Category Archives: espionage

Annals of Espionage

The Canadian Free Press reports:

In what could be the biggest State Department scandal since State Department official and United Nations founder Alger Hiss was exposed as a Soviet spy, a top Clinton State Department official and former Time magazine journalist has been identified as having been a trusted contact of the Russian intelligence service.

The sensational charge against Strobe Talbott is made in a new book based on interviews with a Russian defector. The book, Comrade J, by veteran author and reporter Pete Earley, identifies Talbott as having been manipulated by a Russian official working for Russian intelligence in order to get information about U.S. foreign policy. The same book describes the United Nations as a major base of espionage operations for Russia in the U.S.

But the story gets much more scandalous than that because Talbott himself has just written a book, The Great Experiment, describing his own background in the pro-world government World Federalist Movement and naming a network of friends and close associates that includes former President Bill Clinton and billionaire leftist George Soros. Curiously, the book calls for expanding the authority of the U.N. but completely ignores the role of Soviet spy Alger Hiss, himself a top State Department official, in founding the United Nations.

The purpose of Talbott’s book is to promote “global governance,” a euphemism for world government. It is defined in the subtitle as “The Quest for a Global Nation.”

Interestingly, one of Talbott’s closest friends in the U.S. Senate, Republican Richard Lugar of Indiana, has emerged as a foreign policy adviser to leading Democratic presidential candidate and Senator Barack Obama of Illinois. In 2005, Lugar and Obama made a visit to Russia to promote the scandal-ridden “Cooperative Threat Reduction Program (CTR),” also known as the Nunn-Lugar program for its original Senate sponsors. The CTR has poured about $6 billion into the former Soviet Union in foreign aid, supposedly for the purpose of preventing nuclear proliferation.

“After actively promoting Nunn-Lugar while at Time [magazine], Talbott was put in charge of the [CTR] program when named by Clinton as ambassador at large to Russia and the newly independent states in February 1993,” notes journalist Ken Timmerman, in a report headlined, “Strobe Talbott: Russia’s Man in Washington.”

Although Talbott has been identified in press accounts as a current adviser to Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, he showed up to hear Senator Barack Obama deliver a foreign policy address in 2005 to the Council on Foreign Relations and declared, “It was very impressive.” A story about the speech carried by MSNBC and published on Obama’s Senate website noted that Lugar was “helping” Obama in the foreign policy field, that Obama and Lugar “have formed a political joint venture and mutual admiration society,” and that they had traveled to Russia together. The trip to Russia was designed to ensure Obama’s support for maintaining and even expanding the foreign aid for Russia through the CTR program.

Although CTR supporters claim it can be effective in keeping nuclear weapons or materials out of the hands of terrorists, various reports from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) reveal that funds have been used mainly to destroy obsolete weapons that Moscow was going to replace with high-tech arms. The International Proliferation Prevention Program, which has evolved from the CTR, was recently exposed by the GAO as a jobs program for Russian scientists, more than half of which may not have any weapons-related experience.

Nevertheless, Obama said that “few people” understand Russia better than Lugar, a “rock star” on the world stage. Lugar, in turn, calls Strobe Talbott a “good friend” and “source of sound counsel” who “continues to provide outstanding national and international leadership.” Comrade J is about a Russian master spy, Sergei Tretyakov, who defected to the United States because he was disgusted with the Russian/Soviet system and wanted to start a new and better life with his family in America. His allegations about Talbott have been ignored by most of the media.

Tretyakov is described as the highest ranking Russian intelligence official ever to defect while stationed in the U.S. and handled all Russian intelligence operations against the U.S. He served under cover from 1995-2000 at Russia’s Permanent Mission to the United Nations but was secretly working for the FBI for at least three years.

Talbott has been and continues to be a major foreign policy thinker. Back in 2000, when he was named head of the Yale Center for the Study of Globalization, he was described as “a key architect of U.S. foreign policy” during the Clinton years. Talbott now serves as president of the liberal think tank, the Brookings Institution, in Washington, D.C., where he gets paid over $400,000 a year, leads a staff of 277 and presides over an endowment of over $200 million.

