After almost a century of dealing with international terrorism—since communism, in practice as well as in theory, is hardly anything more complex than terrorism on a global scale—Western democracies should have caught on to the fact that all social movements, particularly those perceived as spontaneous, are invariably organized, manipulated, and directed by those whose interests they ultimately serve. Do ordinary middle-class Americans really get out of bed one day with the idea of sending money to arm the IRA? Do English roses call on their local ironmongers before chaining themselves to railings at nuclear installations? Do timid Chinese students use their life savings to hire buses and megaphones for a protest in Tiananmen Square?

Thus the West ought to have awakened to the uneasy realization that blaming Islamic fundamentalism for the attack on Manhattan and Washington, D.C., is like accusing a gun of murder. The fierce and determined faces of the killers, defying posterity in the news pages, are the faces of history’s fall guys, clueless patsies whose eternal destiny it is to leave greasy fingerprints on the surface of world events. And the questions that the West’s political and media establishments ought to have asked are: Who is the ultimate client and beneficiary? Who pulls the strings of these marionettes? Where does the thread of knowledge and responsibility lead?

That such a thread exists cannot be doubted. We know that only four of the terrorists had been trained as pilots, which means that the others, who believed they were all in it together, may never have been told that theirs was a suicide mission. What information had been withheld from the four by the cell leader who had brainwashed, financed, and trained them? What information had been withheld from the cell, hidden from the branch, concealed from the national organization, and not supplied to the international movement? It is equally clear that the thread must have a beginning.

Yet the West’s political and media establishments have time and again proved themselves unable and unwilling to ask such uncomfortably far-reaching questions. Central as the causes of this epochal failure are to my argument, in the scope of this article I can do little more than enumerate them.

The last serious effort in the West’s century-long struggle to apprehend and reverse the global advance of totalitarianism coincided with the Reagan presidency. At that time, it was still possible for a detached observer such as myself to find a common language with the times, if only because the context of the debate left blank some tolerably wide margins. Even in Washington, but certainly in London in those years, to be marginalized for criticizing the political, military, or intelligence establishment—for their myopia, their wishful thinking, and their overall inability to understand or to cope with the Soviet threat—did not mean to be summarily silenced. It meant being a dissident, with all the advantages of being part of a legitimate political and intellectual minority.

Then everything changed. President Bush’s term in office coincided with the sudden restructuring of totalitarianism in Russia, a geopolitical hurricane that blew away all the trusty signposts upon which a wary West had relied for decades in the absence of any real knowledge or deep understanding of the enemy. Now the dissidents would no longer be heard in the ensuing chorus of jubilant confusion: America’s new foreign policy of self-congratulation did not leave us any margin at all. When, in November 1991, Lord Chalfont addressed tire House of Commons with a plea to reconsider “Options for Change” (Britain’s bumbling way of inaugurating the New World Order and pocketing the “peace dividend”), he was reduced to quoting an article I had written in support of his claim that Russia “still has enormous military power.” When I saw that the defense of the realm hinged on the turn of a lone dissident s pen, I realized that the game was up.

Eventually, I withdrew and moved to Italy, but not before publishing a short book entitled The Coming Order: Reflections on Sovietology and the Media. In it, as in all the newspaper and magazine articles that I managed to publish during the last decade, I defended my view that the worldwide “collapse” of “communism” is a strategic maneuver; that “restructuring” in the “Soviet Union” is the transfer of power from the old Communist Party clique to the new secret-police junta; and that Western Sovietologists, political scientists, and media commentators are more helpless and naive than they have ever been in the face of this new, and in all likelihood final, totalitarian challenge.

