals will.

In terms of how many radicals are in Russia now, in the North Caucasus, again, I don't think independent of the Islamic State loyal mujahedin, there aren't many. There's a larger Islamist movement, that is a movement of people who believe that you can bring Sharia law to the region or to all of Russia, but by peaceful means. That's a different orientation and that's been developing in Dagestan quite a bit and in fact one of the cousins of the Tsarnaev brothers was a figure in when there. When he in fact tried to talk Tamerlan out of carrying out the attack and joining the CEU, he went originally to Dagestan to join the Caucasus Emirate Union he tried to talk him out of it, succeeded and he went back home and blew up Boston.

Harrison: The kind of dynamic that you're describing kind of reminds me - and you can correct me if I'm wrong - but it kind of reminds me of the original Russian Revolution in 1917 and the Bolsheviks and how you have a revolutionary movement that has a certain ideology and you've got so-called moderates and so-called radicals, and it seems to me like it's almost a - forgive the term-historical necessity - that when you have a movement like this, that the most radical elements are the ones that end up in charge basically.

So you had the Bolsheviks take over with various purges and the gulag system. You had any kind of even internal opposition just stamped out and the original so-called good-hearted communists who just thought it was a good system, were just railroaded and pushed over. So it seems like there's a similar thing in the so-called Islamist movement. At least that's the way I'm seeing it right now because there's an organization called Hizb ut Tahrir, I think it's called...

Gordon: That's right.

Harrison: And it's one of those ones that's banned in Russia and they're a vocally Islamist movement but non-violent. So they think that they'll be able to establish an Islamic state through non-violent means and it'll be this great utopian system, but I found some of these guys online and watched their YouTube channels - I can't remember the one guy's name but he's got various talks that he has given, and he's giving interviews and it's all about the Syrian revolution.

So these guys are interviewing each other and talking about the Syrian revolution and how they support the Free Syrian Army and how Al-Nusra is doing good work in the Syrian revolution and it's just horrible, these neoliberal policies that are trying to stamp out the revolution. And this is coming from a group that says they're non-violent and it looks like even the non-violent Islamists are heading for a disaster. They think that they can avoid the kind of really extreme ideology that you see in the Caucasus Emirate and the Islamic State. Do you have any comments on that?

Gordon: Yeah, it is very similar, the international aspect of the movement, the utopian nature of the movement, the ideological nature of the movement. There's this split between radicals and moderates and a tendency for the radicals to have more success at recruiting and so forth. The Bolsheviks, for example, did not really engage in terror. It was the socialist revolutionary party that was engaged more in terror during the Russian Revolution and the Bolsheviks, although they were very radical ideologically, no less radical than the socialist revolutionaries, in fact more radical ideologically than the socialist revolutionaries, one could argue anyway. In terms of tactics they were less radical.

So basically the socialist revolutionaries were the most popular party leading up to and after the abdication and fall of the Romanov dynasty and so forth and so on, with the Bolsheviks actually being less popular. But the Bolsheviks had one advantage in that they were better organized because they didn't need to be quite so secretive because they weren't engaged in terror. So that was one advantage. Although they were willing to carry out violence, they were more willing to carry out violence once they took power rather than to get the power.

So yes, there are very many similarities. Another similarity is this whole inevitability, right? "History is on our side". In the Bolshevik era the communists gave in to this interpretation of the dialectic materialism and the path of history going from feudalism to capitalism so it was inevitable sooner or later. In the case of jihadism it's because Allah wills this. If you look at the ISIS ideology which believes that there's going to be a special conflict in the area of Syria and that's going to bring all the armies of - for lack of a better word - Satan to the region and there's going to be a big conflagration and that's going to bring the Mahdi in they're going to have a global Islam. It's very similar in that sense.

Harrison: Well the focus of the three books that you've got out right now and the fourth one we were just talking a little bit about before the show, seems that there's a theme that has run through all of them and that is just revolution, regime change of some sort because the first book was Russia's Revolution From Above. We can get into that a bit, but just to kind of preface it, the way you are describing the global jihad movement is as a revolutionary movement. So maybe just to get into some of the theory behind that, maybe you can just describe why it's a revolutionary movement and what a revolution or revolutionary movement actually is.

Gordon: Right. Well the standard definition of a revolutionary movement is a revolutionary is an illegal basically or anti-constitutional movement - the standard definition - from below in society that seeks to overthrow the order and create a new social order, new political order, new socioeconomic order, a new political order. And that can be done through a peaceful revolution from below or a violent revolution. It doesn't have to be necessarily violent.

So essentially the jihadi movement fits the model, no less than the communist movement that we were discussing earlier. They want to overthrow all secular regimes and establish Islamist regimes, Sharia law-based regimes and that implies certain things about how the economy will be run although a lot of these things aren't very well worked out, just as, by the way, the communists didn't have a very well worked out scheme about how government was to function. They had a slogan "The dictatorship of the proletarian", but how was that to be structured and how would they actually manage society at all different levels? That wasn't very well worked out.

Harrison: "We'll figure that out when we get there."

Gordon: Right, exactly. And basically you see there's a very similar problem in the jihadist movement. So once these people take power there'll be a power struggle between all the different factions about how they're supposed to design the new Soviet, or in this case, the new jihadi man, the new Islamist man. So in this sense there's no doubt that it's a revolutionary movement and quite often the literature is always focused on the tactic of terrorism rather than the fact that this is a global revolutionary movement with the added advantage of having the internet which the Bolsheviks and the communists didn't have.

