My Last Trips To Russa

About 1993 I went to Russia for the last times. Ron King and  Barbara Marx Hubbard were arranging a conference in the Russian Palace of Congresses at the Kremlin to find American joint venture partners for Russian  State Enterprises to help convert war materiel plants to peacetime production. I had done some consulting to help Barbara and her friends organize the Citizen’s Summit in Moscow in 1987 at Henry Dakin’s behest and my name was synonymous with joint ventures to millions of Russians. When their new project got in trouble, they called on me to see if I could salvage it.

Things had changed in Moscow. Gorbachev was out and Yeltsin was in. The fellow who had initiated the conference had made some key errors in choosing associates. He was working with the Moscow mayor’s office, a thoroughly corrupt and gangster controlled group at that time. That was the only time in Russia that somebody laid a gun on the table and threatened my life.

That was an altogether amazing morning. First thing, Maldochenko, vice mayor, gets me out of bed banging on my door and then does the gun thing in my hotel room, telling me that if I don’t give him $10,000 that very day, I would die that night. I laughed in his face. They assumed  I was a rich capitalist. I had nothing of my own. 

I was terribly depressed by the changes that had come about in Russia during the two years of Yeltsin’s drunken, arrogant brand of leadership. Street crime, consumerism, AIDS, gangs, rapidly deteriorating supply infrastructure and many other problems were rising very fast in Russia at that time. And the mafia’s presence was already huge. Extortion of the rising entrepreneur class had become a leading business of the economy, right behind the selling off of national resources and government property of all kinds.

I simply stood up, grabbed my suit coat and walked out of my hotel room while Maldochenko and his flunkey sat there. If he was nuts enough to jump up and shoot me, so be it, but I wasn’t going to spend another minute in the son of a *****’s company.

I stepped into the lobby of the hotel with the skin on the back of my neck trying to crawl around to the front to avoid a possible bullet. I was acting brave, but I was really shaken.…

The hotel was where the Russian equivalent of congressmen stayed. It was across the street from the Kremlin on the edge of Red Square. As I crossed the lobby, a very large Georgian or maybe Chechen gentleman approached me in a black suit turning green and shiny with grease and age. His tiny black tie a fallen goatee for his Stalinesque black moustache.

“I have something for you.”

I was very jumpy, but I could see both his hands and he didn’t have a gun in either of them.

“I don’t believe we’ve met.”

“Everybody knows Mister Schroder.” He didn’t offer to introduce himself.

“What do you have for me?”

He looked over his shoulder and with a wag of his head indicated several other swarthy fellows in ancient black suits hovering around a smallish suitcase.

“In that valise, I have for you a sample of weapons grade plutonium.”

I would almost have preferred a gun in his hand.

“I’m looking for Iridium, not plutonium.” I did in fact have a client in Colorado who wanted Iridium and I had asked some contacts about it. I assumed that these guys had made a mistake. Not so lucky.

“Iridium? Why you want that? Plutonium more money.”

Then I realized that these clowns had just come to the hotel with their “sample” to show to anyone in a good suit until they found a buyer.

I don’t remember what I said. I found myself outside on the sidewalk in total shock. Somebody had just tried to extort me at gunpoint and then somebody else had tried to sell me nuclear weapons capability.

I looked up into the bright blue eyes of my third surprise of the day. Long black leather coat in excellent  condition. Hands in pockets. KGB.

“Maldochenko just offered to shoot me.” Why bother with pretense. This man was clearly an organ of the state, and he was clearly here for me. He knew what had happened in that hotel room as soon as I did. If he was part of the scam,  was toast anyway.

“Yes.” He said with a smile. “Maldochenko is not subtle.” Good. No pretense on his side either. He went on.  “Genrich Polykov would like to help you with your conference. Since the City of Moscow is withdrawing the Kremlin, Mister Polykov wondered if you might like to use the Gorbachev Center. He is waiting for you.”

Genrich Polykov was the most influential and effective reformer in Gorbachev’s Politburo. I believe he was the only one to survive into the Yeltsin administration with plenty of real power.

My new acquaintance took me to his flat so I could shave and clean up a little because I had left the hotel disheveled and was naturally reluctant to return there. I told him about the plutonium. He seemed surprised. It was nice to be able to surprise him, if I really had. I cleaned up while he made two phone calls, barking orders in the first one and speaking most deferentially in the second. I borrowed a tie and then we went together to The White House, which in Moscow is a mid size stark white hotel across the street from the black walls of Lubyanka, the KGB prison. The White House was Yeltsin and the Politburo’s informal headquarters. We waited in the middle of a huge emptyballroom.  Everything was white. Furniture, drapes, paint, floor marble, dishes, everything. Even the execrable art was white on white.

Genrich Polykov was small, bespectacled, quiet as a mouse, constantly moving, looking at papers, shuffling them. Very calm in a thoroughly non-stop way. He came from the opposite side of the vast space with two bright young men towering over him, talking and showing him papers.

The two young men stopped and fell back in silence as Polykov approached me. He cut straight to it: “We can offer you the Gorbachev Center for your conference. Translators. Everything. There will be no cost. The Gorbachev Center is for the benefit of the Russian People. The conference can go on as planned.”

He spoke so softly that I had to lean in close to hear what he said. I mumbled thanks.  His voice went even softer. “Maldechenko is no longer a problem for you. He has no potential to harm you.” I believed him, recalling my KGB guide’s first phone call.  Polykov went out with his two bright young men both talking to him at once and my black leather topcoat whisked me to the Gorbachev Center to inspect the conference facility and sign the necessary papers.

I hadn’t had coffee yet.

My bags and all my stuff down to a chewed pencil stub were already at the Gorbachev Center when we got there. The black leather coat, who became “Bruno” right after the meeting with Polykov said, “I took the liberty of having your things moved to the Center where you shall be Mister Polykov’s official guest. If this does not meet with your approval we shall make other arrangements for you.”

“Does that mean I can have a cup of coffee and a roll?”

It did. They fed me salmon, hard eggs and coffee with Moscow’s excellent brown bread.

“Official guest” meant  I would get anything I wanted and pay for nothing. These guys understood my financial position a lot better than the Maldechenko gang. I never once tried to make money for myself from my dealings with the Russians except for MOSCOM, the business center I designed and had stolen from me by the ******* skull and bones crew. I got money from Americans and Greeks that I took to Russia to find joint venture partners. I took a lot of people to Russia over five or six years. One of them was a guy who taught painting on TV by the name of Bob Ross. I took healers, art dealers, a toothpaste manufacturer, hotel developers, all kinds of people.

I realized that keeping me away from the plutonium dealers, who were far more dangerous than the likes of Maldechenko might also be part of their motive, which was fine with me.

If anybody’s interested, I’ll write some more.

shiningwater shiningwater
70+, M
1 Response Feb 13, 2010