Meanwhile, the issue of European unification had taken center stage in Westminster. With both “communism” and the “Soviet Union” safely buried, even the most hardened dissidents in Britain’s Eurosceptic movement—called “bastards” by the prime minister for organizing parliamentary opposition to the Maastricht Treaty—could not so much as consider the view that the driving force behind the unification process was the Kremlin. The most outspoken among them pointed to Germany as the ultimate beneficiary, in terms of its eventual political and economic dominance, and found that troubling enough. None saw that the restructuring of Soviet totalitarianism, whose new foreign policy had been launched with the reunification of Germany and a call for a “common European home from the Atlantic to the Urals,” would have been an absurd proposition in the absence of just such an opportunity for peaceful expansion westward. Peaceful because, at the end of the day, Moscow would remain the only military power in a Europe that was unified economically, tied to Russia and its longstanding satellites politically, and decoupled from the United States militarily.

Perhaps the Eurosceptics’ shortsightedness was excusable, as not until May 2000, for instance, did it emerge that Helmut Kohl’s ruling party had long been financed by the Communist Party of East Germany with funds filtered through communist Hungary, meaning that, at the time of Germany’s unification. Kohl was literally in Gorbachev’s pocket. This and related money-laundering scandals finally cost the chancellor his job, but by then it was too late for Britain’s heroic “bastards” to fight against European unification in any but the limited way they had chosen.

It always pays, therefore, to look at the larger picture. I would argue that the geopolitical history of the last century— in the course of which totalitarianism emerged, developed, and evolved to become the ineluctable lot of mankind that it is today—may be encapsulated in three short sentences. First Stalin created Hitler. Then Stalin sicked Hitler on the West. And then Stalin got the West to become his ally in order to defeat Hitler.

The bitter fruit of Stalin’s strategy was half of Europe falling into his lap—bitter because Stalin had meant for all of Europe to become his, as surely it would have done had the object of his political manipulation not smelled a rat and leveled the first blow. With fewer than one quarter of Russia’s tanks, no winter clothing for the troops, and barely enough fuel to keep the army advancing for 90 days, this was the beginning of a mass suicide on a national scale.

What made Stalin cringe, even as his prematurely roused enemy drew near, was not some phantom fear at the improbable prospect of an eventual German victory; it was, rather, his realization that the surprise attack had thwarted his plan of absolute domination over Eurasia in his lifetime. As for the all-too-probable prospect of a partial victory for Russia, this was small consolation, for Stalin had long understood that partial victories were no good for totalitarianism.

To finish what Stalin started—incapacitating, embracing, and absorbing first Central and then Western Europe, so that the “common European home from the Atlantic to the Urals” is at last occupied by its historically inevitable owner—and to achieve this objective without war is the challenge of the Andropov generation to which all of Russia’s present-day leaders belong. All of them come from the Lavrenty Beria school of political studies, including those somewhat less prominently titled, such as Arkady Volsky or Evgeny Primakov, and those squarely in the Western field of vision, such as Mikhail Gorbachev and Vladimir Putin.

To drive a politically and economically united Europe into Moscow’s inescapable embrace, to unify Europe once and for all, the West as a whole had to be properly spooked—but not by Moscow, of course. On the contrary, Moscow was to pose as a fellow victim of the clear and present danger lurking without. As in the tried and tested (though in the end only partly successful Hitler scenario, the danger in question had to be identified and incubated before it could be sprung on the sleeping West like a succubus.

Such danger as eventually offered itself up for the role of succubus was Islamic fundamentalism, in particular, and the Muslim world generally. Like Hitler’s rise to power, the specter of 1.5 billion Mussulmans brandishing “pie-perestroika” Kalashnikovs from Kashmir to Morocco was a plausible enough threat to terrify the West; unlike Hitler, it was not so national, autarchic, or spontaneous as to ever him on the puppeteer. Admittedly, it was the Russians who had invaded Afghanistan, not the other way round; but by the time the war in Chechnya was percolating, a few bombs in Moscow planted by “post-perestroika” secret police (see Lorenzo Cremonesi’s interview with André Glucksmann in Corriere delta Sera, August 11, 2000) would enable Putin to claim that Russia was on the receiving end of the terrorist nightmare.