Harrison: But if you look on RT, RT/Twitter is doing a 100th anniversary of the revolution thing where all the guys, Lenin and the Czar, they all have Twitter accounts so they're tweeting their way through the revolution. So you can see what it would have looked like. So we're talking about jihadis as a revolutionary movement, so when you look at, for example communism, the communist ideology as a revolutionary movement, communists at one point there were communists or communist-inspired governments covering 60% of the global land mass. So this seems to be the same kind of goal or ideology that these jihadi movements have.

In your books you talk about something called complex causality and basically what leads to a revolution and why revolutions actually succeed or fail. So maybe before we get into some of those specifics, when you look at the jihadi revolution and their actual ultimate goal, which essentially is world domination, how plausible is that? Because they've got these dreams of taking over every country. Well is that even possible? Could they even conquer a non-Muslim majority country or a nation that only has a tiny Muslim population? Do they even think that through or is something like that possible? I just don't know enough about history and there are cases of these minorities just taking over the entire world.

Gordon: Well you just mentioned the communist movement, right? It's interesting to read Solzhenitsyn describing Lenin in Zürich in I believe it was 1913/1914 and here's this guy giving lectures to five or six radical communists in Zürich where there's no prospect whatsoever of communists ever coming to power.

Harrison: Yeah.

Gordon: And the next thing you know, four years later he's ruling Russia. So it depends. To some extent they need chaos. They need something like a world war. World War I is basically what facilitated the Bolsheviks coming to power, right? The Bolsheviks used the German support against the Russian Czarist regime. One can imagine similar things happening - and I'm not making the same direct analogy - but if you look for example at the support that the Obama administration gave through Libya to the Syrian rebels, not taking into account the fact that a large portion of the Syrian rebels were either Muslim Brotherhood or jihadists, extrapolate that onto a world war scale scenario, where there's utter chaos, regimes are falling all over the place because of the war and instability it has caused and the economic dislocation and so forth and so on. One can easily imagine one or more parties decide to support a jihadist group or an Islamist group or a combined revolutionary front organization that involves...

Another point about revolutions is revolutions are usually made - at least the destruction of the old regime - are made by coalitions of wide-ranging ideological orientations. If you look at the Russian revolution, all the way from liberal democrats like the constitutional party to groups willing to engage in terrorism, like the socialist revolutionaries, to the Bolsheviks, to the Mensheviks. So one can imagine a coalition of the Muslim Brotherhood, Hizb ut Tahrir, maybe a group affiliated with al-Qaeda who's willing to carry out terrorism and Hizb ut Tahrir and Muslim Brotherhood are willing to tolerate that because it's an effective tactic. They don't want to engage in it, they don't want to dirty their hands but they're willing to tolerate it and use it to their advantage and maybe a socialist group thrown in or who knows what and one or more powers decides to support this coalition in some countries, say in Egypt or Saudi Arabia or somewhere, and then they come to power and they get their hands on resources and they're able to build a new regime. It's certainly within the realm of possibility.

It's just a matter of whether circumstances will facilitate it, whether they have good leadership, whether they have a convincing propaganda narrative, if they have again, resources, and the opportunity, which means a weak state or a weak regime in which they're located in which they can use all these instruments they have to overthrow, topple.

So yeah, I don't think it's out of the question at all. I think it's a matter of time and the right circumstances. It's not something that imminent but depending on how things go on the international level. And this is why I've been trying to push the idea of cooperation between the West and Russia and even China in the global jihad. If we could ally with Stalin against the Nazis in WWII, I don't see why we can't ally with the Chinese and the Russians to fight the jihadis. For me it's a no brainer.

Corey: That's a really great point. You brought up the topic of ideology a number of times and I was wondering if you could describe how different revolutionary movements have been associated with major ideological changes, like the communist manifesto or the rise of liberalism, the spread of democracies and I was wondering if you could touch on why now we're seeing this Islamic State spreading, what it is that is in this Islamic ideology that is fomenting these kinds of revolutionary conditions, or using these grievances that people have around the world, and weaponizing them into revolutionaries.

Gordon: Right. You have a situation across the Muslim world, and not just in the Muslim world but mostly in the Muslim world, where you have a large portion of the population that's destitute. They are already partially inclined to buy Islamist arguments because of their adherence to the Islamic religion. That's not to say that all Muslims are jihadists or Islamists, but it does mean that many, many Muslims are potential jihadis or Islamists, just like many Russian citizens during WWI were potential socialists and actually were socialists, right?

Corey: Mm-hm.

Gordon: Because they were living in a country where there were serious social problems and the regime did not want to address them. There was an ideology that appeared to answer those questions to solve those problems, right? The socialist ideology at the time was promising economic equality, was diagnosing why people didn't have economic equality. I'm no Marxist by any standard, I'm a capitalist. The other thing is many people in Russia were either illiterate or borderline illiterate or had just become literate and had just come to a big city, just come to a university. You see a similar pattern going on in the Muslim world where you have a certain level of modernization in certain places. So people are coming from the villages into the city. They're seeing a new life. They're being introduced to new ideas and so forth and so on. And some of those ideas are pro-democracy ideas. Some of those ideas may be socialist and one of the contending ideologies is Islamism and a subcategory jihadism.

So you combine this sort of economic dislocation, this poverty, the harshness of many of the regimes in the region, the weakness in some cases of certain states - for example the Iraqi state turned out to be relatively weak and quickly crumbled although it had a strong man like Saddam who seemed to be strong, in effect it was not. And then you combine that with an ideology that seems to provide an answer that is already compatible with a set of ideas that these people already have. They're already Muslims, so why not simply reinterpret your Islam if this reinterpretation offers an answer to all your problems and the problems of your society?