Talbott denies Tretyakov’s charges, calling them “erroneous and/or misleading,” and his denials are featured on page 184 of the book. He says that he always promoted U.S. foreign policy goals and that the close relationship that he had with a top Russian official by the name of Georgi Mamedov did not involve any manipulation or deception. This is not the first time that Talbott has come under scrutiny for his alleged contacts with agents of a foreign intelligence service. In 1994, when he was being considered for his State Department post in the Clinton Administration, he was grilled by Senator Jesse Helms, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, about his relationship with Victor Louis, a Soviet “journalist” who was actually a Soviet KGB intelligence agent. Talbott had been a young correspondent for Time magazine in Moscow.

As reported by Herbert Romerstein in Human Events newspaper, Talbott admitted knowing Louis from 1969 until his death in 1992 but that he was not aware of his “organizational affiliations.” Pressed further, Talbott acknowledged that he was aware of assertions or speculation to that effect about Louis. Helms then confronted Talbott with a 1986 State Department publication revealing that Louis had been identified as a KGB agent by KGB defectors and had been used by the Soviets to spread disinformation. Talbott said he still didn’t know for sure that Louis was a KGB agent. Romerstein’s Human Events article accused Talbott of writing articles following the Soviet line.

However, Talbott had powerful friends, including Senator and fellow Rhodes Scholar Richard Lugar, who supported his nomination.

Romerstein, a retired government expert on anti-American and communist propaganda activities, said the Earley book is valuable because it documents that the Russian intelligence service picked up where the KGB left off, and that operations against the U.S. continued after the end of the Cold War.

But he said the information about Talbott needs further explanation from Talbott himself. “Talbott really has to explain more than he did to Pete Earley what his relationship was to Mamedov, and he should tell us about his relationship with Victor Louis,” Romerstein said.
On January 4, Talbott gave a talk at the “Politics & Prose” bookstore in Washington, D.C., where he explained in precise detail what he means by “global governance.” He said that it “allows for a multiplicity of governments [or] nation states in the world but at the same time depends increasingly on an international system made up of up treaties, international law, institutions, and various arrangements whereby nations in effect pool their national authority in order to deal with certain problems that they cannot deal with all by themselves and they can’t deal with in small numbers.”

Talbott added, “That is the big idea that the book attempts to describe and trace. And it’s not just a utopian dream. Global governance is a reality. We have it today.”

In the future, Talbott says the U.N. will need to be “incorporated into an increasingly variegated network of structures and arrangements, some functional in focus, others geographic; some intergovernmental, others based on systematic collaboration with the private sector, civil society, and NGOs [non-governmental organizations]. Only if the larger enterprise of global governance has that kind of breadth and depth will it be able to supplement what the U.N. does well, compensate for what it does badly, and provide capabilities that it lacks.”

In 1993, when Talbott was nominated by President Clinton as Ambassador at Large and Special Adviser to the Secretary of State on the new Independent States (of the former Soviet Union), Senator John McCain took to the Senate floor to declare that, despite Talbott being a close friend and personal pick of the President’s, “I cannot in good conscience vote to confirm his appointment.”

McCain said that Talbott, as a writer for Time magazine and a commentator, had been guilty of making “mistaken observations” and suggesting “flawed policy solutions” on the matter of whether Russia “will evolve peacefully and democratically, collapse into chaos, or return to totalitarianism, be it Communist or fascist.”

McCain noted that Talbott opposed all of the Reagan initiatives, including deployment of missiles to Europe and the Strategic Defense Initiative, which had kept Europe free from Soviet control and eventually resulted in the demise of the Soviet empire. McCain said that “it would require many more hours for me to cite all the examples of mistakes and inconsistencies upon which Mr. Talbott bases his reputation as a Soviet expert.”

However, on April 2, 1993, Talbott was confirmed by the Senate to this post by a Yea-Nay Vote of 89-9. One of his leading Senate backers was Indiana Republican Senator Richard Lugar. The nine voting against Talbott were Craig (R-ID), Faircloth (R-NC), Gorton (R-WA), Helms (R-NC), Kempthorne (R-ID), Lott (R-MS), McCain (R-AZ), Smith (R-NH), and Wallop (R-WY).

On February 22, 1994, again with Lugar’s vigorous support, Talbott was confirmed by the Senate by a Yea-Nay Vote of 66-31 to the post of Deputy Secretary of State. Once again, McCain voted against him.