Now the threat of what would become known euphemistically as “rogue regimes”—states working as the launching pads of terrorism against the West—had to be made real. Here, a few facts may be adduced. During the single year preceding Putin’s election in the spring of 2000, Moscow’s known sales of military hardware to Baghdad had already run into the hundreds of millions of dollars; yet, in the spring of 2001, to accelerate and direct these acquisitions, Iraq opened a “military intelligence bureau” in Moscow, its 20-strong staff headed by General Mohammed Subhi, and another one in Belarus, headed by Col. Kamil Hadidi (see the Sunday Telegraph, February 25). Defectors from Saddam Hussein’s regime, meanwhile, brought to the West the old news that “Iraq carried out a successful nuclear test before the Gulf War and now has a nuclear stockpile.” The test, carried out in September 1989 underneath Lake Rezzaza, used a Russian nuclear warhead and went undetected because “the Russians supplied Iraq with a table listing US satellite movements” (see the Sunday Times, February 25).

Concurrently with the escalating military buildup in Iraq organized from Moscow, Putin, in his meeting with NATO officials in February 2001, “offered Europe his space shield” (see Corriere della Sera, February 21), the same mythical shield he had been offering Europe since his first official meeting with Kohl’s successor. Chancellor Schroeder, in June 2000. As at least one regional Italian paper summarized his message in a headline, “Putin to Europe: We Will Defend you from the Muslims.”

If it is indeed true, as some senior retired officers of the CIA, including James Woolsey, a former director of the agency, have suggested, that Iraqi intelligence services were behind the attack on Manhattan, so much the better for my argument. “There’s never been anything inconsistent about the idea that bin Laden would be providing most of the people in this, with Iraqi intelligence helping logistically and otherwise being behind it,” Woolsey has been quoted as saying (in the Daily Telegraph, September 20). The important aspect of Woolsey’s thinking here is that the Islamic “fundamentalist threat” is at least perceived as consanguine with, and fraternal to, the “rogue regimes” that Russia has been financing, arming, and inciting against the West with one hand, while offering the West protection from these very regimes with the other.

Secular Iraq is only one example. What if the World Trade Center attacks in fact came from Iran, Syria, or Lybia? From opposition groups in Saudi Arabia, Algeria, or Pakistan? From the Palestinian refugee camps? Or even from Afghanistan, with its history of political double-dealing and tribal backstabbing? No matter. Wherever they came from is a “rogue regime”; whichever “rogue regime” they came from, Moscow has been supporting it; and whatever the “rogue regime” may now say to clear its name will be drowned in the twin chorus of Western indignation and, more important, of Russian solicitude.

In the immediate aftermath of the attack on Manhattan, two events of geopolitical significance have taken place. One is that Russia openly signed a military pact with Iran, arguing that “its links with a country seen by Washington as one of the leading sponsors of terrorism would in reality advance the struggle against terrorism” (International Herald Tribune, October 3). The other is Putin’s announcement in Brussels that, as “global politics had experienced a tectonic shift,” Russia was ready to join NATO (International Herald Tribune, October 4). “The bombings of Russian apartment complexes,” averred Putin, “bore the same signature” as the World Trade Center bombing. Indeed, they do.

I conclude with the words of a veteran political observer, John Keegan (defense editor of the Daily Telegraph, writing in that newspaper on September 14):

There are two reasons why President Putin might help. The first is that Russia is also plagued by the menace of Islamic terrorism that, in Chechnya, has inflicted humiliation on the successor to the once great Soviet army. The second is that lending assistance to NATO might persuade the alliance to admit Russia to membership.

There is, perhaps, not much difference between what I say here and what Keegan says in his article—except that I realize that the developments he anticipates spell the end of freedom in Europe, and he does not. Keegan believes that Russia’s help is a hopeful sign, invaluable to the West in its plight, while I believe that it marks Russia’s triumphant return to Stalin’s dream of totalitarian hegemony of Eurasia.

But what would people have said to a writer who, a few days after Pearl Harbor, wrote an article warning the West against an alliance with Stalin?