So it's really not surprising at all. It's not any more surprising than what happened in Russia 100 years ago.

Harrison: Well ideology is one of the points you bring up in your book The Caucasus Emirate Mujahedin as one of these causal factors that go into revolution. I want to step back a bit and look at the kind of theory that we can then apply to all these particulars and that is the conditions that go into a revolutionary situation or a revolutionary crisis and then the possible ways that that can go. You've mentioned the possibility of a revolution from below and then we also mentioned a revolution from above but we didn't really get into what that means yet. But then there's also transitions. So you have pacted transitions or imposed transitions. Can you just walk us through that flowchart...

Corey: Decades of research.

Harrison: Yeah. And so to start out with, what would be the pre-conditions, so the conditions that create a revolutionary situation on the ground? I know you mentioned a couple of them, but just rattle them off.

Gordon: Yeah. Well they're two separate things, right? What creates a revolutionary situation and then the four types of possible regime change. The two issues are related. So basically what I tried to do initially was, at the time when I started writing the book and my dissertation, the popular field of study in both Soviet studies and democracy studies of course was the so-called transitology or transition. And they posited things like the idea of a pacted transition where you would have governments and regime in opposition negotiate the creation of a new form of rule. In an imposed transition in which you have basically the regime deciding either because they've diagnosed the situation and they see that a few years down the road there's going to be a revolution or they've come to the conclusion that the way they're ruling is improper, ineffective or some other reason, not worth continuing pursuing, they decide from themselves with minimal pressure from the streets, from the opposition to begin a transition.

So you had a similar case for example, in Mexico in the 1990s and early 2000s basically where the PRI (Partido Revolucionario Institucional) over time allowed the opposition parties to win state elections and eventually let them win national elections. Then you have revolutionary change and again the classic case is the revolution from above. There are several differences between a transition and a revolution. One of the differences is that in revolutions, the process is largely illegal, in a constitutional, anti-constitutional or extra-constitutional, right? In the case of a pacted transition you have a set of institutions and using those institutions the opposition regime change the regime. In the case of an imposed transition, again, the ruling groups use the existing political system to enact a series of laws or change their practice in terms of, say Mexico, achieving less in elections and so forth and so on in order to allow the opposition to come to power. In revolutions it's an illegal process.

If it's a revolution from below then what happens is you have groups in society who organize and seize power, overthrow the old regime and establish a new order from below. If it's a revolution from above then what happens is groups from within state organizations or state institutions engage in some sort of illegal takeover in order to change the form of rule.

So those are the basic four different types. So what I try to do is unite the two fields of study. There was the field of transitology and there was a separate field of people who studied revolution and when I looked at the two processes I noticed that up to a certain point they have very much in common. They're usually caused by some kind of economic dislocation, some kind of financial crisis which then suggests to the regime that they need to engage in reforms. Those reforms have unintended consequences which either weaken the state or they create a split within the regime. The split within the regime then causes some people to defect from the regime. That weakens the regime, weakens the state and then the opposition becomes strong.

And so what happens at a certain point, you have a revolutionary situation. You have a situation where groups in society - or if it's a revolution from above, within the state - want to create a completely different form of rule or significantly different form of rule, that is change from an authoritarian regime to a democracy or a totalitarian regime to a democracy, or a democracy to an authoritarian regime, for example like the Hitler regime essentially.

For the revolutionary movement to succeed its resources and its overall strength need to be somewhat comparable to those of the ruling groups in the state, or the ruling groups as referenced above, the revolutionaries and the regime ruling groups are both in the State. But in the case of a revolution from below, the revolutionary coalition, usually in the case of revolutions, have coalitions. They need to have effective leaders. Again, I mentioned these things before; effective leaders, sufficient resources, effective propaganda, a marketable idea that answers certain questions and seems to be an answer to the society's problems, effective recruitment, resources to support the recruits, something for the recruit groups to do to further the revolution.

So then what happens if you have that kind of situation, then the ball sort of goes into the regime's court because you'll have a barely viable, even vital opposition revolution movement that may be potentially able to seize power and then the regime who's losing support in many cases because of the regime split that I mentioned earlier, needs to come to a decision: either we're going to continue on this path and hope the opposition can't come to power, we can negotiate with the opposition or we can engage in a crackdown. Usually what happens is you have two or three elements within the regime. Some support a crackdown. Some support continuing as usual even though things are going badly with unintended consequences and so forth continue, with the perestroika for example, where the format that the perestroika formed another group and decided "Why don't we just sit down at the table with the more moderate people in the opposition, we come to an agreement and switch over to a new form of rule?" And that would be your pacted or negotiated transition.

A lot of that decision-making that goes on again has to do with who are the stronger groups within the regime ruling groups. If the soft-liners who want to negotiate are now dwindling down to a very weak handful and they don't have control of the organs of coercion, the military and police and so forth and so on, then there's a very grave risk that they're not going to be able to hold onto power and hardliners who want to crack down or maybe someone in coalition with those who just want to continue either fake reforms or watered-down reforms, may attempt to just crack down on both the opposition and the soft-liners. That's what we saw in the August 1990 coup, hardliners who began to quote Gorbachev and Yeltsin in order to put an end to perestroika.