While critical of the George W. Bush Administration, Talbott hosted Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice at a May 2007 meeting of the International Advisory Council of Brookings. In his book, he gives credit to Rice for “moderating the tone and substance” of policy coming from the Bush White House in the president’s second term.

Talbott’s book, The Great Experiment, not only ignores the role of Soviet spy Alger Hiss in founding the U.N. but describes the production of the U.N. Charter as a “very public American project.” He thanks George Soros and Walter Isaacson, formerly of Time but now with the Aspen Institute, for their input on his manuscript.
Talbott also gives thanks to convicted document thief Sandy Berger, Bill Clinton’s national security adviser who now advises Hillary’s presidential campaign; Soros associate Morton Halperin, formerly of the ACLU; Javier Solana of the European Union; and Bill Clinton, “for helping me better to understand several aspects of his view of the world and America’s role in it.”

A close personal friend of Bill and Hillary Clinton, Talbott is described in the Comrade J book as having been “a special unofficial contact” of the Russian intelligence agency, the SVR, when he was Deputy Secretary of State in the Clinton Administration. Talbott had been in charge of Russian affairs.

“Inside the SVR, that term was used only to identify a top-level intelligence source who had high social and/or political status and whose identity needed to be carefully guarded,” the book says. On the same level of interest was Fidel Castro’s brother Raul, a communist “recruited by the KGB during the Khrushchev era” who continued to work for the Russians after the Soviet collapse, the book says. He, too, was a “special unofficial contact.”

Talbott was allegedly manipulated and deceived by Russia’s then Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Georgi Mamedov, who was “secretly working” for Russian intelligence, the book alleges. The book, however, does not make the specific charge that Talbott was recruited as a Russian spy or was a conscious agent of the Russian regime.

The book cites Talbott as an “example of how a skilled intelligence agency could manipulate a situation and a diplomatic source to its advantage without the target realizing he was being used for intelligence-gathering purposes.” It says Mamedov was “instructed” by the SVR to ask specific questions to get information about certain matters.

The book says that Talbott was so compromised by his relationship with Mamedov that the FBI asked Secretary of State Madeleine Albright not to share information with Talbott about an espionage investigation at the State Department because Mamedov might learn about it and tip off Russian intelligence. Earley says he confirmed this account but that Albright has refused to discuss the incident.

The book cites a House of Representatives report, released in September 2000, which found that the Clinton Administration and Talbott in particular had excused the actions of the Russian government and had failed to promote democracy and free enterprise there.

Earley’s book itself discusses how, during the mid 1990s, Talbott, State Department spokesman Mike McCurry, and President Clinton himself echoed Russian propaganda that justified Russian attacks on Chechnya. This “delighted the propagandists inside the SVR,” which claimed credit” for what the U.S. officials had said, the book says.

It seems that Talbott has a tendency, which continues to the present day, of whitewashing the Russian regime.

In congressional testimony just last October on U.S.-Russian relations, Talbott attacked the Bush Administration for withdrawing from the ABM treaty, urged Russian membership in the World Trade Organization, and advocated more negotiations and agreements with Russia over nuclear arms. The U.S. has “set a bad example” for the Russians in foreign affairs, Talbott said.

With all of these high-powered connections, the story about Talbott being used by the Russians seems to be a story worth reporting or commenting on. However, if the media examine the charges against Talbott, they might have to deal with other evidence and information in the book about how spies for the Soviet intelligence service manipulated the U.S. media.

The book, for instance, explains how the Soviet KGB peddled charges that deployment of U.S. nuclear weapons to Europe in the 1980s might lead to their use and a “nuclear winter” or climate crisis for the world. The book says the story was cooked up by the KGB and fed to the Western world by anti-nuclear activists such as Carl Sagan, who penned an article on the topic for the Council on Foreign Relations journal Foreign Affairs. The book notes that Sagan later appeared on the ABC television network to talk about the subject.

Tretyakov says he discovered “dozens of case studies” of the KGB using “propaganda and disinformation to influence public opinion” in the West.
A prominent journalist himself at one time, Talbott achieved notoriety for writing a July 20, 1992, Time column, “The Birth of the Global Nation,” saying that in the next century “nationhood as we know it will be obsolete,” that we will all some day become world citizens, and that wars and human rights violations in the 20th century had clinched “the case for world government.” This reflects the views of the pro-world government World Federalist movement.

