By Bradley Cook
VENYAMIN Sokolov has one of the most unique positions in all of Russia. An astrophysicist by training, Sokolov was elected in 1995 by the Federation Council, or upper house of parliament, to be the chief of the Audit Chamber - the only state body independent from the president and his government. As Russia's watchdog and auditor, he is a political independent and an insatiable critic of both President Yeltsin and the International Monetary Fund.
In June, with little fanfare, Sokolov traveled to Washington to inform members of the U.S. government about some of the abuses of Western aid that he uncovered in his investigations. Coincidentally, he was there at the same time that presidential envoy Anatoly Chubais - whose lucrative dealings with oligarchs and foreign aid agencies are routinely ignored by the Western press - made his much-publicized journey to Washington to lobby for more billions from the IMF. Sokolov told the U.S. Senate about $2 billion he discovered had simply vanished from the Central Bank's hard currency accounts in 1995. Despite this and other revelations, U.S. President Bill Clinton was able to convince the Senate to approve an additional $18 billion for the IMF, much of which will go to Russia in the latest bailout package.
In an interview with Anne Williamson, the author of "How America Built the New Russia," Sokolov said giving further loans to the Yeltsin government was "comparable to giving a drug addict a fresh supply of narcotics."
In an astonishing revelation - given the IMF's insistence that it doesn't dictate members' domestic policy - he also said that his Audit Chamber is in possession of a letter sent by the IMF to Central Bank chairman Sergei Dubinin. "That letter sets out a strictly defined schedule regarding Russia's ruble supply and even gives specific instructions regarding bank credits, the state budget, energy policy, price levels and trade tariffs," Sokolov said. "Now we have a government that doesn't follow the nation's laws, but instead the dictates of the IMF."
But there is something even more sinister in all this than the global redistribution of wealth - mostly from U.S. taxpayers to Russian oligarchs. Russia is being internationally rewarded for a government that starves its own citizens while lavishing billions of dollars on clandestine operations and the augmentation of an already impressively apocalyptic nuclear arsenal. Consider the following:
The same day the IMF announced it had reached a broad agreement on a big new loan to Moscow, Prime Minister Sergei Kiriyenko announced that Russia's programs to build weapons of mass destruction are, "absolutely inviolable things which must and will be financed." Yeltsin also decided to finance large-scale modernization of Russia's strategic forces - a section of which carried out simulated nuclear bombing raids against the United States only two months ago.
The single most destructive spy Russia has ever had inside the CIA was Aldrich Ames, whose treason cost the lives of a dozen U.S. agents and set the agency's intelligence operations in Russia back a decade. Ames was told by his Russian control officer during their last meeting, in November 1993, that the $130,000 in fresh $100 bills that he was being bribed with had come directly from IMF loans.
In May, the Russian Navy launched the largest non-aircraft carrier warship on Earth at a cost of $1 billion. Designed to destroy American aircraft carriers, the nuclear-powered Peter the Great is the size of three football fields and armed with 20 SS-N-19 anti-ship missiles.
Last December, the Russian Navy fired depth charges at an American submarine that it says was illegally monitoring Russian military exercises.
Within days of last year's Helsinki Summit - where more financing for Russia was discussed and Yeltsin promised to cooperate with NATO - Russian military forces practiced a large-scale nuclear attack on NATO, including invading Lithuania and Poland.
Clinton's State Department suppressed an investigation into an incident in 1997 in which a Russian ship spying on a U.S. nuclear submarine in waters off Washington state fired a laser beam at a military helicopter, inflicting retinal burns on a U.S. Navy officer. The State Department also refused to protest to Moscow last September when a Russian attack submarine conducted a practice missile attack on the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson in U.S. territorial waters.
And a former Russia's military intelligence colonel released a book July 8 in which he writes that Russia is gathering information on Clinton, congressional leaders, members of the Cabinet and key military leaders for assassination squads. "America is facing a nation led by gangsters - gangsters with nuclear weapons. And some of these weapons are on American soil," Stanislav Lunev wrote.
Why then - in the face of all these acts of aggression and deceit - is Clinton so eager to send billions and billions of U.S. taxpayers' dollars east?