But Gorbachev at the time was engaging in a process of pacting. He was pact-making with the opposition and already in August of 1991 they were going to sign the Union treaty. In the Union treaty the checks that were in the Union treaty and would be used in the constitution was that they were going to create a full democracy with universal suffrage, no set aside seats for the communist party as was created by Gorbachev earlier during the perestroika period, full access to media; a complete democratic transition. He was going to split the communist party into groups basically kicking out the hard-liners and keeping the moderate party for himself. He was going to run for President. Yeltsin probably would have run for President too. And that was one of the reasons why the coup occurred because they saw in the effects of the Union treaty a full transition to democracy plus the fact that Gorbachev was apparently willing to let six or seven or eight Union republics leave the Soviet Union.

So you put all that together and that sparks the coup. So it's a very complicated issue there, economic, social, political factors that go into deciding whether the dynamics of the revolutionary situation are going to go into a transition or into a revolution. And then in terms of if it's going to be a revolution, it depends on if there are opposition forces in society or the state. Revolution from above are fairly rare things. There have only been seven or eight cases of revolution from above that I know of and so they're fairly rare compared to revolutions from below, but they do occur and in my view one occurred in 1991 in Russia, Soviet Union.

Harrison: What were two or three other examples that you can think of?

Gordon: The Meiji takeover in Japan in the early-to-mid 19th century. Ataturk's Turkey, for example. Some argue that the takeover of power by Nasser in Egypt and the switchover from a more religious regime to a more secular regime. Also one could argue that the takeover of the Assads in Syria was a revolution from above. Also Saddam Hussein in Iraq in which they switched over from sort of a monarchical type of rule to what's called the Arab nationalism, the national socialist regimes, the Ba'athist ideology.

Those are the most prominent cases. Also there may be a few others, for example the Peruvian military takeover. There are some cases, but revolution from below is much more prevalent.

Harrison: Yeah, and if we look at revolutions from below, you mentioned that they can be either peaceful or violent. When I picture the perfect revolutionary storm where everything that can happen does happen, the way I see it is it's not just a regime change. It's not just that the people running the government get replaced, but there's a total restructuring of pretty much the entire social structure, from the level of the village to the level at the very top levels of power. Have you looked at that at all? What might contribute to that direction as opposed to let's say a peaceful revolution where many of the structures stay the same but there is a visible and real change in the regime?

Gordon: So you're talking about socio-economic change as opposed to political transformation.

Harrison: Yeah.

Gordon: Yeah. Well it may. In most cases it involves both. It's not just that political change is undertaken to facilitate socio-economic change. So in the case of the Soviet regime which was totalitarian and the state owned everything, part of the new ideology of the revolutionaries and even some of the reformers was a capitalist model. And even Gorbachev who was very reluctant to move to a full capitalist model still wanted to engage in a major privatization by the time August 1991 began and he even toyed with that in the fall of 1990 when he was negotiating with Yeltsin over 500 Days Program.

So that's one case, from entirely state owned to a more capitalist model. Then of course we have the case of the Marxist revolution where in the capitalist society people are aware there's a grossly disproportionate distribution of wealth combined with political repression and usually go hand in hand. Marxists came to power and they wanted to do quite the opposite. They wanted to take the property away from the upper classes and give it to the lower classes. The problem is they didn't have a mechanism to ensure that dictatorship would not emerge in the process of doing that and it's hard to imagine a process whereby you can do that, right?

Harrison: Yeah.

Gordon: Very difficult. One can argue for example, if you look at the revolutions from above, for example, one of the aspects of revolution from above compared to revolution from below is that there is actually less change in a revolution from above and that's because as they argued in the book, for example (Ellen Kay) Trimberger who wrote about the Meiji restoration/revolution - she called it a revolution from above - one aspect is that the change was less dramatic. So in a sense we're seeing that now in the post Soviet Russia. Rather than seeing a really vibrant economy with a large percentage of the economy being driven by small businesses as in the West and overwhelming majority of business and economic activity occurring outside the State, what we're seeing in fact in Russia you still have 50% or more of the economic activity under the control of the State and a good part of the rest of it is under pressure from the state, when not under direct control.

So in this sense there was minimal change and one of the reasons is because in a revolution from above there's not a complete changeover in the ruling class. What happens is because you have the revolution being made by elements within the state, you have people from the old regime and they may have less of a commitment to an overhaul of the old regime. They may have less of a concrete vision about what the new regime should look like. For example in the most obvious case, if you have someone who's educated in the Marxist system with intense censorship you're not going to have a very good idea of how a capitalist economy works.

So you had all these guys who maybe wanted to create something they called a capitalist system because when they travelled abroad they saw how wealthy and how well-to-do even the lower middle class was in a capitalist society, they didn't know exactly how that society functions, no less know how to move from a highly centralized state economy to that system. In fact capitalists didn't know how to do that and that was one of the problems of the transition, is that no one knew how to do that.

Harrison: Let's just try it anyway and see what happens.

Gordon: Right. Plus there was pressure to do it as quickly as possible from the West, which created a lot of serious problems with, in the case of Russia, minimal economic support. And the irony was that in the post-communist period the much smaller countries that had a much shorter period of time under communist rule and in many cases the communist rule in terms of economic management was less centralized than it was in the Soviet Union, they received a good deal of economic assistance. Yet the problems facing them were much less formidable whereas in the former Soviet Union the most important was Russia, the largest country with all sorts of problems connected with the Soviet past, there was very little economic assistance relatively speaking, and at the same time pressure to move as quickly as possible and that created all sorts of problems, political and economic.

Harrison: Well speaking of political and economic problems, your next book is the one on Ukraine. First of all can you tell us when that book is going to be out? Do you have a release date yet?