“The piece made me briefly popular with foreign policy liberals and, not so briefly, a target of brickbats from the right,” he says in his book. He acknowledges that his parents were members of the World Federalist Movement (they were also “active in the internationalist wing of the Republican Party in the late forties and early fifties “) and that he had a dog growing up known as “Freddie,” which was short for World Federalists. The World Federalist Movement collaborated with Soviet front groups such as the Soviet Peace Committee during the Cold War and tried to avoid scrutiny from anti-communist congressional committees after World War II.

In one of his first major media appearances after his selection as Brookings president, on the Charlie Rose program, he was identified in promotional material as a World Federalist. But this designation doesn’t appear in the official biography on the Brookings website.

Talbott’s global left-wing vision was endorsed personally by President Clinton, who had sent a June 22, 1993, letter to the World Federalist Association (WFA) when it gave Talbott its Norman Cousins Global Governance Award. In the letter, Clinton noted that Cousins, the WFA founder, had “worked for world peace and world government” and that Talbott was a “worthy recipient” of the award. Talbott and Bill Clinton became friends when they were both Rhodes Scholars.

Hillary Clinton, who has been friends with Talbott since their days together at Yale University, gave a videotaped address to the WFA in 1999 on the occasion of the group giving former anchorman of the CBS Evening News Walter Cronkite its global governance award. She praised Cronkite’s work. For his part, Cronkite declared that “we must strengthen the United Nations as a first step toward a world government” and America must “yield up some of our sovereignty.”

The Sunday Spy

Other Russia reports:

A leading activist of the opposition United Civil Front (OGF) party has revealed that he is employed by Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB). Alexander Novikov, who is currently in Denmark, told Novaya Gazeta that he “was tired of living a double life and setting up my friends.” He is seeking political asylum abroad.

Novikov explained how he first penetrated the OGF, the political party led by Garry Kasparov that has been outspoken in its criticism of the Putin administration. The FSB concocted a cover story that Novikov was planning to form an independent union of health workers. According to Novikov, he signed a contract with the agency whereby he was paid eight thousand rubles (€221 or $325) per month for collecting information on the party. Novikov’s handlers were primarily interested in the relationships between members of the movement, and wanted to know who was closest to the leadership. Allegedly, the information Novikov divulged prevented Garry Kasparov from registering as a presidential candidate. By Russian law, at least 500 supporters must gather to jump-start a presidential campaign, and an appropriate venue is required. Yet the first conference room Kasparov had rented refused to host his “initiative group,” and the OGF scrambled to find another space to announce Kasparov’s candidacy.

Novikov said he reported each location that the OGF was considering to his supervisors. In the end, Kasparov could not find a space willing to host his meeting, and subsequently dropped his presidential bid. Meanwhile, Russian law forbids planting agents into organizations that are not banned on Russian territory. According to the law on “Operational Investigation Activity” of 1995, this includes political parties, civil and religious groups, and other organizations that are officially registered.

Roman Dobrokhotov, the leader of the “We” movement, told the Sobkor@ru news agency that he could not remember one political action that Novikov did not participate in. He added that it seemed strange that an FSB agent would “shine” so much at the events. Still, Dobrokhotov noted that Novikov’s announcement comes as little surprise, and he is convinced that there are other undercover intelligence officers among Russia’s opposition groups. In Dobrokhotov’s opinion, Novikov likely confessed to his role in the FSB after he began genuinely sympathizing with the opposition.

The Moscow Times adds:

A former opposition activist who claims that he was recruited by the Federal Security Service to infiltrate former chess champion Garry Kasparov’s political movement said Thursday that he had applied for political asylum in Britain. Alexander Novikov, who said he was paid 8,000 rubles per month over a period of two years to give the FSB regular reports on Kasparov’s organization, the United Civil Front, said he had applied for asylum at the British Embassy in Copenhagen.