Gordon: I heard from the publisher about a month ago that I could not expect the page proofs earlier than two months from now, so maybe in five or six weeks I might get the page proofs, maybe longer. My guess is it'll be out somewhere in late summer.

Harrison: Okay, good. Yeah, I'm looking forward to it. Maybe we could talk a little bit about Ukraine because there we have another example of regime change. Of course the Maidan, what has it been - three years now?

Corey: I believe, yeah.

Gordon: Three years anniversary.

Harrison: Yeah. Can you take us through that using the model that we've been talking about for the first part of the show. What were the various factors that went into the Maidan and where is Ukraine now and where is it going from there?

Gordon: I don't think the revolutionary model works very well for Ukraine and the reason is that even under Yanukovych although there was massive, massive corruption, elections were more or less free and fair. The power changed hands between different groups two or three times. When I say more or less free and fair, what I mean is both sides had equal opportunity to cheat. And those who cheated more effectively and won the most support would win the elections.

So again, you can say it was a minimally democratic regime, a very weak democratic regime if you use the minimal definition of democracy and that being more or less free and fair elections. And there was free independent media under Yanukovych and in the administrations before him. If you look at the situation now you're seeing that basically there's pressure on the free independent media in Ukraine. Elections are as dirty as they were under Yanukovych. There's pressure against the opposition, repression in some cases.

So in terms of the political regime, nothing has changed. There's been no real improvement. Corruption - two reports, one I think the most recent came out from Transparency International. Ukraine is actually worse in terms of the level of corruption than it was when Yanukovych fell from power. A new survey put out by another group that's not actually a measure of corruption but rather is a measure of perceptions of corruption rated Ukraine the most corrupt country in the world. That just came out recently. So on the measurement of corruption also, nothing has changed. If anything, things have gotten a little worse.

In terms of property, there's has been no major handover of property from one class to another or one group to another other than if you count the repression of certain oligarchs who were tied to Yanukovych and the handover of their property to oligarchs who are close to Poroshenko. One of those oligarchs happens to be Poroshenko himself who has not even divested himself of his properties even though he promised to do that during the presidential campaign.

So we can't really talk about a regime change as a result of the Maidan revolution. Now if over the next five or ten years we were to see an end to repression and discrimination against the opposition parties and against ethnic Russians, if we were to see corruption wiped out and we began to see some at least some more efficient and distributive ownership of the wealth, then maybe we could say yeah, there was a revolution, it just took a long time to be implemented. But there are problems with that in that there are forces within Ukraine that are not just simply corrupt and weakly committed to democratic governance, there are forces that are outright ultranationalist and totalitarian who are united with the powers that be at present and at the same time are seeking to overthrow it. Here we're talking about the ultra nationalists like the Right Sector and Svoboda Party and a host of other smaller parties and the radical party of Oleh-Lyashko.

There are some real problems so we may be looking at something like the first phase of a revolution with the second phase still to come in which the nationalists come to power and may effect a real revolutionary takeover but one that goes in the wrong direction.

Harrison: Well to me it kind of looks like what happened is it was regime change only in the sense of "We want to take out this guy in power that we don't like and then just illegally put in another guy that is worse in some way, just as bad in others". Basically it was just a change in face that was illegal and violent and there was this kind of pseudo-revolutionary thing going on at the Maidan but really there was no kind of change in the actual structure of government, the way things work. In fact things just got worse which you kind of expect when you look at the kind of people that they decided to put into power.

Then there's another factor and that is the foreign factor and that's the support that the "new" team got from foreign governments like the US. It should be hard to believe even though it isn't. The image of before the actual change in power before Yanukovych was actually officially ousted, was to see American politicians on the streets in Ukraine doing these sorts of things and giving support to this so-called opposition. Can you imagine that kind of thing, let's say, happening in the US where you have foreign leaders, members of foreign governments on the streets of New York. Imagine Putin coming to New York and being like "Let's get rid of Hillary Clinton" if Hillary Clinton became president!

Gordon: Yeah.

Harrison: It would be like we'd entered into a Bizarro World and yet it happens, just no questions!

Corey: Might makes right. Might makes right.

Gordon: Yeah. A couple of comments on everything you said. It wasn't really a pseudo-revolution at the beginning. At the beginning it really was the middle class and mothers with kids and grandmothers and grandfathers and fathers wanting to see an end to corruption. They wanted to be part of the European Union because they thought that would be the way end corruption and also to become better off economically. So that implied that there would be a redistribution of economic power because the oligarchs would be weakened and economic wealth would trickle down, to use a North American phrase, a phrase from American politics.

And corruption involved both economic corruption and political corruption. The election results they saw didn't seem to be fair. So in that case you weren't talking about a quasi-revolutionary movement that could have become fully revolutionary, a peaceful revolution from below for example.

The problem was these ultra-nationalists then began to flood in from Lahore and other places in Ukraine where they have, not strongholds, but where there are larger numbers of them. They began to arm themselves and arm the Maidan against the regime and initiated many of the cases of first violence that occurred. And actually they were the ones who were behind the so-called snipers massacre on February 20, 2014 that scuttled the agreement between the European Union, Russia and the Ukrainian opposition and Yanukovych about a transition, a pacted transition in fact that had been agreed upon on the 20th of February. And they scuttled that agreement and then without blinking an eye the United States backed the takeover.