In a telephone interview from Denmark, Novikov, 36, said his FSB handlers wanted to know about “any step, any move, any protest” by Kasparov’s group. “They were interested in everything, down to the finest detail,” Novikov said. Novikov’s story supports claims by opposition activists that the FSB sends spies into their ranks, despite a 1995 law that forbids law enforcers from covertly joining registered political organizations with the goal of influencing their activities. “I have suspected several people of being agents,” said Lolita Tsariya, who heads the Moscow branch of the United Civil Front. She confirmed that Novikov had participated in the United Civil Front’s meetings and protests. Novikov said he was “ashamed” of his behavior and had gone to the West so he could be free to tell his story. An interview he gave to Danish television this week included a public apology to Kasparov.

Reached by telephone Thursday, Kasparov said he was aware of Novikov’s story but too busy to comment. An FSB spokesman declined to comment immediately Thursday and asked for a written inquiry. A faxed request for comment was not answered in time for publication. Repeated phone calls to the Moscow branch of the FSB went unanswered Thursday. A spokesman for the British Embassy in Copenhagen declined to comment for this report.

Andrei Soldatov, an independent expert on the Russian security services who met Novikov in Denmark and wrote an article published Thursday in Novaya Gazeta, said he was convinced that Novikov had collaborated with the FSB. “There were simply very many small details that seemed right — what side of the street people walked on, how they set up the meetings and so on,” said Soldatov, who edits the web site Novikov said his career as a snitch began about two years ago, after he went to an FSB office to inquire about an acquaintance whom he had not seen for a long time. Two weeks later, the FSB called him back and offered “an interesting job,” Novikov said. That job was spying on the United Civil Front. Soldatov said he did not believe the story of Novikov’s recruitment but that details about Novikov’s contacts with his FSB handlers were credible.

Novikov met regularly with his handlers in cafes and cars, providing them with written reports about Kasparov’s organization, said Novikov, adding that his FSB codename was “Mikhail.” Initially his handler was a man named Alexei Vladimirovich, and then it was a younger man named Alexei Lvovich, he said. While being filmed by Danish television this week, Novikov called Alexei Lvovich on his mobile phone. The two discussed payment issues, and Novikov told his handler that he might be appointed to a committee within the United Civil Front, according to a transcript of the conversation published by Novaya Gazeta. Novikov said he participated regularly in Dissenters’ Marches and other protests. Last November, he was detained during a protest outside Moscow police headquarters on Ulitsa Petrovka in support of Kasparov, who was in jail at the time.

Gradually, Novikov began to sympathize with the opposition activists he was spying on, which sparked arguments with his FSB handlers, who called the activists “sick people” and “idiots,” he said. “I told them, ‘If these people are sick, why do you beat them? Why do you attack them with clubs?'” Novikov recalled. Novikov claimed that Tsariya, his fellow activist, had recently offered him a position as head of the northwestern Moscow branch of the United Civil Front. He also claimed that in December he spoiled Kasparov’s plans to run for president by telling the FSB which venue would host the required meeting of 500 supporters who would nominate Kasparov as a candidate. After his supporters failed to find a venue that could host the meeting, Kasparov abandoned his presidential plans. Tsariya, however, questioned those two claims. She denied that she had offered him any leadership position in the organization, stressing that it was an elected position, not an appointed one. “He had no chances of becoming a leader because he did not have much authority within the organization,” Tsariya said.

Novikov could not have told the FSB where Kasparov’s supporters were planning to meet because he did not have access to that information, she added. When told about Tsariya’s charges, Novikov conceded that he was not necessarily the person who derailed Kasparov’s presidential plans because there were probably others working for the FSB as well. “I suspect there were other people besides me,” he said. Both Tsariya and Soldatov speculated that Novikov’s real motive in airing his story was to immigrate to the West, possibly for economic reasons. Soldatov said he might be omitting some parts in order to improve his image. “One can think of many possible reasons why he wants to go to the West,” Soldatov said. “It is possible he is taking advantage of his situation in order to stay there. But is that enough reason to dismiss his story as total rubbish? I do not think so.”

The Sunday Secret Police

The mighty Moscow Times does yet more bold and pathbreaking reporting on the horror of neo-Soviet Russia:

It was a typical December night in Moscow. The cold was biting, the snow thick and dry. In the Federal Security Service’s headquarters on Lubyanskaya Ploshchad, hundreds of intelligence officers met as they did every year to celebrate the founding of the Cheka, the Soviet secret police. Champagne glasses tinkled as the officers spoke in jubilant tones. Classical music played softly in the background.

The hall grew quiet as Vladimir Putin — the former FSB director who had been appointed prime minister a few months earlier — stood to speak. “Dear comrades,” Putin said. “I would like to announce to you that the group of FSB agents that you sent to work undercover in the government has accomplished the first part of its mission.” Everyone in the room knew what the second part entailed, said an FSB officer who attended the event and related what took place. “We knew that the second part was to become president and to appoint former KGB colleagues to top government posts,” the officer said.

In the speech, Putin assured the people in the room that he would not forget them once he reached the pinnacle of power, the officer said. “There are no former agents,” Putin declared, giving a new twist to a common joke among KGB officers. The listening FSB officers raised a toast to Cheka founder Felix Dzerzhinsky and Yury Andropov, the longest-serving KGB chief. That night, they had one more reason to celebrate, the FSB officer said: After years of humiliation, the intelligence services were on the brink of being restored to their former prestige. It was Dec. 20, 1999, just 11 days before Boris Yeltsin abruptly resigned and named Putin as acting president. Three months later, Putin won a snap presidential election.

Now, as Putin prepares to leave the Kremlin eight years later, he has kept the promise made that night in FSB headquarters. An astounding 78 percent of the country’s leadership has links to the KGB or FSB, according to estimates by Olga Kryshtanovskaya, a leading sociologist who tracks Kremlin politics and the security services. Twenty-six percent of the officials acknowledge their involvement, while the rest give themselves away “by the holes in their resumes,” Kryshtanovskaya said. In addition to filling government and company posts with intelligence officers, Putin has restored to the FSB much of the power and glory enjoyed by the KGB.

At the same time, a kind of spy mania has swept the country, with the FSB seeming to see enemies in every corner and accusing dozens of scientists of espionage.

The Rise of the FSB

Yeltsin abhorred the omnipresent KGB, and he decided after the Soviet breakup in 1991 that it would be dangerous to leave national security in the hands of a single organization. Inspired by the U.S. model, Yeltsin broke the KGB up into a half dozen agencies that he believed would prove more efficient and provide him with more sources of information about what was going on in the country. (See table, page 4.) As Yeltsin wanted, none of the agencies boasted a monopoly on information. In fact, the FSB, the main domestic intelligence agency, and the others often had to fight for the president’s ear.

On economic security issues alone, the FSB found itself competing with three other agencies — the Federal Tax Police, the Interior Ministry and the Federal Agency of Governmental Communication and Information, or FAPSI. In fact, Yeltsin set up the tax police in 1993 to balance the growing clout of the FSB’s economic security department. Also, Yeltsin initially only empowered the FSB to carry out preliminary investigations, although he later allowed it to establish a full-fledged investigative branch. “At first glance the system seems huge and inefficient, but it allowed the president to avoid being unduly influenced when making decisions,” said Andrei Soldatov, director of, a nongovernmental agency that monitors the intelligence services. Rivalries among the various branches of the intelligence services often led to internal fighting and the embarrassing release of compromising material.

All this changed in March 2003 when Putin signed a decree disbanding FAPSI and the Tax Police, the FSB’s main rivals. Most of FAPSI’s duties were handed over to the FSB, while 40,000 tax police officers were sent to the newly created Federal Drug Control Service, headed by former FSB deputy director Viktor Cherkesov. (Exactly a year later Putin appointed the former head of the tax police, Mikhail Fradkov, as prime minister. Fradkov is now the head of the Foreign Intelligence Service.) Putin’s 2003 decree also put the State Border Service under the control of the FSB. The agency of 400,000 armed border guards had operated under the KGB during Soviet times.

Another Yeltsin-era agency, the Presidential Security Service, was folded into the Federal Guard Service. Yeltsin had essentially used the Presidential Security Service as his personal intelligence agency, and it had compiled reports that balanced those provided by the other intelligence agencies. The FSB’s powers expanded further in 2006, when a Putin-backed anti-terrorism law gave the agency the lead role in fighting terrorism — a clear effort to centralize command over counterterrorism activities. Previously, the FSB and the Interior Ministry had divided duties in fighting terrorism. Also in 2006, the Kremlin created the National Anti-Terrorist Committee, which is under the FSB’s control.