So that was the problem. So initially there was potential I think, and that potential is still there in that some of those people, representatives of those people who wanted to see an end to corruption and who wanted to see a more vibrant democracy, some of those people are in power, there's no doubt about it. Some of them. But they're not the strongest power elements. The strongest elements are the oligarchs and the ultra-nationalists and corrupt elements and criminal elements and so forth. So that's a problem.

In terms of interference in foreign elections and so forth, one classic case - I can't remember who write it, it might have been me, might have been somebody else - but somebody conjectured "What if Zhirinovsky came to Ferguson?" Right? And something like this. Of course that wouldn't happen because Zhirinovsky himself is a racist but that's another issue. But if Zhirinovsky were to come to Occupy Wall Street, for example - he's a deputy in the Duma so he's similar to a deputy, he's like a congressman - and maybe the ambassador from Russia to the United States and they walked around Occupy Wall Street and encouraged the people to stay there and so forth.

Corey: With cookies.

Gordon: But it's even more complicated than that because imagine the scenario if in fact the Russians had been financing different groups who ended up on Occupy Wall Street, which was precisely what was happening in the years leading up to not just the second Maidan revolution but the first one, the so-called orange revolution. In fact we were financing all sorts of groups and the idea was to institute regime change, a regime transformation to promote democracy as we call it.

But the problem here is that this democracy promotion instrument is a very dull instrument. We cannot control the forces that receive our funding. We can't even necessarily control the forces that receive the funding, that is who gets the funding, because the funding might go to one group but that funding might get passed on to another group. One group might pretend to be a democratic organization but in fact they're an ultra-nationalist organization.

Harrison: Yeah.

Gordon: Plus there was all sorts of official involvement by the United States in terms of creating these huge networks of people who received funding from various US Government connected foundations and so forth and so on. The classic case is - I'm forgetting her last name. I write about it in the book but I forget her last name, but the woman who worked in the State Department and then she became minister of finances of Ukraine after the revolution. She actually left the State Department. She at one point I believe worked in the US Embassy in Kiev. She also worked at the State Department.

Then after she left the State Department she received a grant from the US government and then she went to Ukraine and opened up a huge foundation and her and her husband began to invest money in different businesses, in other foundations, and they created a huge network of people who then went to different seminars on how to demonstrate and so forth and so on. So we basically funded people who would be ready to engage in revolutionary activity if and when that occurred.

So then you add on the fact that once that begins then senator McCain and I think it was congressman Smith who showed up and the US ambassador to Ukraine and secretary Nuland handing out cookies, going on the square and supporting the very people who had already received money from them or some of them. Not all the grandmas and moms on the square received money, but the organization to mobilize some or many of them and who were organizing the whole operation and staging the whole operation, they had received funding. And then you add on top of that fact the issue of unmanageability of the process. So you create people who want democracy. Then an event occurs and they go out in the square and they start to demonstrate.

Okay, fine, peaceful revolution from below, I'm all for it. The idea is to create democracy and get rid of corruption, fine, as long as it remains people. The problem is you can't control the process because revolutionary movements, again, are coalitions and they can be wide-ranging coalitions in terms of ideology. So again what you had was the Svoboda Party being part of the coalition. It's an ultra-nationalist, anti-Semitic party side-by-side with more democratic or quasi-democratic parties and then you had the formation on the second or third night of the Maidan on the square itself, of Right Sector which was another Svoboda-type party, a neo-fascist party based on another group called the Ukrainian National Assembly, which is basically a neo-Nazi party with symbols that are Nazi-like and an ideology that's radically totalitarian and imperialist.

And these people are the ones who organized the violence on the Maidan. These are the ones who organized the snipers attacks on the police and on demonstrators simultaneously, shooting at demonstrators and police on the night of February 19th and on February 20th that led to the revolt and led to the violation of the agreement that had been signed by the European Union, Russia, the Ukrainian opposition and Yanukovych.

So it's much more serious than simply a couple of officials appearing on the square though that's serious enough. But it's what happened before and what happened after. So you can basically say that it was a US-backed takeover.

Harrison: Yeah.

Corey: Yeah.

Gordon: Even if the original intention was not to have something like that which occurred, occur. But once it occurred, we didn't oppose it. So that's the key point.

Corey: Well for all these years those neo-Nazi groups have been protesting against Poroshenko and causing riots and running like mad, starting gun fights with the army.

Gordon: Right.

Corey: And just causing chaos. But I was wondering, have they increased in their political power or are they more like just a gang that's maybe used by certain oligarchs now and then to keep pressure on Poroshenko or to advance whatever goals they have? But are they advancing in political power? Would we see another Maiden attempt in the future on their part like they've promised in the past?

Gordon: I think at some point we could see that. It depends, again, on one of the things that makes one at least partially be able to understand why the West continues to support Poroshenko is that if they don't support Poroshenko, I mean financially and morally and politically, is that these characters could very well come to power. That is the problem. I can't say for sure that they've increased their strength but they certainly have not lost any strength.

And so if you look at the numbers of deputies - and it's a trickier thing than simply looking at the parties represented in the Rada because some of the people who are members of neo-Nazi and neo-fascist parties became members of other groups that are less radical but they have a seat in the Rada so there's still potentially a problem. And then of course parties outside of the Rada that didn't get elected like Right Sector and Svoboda Party. In the past Svoboda Party has been elected and have actually received large minorities in certain areas like Ternopil. I think they received 30% of the assembly in the region of Ternopil a few years back.