After the kidnapping and killing of four Russian diplomats in Iraq in June 2006, a Putin-backed law was approved that allows the FSB to eliminate enemies abroad. Until then, the intelligence officers could only gather information abroad, said Andrei Soldatov, the intelligence expert.

Under Putin, the FSB has become more powerful in some ways than the KGB, Soldatov said. The KGB was an instrument in the hands of the Communist Party and did not take part in the decision-making process, but the FSB has managed to obtain the powers of both the KGB and the Party, he said. The FSB refused to comment for this report. Many current and former intelligence officers and other people contacted for this article were reluctant to discuss the rebirth of the FSB under Putin. Most of those who agreed to talk asked for anonymity, citing fear of reprisal from the FSB.

All the President’s Men

The FSB seems to have a presence in all walks of Russian life these days. In the Kremlin alone, more than half of the senior staff has links to the intelligence services, according to estimates by Kryshtanovskaya. The officials include presidential aide Viktor Ivanov, a KGB colonel general, and perhaps Igor Sechin, a Kremlin deputy chief of staff who once worked as a Portuguese translator in Mozambique.

These Kremlin officials are split into two main competing clans.

The FSB is believed to control many federal agencies. Intelligence officers are usually named deputy ministers and charged with checking how the ministries are carrying out their activities, Kryshtanovskaya said. Former Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov, a KGB and FSB veteran, brought a number of FSB colleagues to the ministry during his six years there, including Deputy Defense Minister Nikolai Pankov; Andrei Chobotov, head of the ministry’s personnel department; and Sergei Rybakov, head of the ministry’s information department. Ivanov is now a first deputy prime minister. The interior minister, Rashid Nurgaliyev, served in the KGB as a criminal investigator and later in the FSB. Former officers also fill the ranks of regional governments and state companies. (See table, Page 4.)

More than 10 percent of lawmakers in the State Duma and 20 percent in the Federation Council have ties to the FSB, Kryshtanovskaya said. Every once in a while a surprise pops up. Putin has chosen First Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, who does not have a background in intelligence, as his successor, paving the way for him to become the next president. But the former agents who have seen their stars rise under Putin are unlikely to fade under Medvedev, a former intelligence officer said. “Under Medvedev, we are likely to see less of the paranoia typical of the KGB and FSB, but the current Kremlin clans will continue to rule the country,” he said.

It’s Private Business

Current and former FSB officers work in large private companies as well. Another former FSB official said the Kremlin wanted the officers to make sure the companies do not act against Russia’s interests. “Big companies in Russia consult with the Kremlin before striking any big deal. The officers working for those companies are there to make sure that things are done properly or the way the Kremlin wants,” the official said. The companies, who pay generous salaries to the officers, feel they get their money’s worth. The officers make sure they do not have problems with the Kremlin. “All big companies have to put people from the security services on the board of directors,” said a banker with a large private bank. “Many are appointed as directors or deputy directors. They are called ‘active reserve agents,’ and we know that when Lubyanka calls, they have to answer them.” FSB headquarters is commonly referred to as Lubyanka.

There are no estimates for how many officers with links to intelligence work in private companies. “It works like a pyramid: Big state and private companies hire KGB and FSB big shots, medium-size companies hire medium agents, and small companies employ ordinary officers,” the former FSB official said. Mediumand small companies hire former KGB and FSB agents to protect their businesses from corrupt tax or fire inspectors and to cut through bureaucracy, he said. “Before, the protection job was done by the mafia, but now its role has been taken over by the agents,” he said.

Spin and Spy Mania

The FSB, meanwhile, has brought back a Soviet-era tradition of honoring actors, writers and journalists who portray agents in a good light. The tradition, which was discontinued in 1989, resumed in 2006. Last December, the creator of the television show “Operation,” Sergei Medvedev, won the first prize of 100,000 rubles ($4,000). Historian Roy Medvedev took second place and 50,000 rubles for his book “Andropov,” while Vladimir Shmelev, director of the film “Under the Apocalypse,” won 25,000 rubles. Despite the positive spin, the FSB seems to be facing the same occupational hazard as the KGB — seeing spies and enemies everywhere. Over the past five years, the FSB has accused more than a dozen scientists of selling classified information to foreign countries.