So these are forces that are definitely forces that need to be dealt with in one way or another and potentially could come to power. Altogether probably the number of neo-fascists and ultra-nationalist deputies in the Rada is probably something like 30% but there are other people who are willing to vote who are with them in blocks. So it's a dangerous situation and the longer the economy continues to deteriorate or at least stagnate, if at some point the West withdrew its support for Ukraine - and I think this is one of the things that has stood behind the recent vote in the European Union to give at least short-term visa-free status of Ukrainians into Europe is because they may not understand that they created the problem but now that there is a problem they understand that if they take their foot off the pedal of support for Poroshenko that the whole thing could come tumbling down.

So we're really sort of caught in a quagmire in which we need to keep pouring money down this sinkhole that doesn't seem to have many prospects for becoming less corrupt and any more democratic. And then of course we haven't even talked about what's going on in Donbass since 2014 which is another factor that makes it more difficult to engage in reform is the fact that there's still a - what's the word I'm looking for? - slowly boiling war in the Donbass makes it less easy to engage in reform even if people in Kiev actually do want to engage in the reform. So you add the Donbass war onto the problem and it's very formidable.

Harrison: Well, it's hard to know what to take from this, but there was a recent report, I can't remember if it was originally the daily mail or where, but Secretary of State Tillerson had a conversation I believe with an Italian minister where they were talking about Ukraine and Tillerson said "Why do the American taxpayers care about Ukraine? What difference does it make to them?", implying at least that "Ukraine isn't really a priority for us". You get contradictory statements coming out of the Trump administration on issues like left and right so it's hard to know what to take from that. But any way you look at it, Ukraine can't really look forward to too much hope or a chance for good things to happen. It looks like any way you look at it there's a disaster coming in one way or another.

Gordon: Very possibly. And the comment made allegedly by Tillerson - I saw that quote. I didn't get time to verify whether the source is reliable, but it seemed like was. But it points to a larger question and that is the logic behind supporting a potentially revolutionary set of forces in Ukraine, people historically close to Russia, on Russia's border, on the background of which stands the certainty that if Ukraine turns west and becomes a member of the European Union then they become a member of NATO. So it becomes a key security question for Russia.

On that background it doesn't make any sense, given that the American people compared to the Russian people, care much less about Ukraine and American leaders as a whole and Russian leaders as a whole, have a completely different scale in terms of interest when you're talking about Ukraine. For Russians, whether it be the elite or the people, Ukraine is important. Now almost every family has someone close who lives in Ukraine, many families in Russia, or they have friends in Ukraine or they have friends who have relatives in Ukraine. People used to go vacation in Ukraine from Russia. Large numbers, I believe the figure is something like if I'm not mistaken, three or four million Ukrainians who work in Russia and they send money back to Ukraine.

So these two countries are very deeply intertwined, at least they were. If you take the Donbass and Crimea out of Ukraine then it's not so much so although there are still close ties between Russia and places like Kharkov as the Russian call it or Kharkiv as the Ukrainians call it and Odessa for example, and other places in Ukraine. Whereas for Americans, the only group that's interested in Ukraine is the Ukrainian Diaspora and people like Natalie Ann Jaresko, minister of finance who used to work in the state department.

Harrison: Yeah, but even there, the Diaspora is pretty vocal. I'm Canadian and we now have in Canada a foreign minister that seems to be pretty much the mouthpiece of the Ukrainian Diaspora in Canada. So there's that to consider but then again Canada pretty much, in my view, just tends to go along with whatever the US does for the most part when it comes to foreign policy decisions.

Gordon: I think the Ukrainian Diaspora is very well organized and they've also penetrated the US government and the state department and in part they did that on the backs or in tandem with the Polish Diaspora which they had ties with and other diasporas from the communist bloc countries during the Cold War. So they're well embedded into the system and the Russians are not by the fact that the Russians are more tied to the centre of the Soviet regime. Mind you the Russians suffered as much from the Soviet regime as any other ethnic group, but that's another story.

So it's a very serious problem. But again, I can't imagine a scenario in which if there was nothing else going on to support a war against Russia, that they would be willing to fight a war with Russia over Ukraine. It's just not in the card.

Harrison: Well the whole involvement of the United States in support for some of the parties that ended up being successful in the Maidan brings us to an issue that gets into this regime change whole revolutionary scenario that we've been talking about and that seems to be a kind of foreign weaponization of regime change in other nations. So we have these process that can be completely home grown, strictly local. This can be revolutions from below or just transitions or revolutions from above that are strictly dealing with the country in question, but now we have to add into the equation the possibility of foreign involvement. I guess you could put that foreign involvement at any level in that structure too.

So you could have foreign support for these grassroots movements and where, like in Ukraine, you have people with legitimate grievances who are demonstrating and creating this revolutionary climate that is at least legitimate in the sense of them totally believing in what they're doing and want change and then that gets hijacked by foreign elements. And when I say foreign I mean foreign in the sense of really foreign, but actually let's say Ukrainian elements that have more in common and their goals are more aligned with the foreigners - the Americans in this case - who then hijack that revolution and they just exploit the popular support that they get.

We can see another example of that I think in what happened in Syria where at the beginning of the so-called Syrian revolution there were real protests and they were peaceful protests. And then very quickly again we saw snipers. We saw violence break out and then we saw the most extreme radical groups hijack this revolution and if we're to believe some of the analysis of what was actually going on in the Syrian revolution from that very early point, again we find foreign support from numerous countries for all of these jihadi movements. And when it started out of course they weren't openly self-declared jihadis or even Muslim Brotherhood. All that kind of stuff was there but wasn't really acknowledged, primarily in the western media.

Gordon: That's right.

Harrison: But you had foreign governments in the Arab world, in Saudi Arabia, in Qatar and western governments, supporting these violent groups.

Gordon: Right.

Harrison: And hoping for a kind of regime change and destabilization, and yet as you mentioned just five or ten minutes ago, a situation like that is unmanageable in a certain sense. So on the one hand it is manageable in the sense that you can get something out of it that you want, whether it's just destabilization, or you use the movement to the extent that you can then put your guy in power.

Gordon: Yeah.

Harrison: Or there's the possibility that you just totally lose control of it and there's nothing you can do to control these people. Do you have anything to say on the whole Syrian question and what's been going on in Syria and let's say, US support for jihadist elements in Syria?

Gordon: Well basically what happened in Syria, again at the beginning as you said earlier, there were legitimate protests. Amongst those people there weren't many democrats, right. The democratic ideology in Syria is not very strong. There aren't many people in Syria who have read Jefferson or Karl Popper or whatever. The majority of the opposition was Muslim Brotherhood and the Muslim Brotherhood elements from Syria have been supported by Turkey for decades. So that was really the core of the issue at the beginning.

So what happened was the United States and specifically secretary of state Clinton who pushed for this policy, was to have weapons shipped from Libya. This was what the whole Benghazi affair was all about. They were in the process of negotiating more weapons being sent to the Syrian opposition who had poured into Benghazi from Libya. Those weapons were going to elements in the opposition, again, mostly Muslim Brotherhood but with the jihadis beginning to glom onto the movement because of the proximity of jihadis in Iraq and the ease with which people can move around the globe nowadays.

Secretary Clinton was warned by the CIA and other intelligence services that there were large numbers of jihadis moving in and that the result of sending weapons to Syria would likely be the strengthening at the time of al-Qaeda because at the time the Islamic State didn't really exist. It began as a wing of al-Qaeda and then broke off. They could gain control of the desert areas that overlapped between Syria and Iraq. They were told specifically this by the US intelligence services and they went ahead anyway.

And the problem was that even though the Muslim Brotherhood are a group that basically supports a non-violent, certainly non-terrorist path to power, it's possible they have no qualms about allying with jihadists in order to defeat secularism, right? So you had a revolutionary coalition in Syria that was consisting of Muslim Brotherhood and increasingly jihadist and then probably some socialist elements, maybe a handful of guys who read Jefferson and the weapons were going to this front. So there was no way it could guarantee that these weapons weren't going to fall into the hands of jihadists.

And so this is exactly what happened. Then for people who have a more anti-American bent or are more into conspiracy theories, this became the United States definitely supported the creation of the Islamic State. This is an overstatement. Where most people see conspiracies in fact they're just massive incompetence and people not wanting to look the facts of the matter in the face or were willing to take huge risks when other people's' lives are at stake, not your own. And that's generally the people quite often who are in power. It doesn't matter who you are.

So this is exactly what happened. It's not really a classic case in the model of Ukraine. There are some similar marks in that we were trying to use an opposition force to further our own agenda. There are always altruistic elements in the US government who are supporting things too and altruistic elements within the American society. Americans deep down would like to see democracy everywhere. This is part of our political culture. The question is how do you achieve that. Do you achieve that by creating a model that everybody admires? With the internet now they can just simply see what America is and what it stands for and if they want to learn how to build a movement they can find it on the internet. They don't need to have us sending money over and operatives and so forth and so on. And let them fight their battles and we should be simply prepared to defend ourselves and our allies and stay out of other people's business.

This is the problem. It doesn't seem to me to be beneficial for the United States to be engaging in all these quasi-covert and sometimes outright covert machinations in places where we don't understand. Again, hard to tell what was in the mind of the Obama administration and Hillary Clinton, whether again they decided to just risk something on the hope that it would work out, they felt they were on some kind of a roll after Libya, they were really outraged about the nature of the Assad regime. It could be a combination. Again, these things are often multi-causal. So it could be a combination of altruistic motives, power motives, career motives, making a reputation for yourself, getting ready for the 2016 presidential campaign. You can hear Hillary "I was the one who organized the establishment of democracy in Egypt and Libya and Syria", right? That would be a great campaign slogan.

Harrison: Yeah, if it worked!

Gordon: Didn't work out that way.

Corey: That whole complex causality that you're talking about, you really drive that home with your books so anybody who is watching what's happening around the globe and they're seeing all these revolutionary conditions across the Middle East and some of it stirring up in the West, especially that in Ukraine and attempts in Russia, it would definitely be a good idea to check out your books here and definitely read them because it really helps to see just how complex the whole situation is. That way you don't get caught up in any sort of black and white thinking and you can dissect what's happening.

Gordon: They have to give up conspiracy theories as well. It's not to say that there aren't some people engaging in conspiracies also, but their capacity to pull them off or to pull them off the way they think they can is gravely limited. In that way I'm kind of Tolstoyan. You've read War and Peace, right, and the whole idea of Tolstoy's War and Peace was that the leaders think that they actually control the destinies of people and control the course of history but in fact they just set things in motion that they simply can't control and quite often they just end up being destroyed by the things that they set in motion.

Harrison: Well do we want to go in any other directions?

Corey: That was a really good ending quote there.

Harrison: Alright well then Gordon I think we'll end it there for today. Thanks again for being on. We had a great time with you.

Corey: Yeah, thank you so much.

Gordon: Thank you very much. I had a great time. It was a lot of fun.

Harrison: Okay, we'll keep in touch. Everyone stay tuned. We'll be back next week and again if you want to read Gordon's work you can go to gordonhahn.com.

Corey: See you next week everybody.