One physicist said he now seeks the FSB’s advice before publishing articles or attending conferences to avoid being accused of spying. “All of a sudden it was like going back to the past, to the Soviet Union,” he said. “When I’m not sure what I should do, I just ask them. I have to. He refused to elaborate on how the FSB monitors scientists. “I’d prefer to keep that to myself,” he said. He added, however: “With the chekists in power, it seems that our country has enemies everywhere. Poland sells us bad meat, Georgia and Moldova sell bad wine, and Ukraine steals our gas. This is what television is feeding us.” However, the FSB officer who told of Putin’s speech in FSB headquarters said Russia had faced a very real threat and that the Kremlin had needed to act “to save the country.”

“President Putin has done so much for us, ” he said. “He took us out of the decay of the Yeltsin period, when the country was in complete chaos, the security services were disbanded, and Russia was in danger.” He said Putin had realized that economic reforms were needed but that the reforms could not be implemented without a stronger FSB. “He is the best president we have ever had,” the officer said.

Agents in Power

The number of current and former intelligence officers employed by the state has increased significantly under President Vladimir Putin. Here are some senior figures linked to the security services.

The Kremlin

Vladimir Putin, president, KGB lieutenant colonel. He was recruited by the KGB in 1975 and served in the First Department of the Leningrad Directorate (foreign intelligence) until 1983. He served as a spy in Dresden, East Germany, from 1985 to 1990.

Igor Sechin, Kremlin deputy chief of staff, Rosneft chairman. In what experts say was an undercover KGB job, he worked as a Portuguese translator in Mozambique. He is believed to have played a key role in the legal assault on Yukos, once Russia’s biggest oil company.

Viktor Ivanov, presidential aide; chairman of Aeroflot and Almaz-Antei, KGB colonel general. He has served as FSB deputy director and head of the FSB’s economic security department.

Vladimir Osipov, head of the Kremlin’s personnel department. He formerly worked for the Federal Agency of Governmental Communication and Information, or FAPSI.

Igor Porshnev, head of the Kremlin’s information department. In what experts say was an undercover KGB job, he worked as a journalist for Gosteleradio (State Television and Radio) in India.

Alexei Gromov, head of the Kremlin’s press service, Channel One television board member. He is a career diplomat believed to have links to the security services.

The Government

Sergei Ivanov, first deputy prime minister; head of United Aircraft Corporation, the state aviation holding; controls the country’s military-industrial complex. He worked for Soviet foreign intelligence in Africa and Europe and served as FSB deputy director from August 1998 to March 2001. Defense minister from 2001 to 2007.

Nikolai Pankov, deputy defense minister. He graduated from the KGB Higher School in 1980 and served at the agency for many years. He headed the State Border Service in 1997 and 1998. In 2001, he was appointed head of the Security Council’s secretariat. Sergei Ivanov brought him to the Defense Ministry.

Andrei Chobotov, head of the Defense Ministry’s personnel department. He is a former KGB and FSB agent and a close ally of Sergei Ivanov.

Rashid Nurgaliyev, interior minister. He was hired as a KGB investigator in 1981. In 1995, he worked at the central office of the Federal Counterespionage Service, or FSK. He later served as an FSB chief inspector and head of the FSB’s internal security department.

Arkady Yedelev, deputy interior minister, police colonel general. He served in the KGB and FSB.

Yevgeny Shkolov, head of the Interior Ministry’s economic security department. He served in the KGB and FSB.

Yury Draguntsov, head of the Interior Ministry’s internal security department, KGB major general. He served in the KGB and FSB.

Viktor Cherkesov, Federal Drug Control Service chief. He served in the KGB and FSB.

Konstantin Romodanovsky, Federal Migration Service chief. He attended the KGB school in Minsk.

Sergei Veryovkin-Rokhalsky, chief of the Federal Agency for Financial and Tax Crimes, KGB colonel general. He worked for the KGB in the Leningrad region and for the FSB in various Russian regions.

Yury Zubakov, Security Council deputy secretary. He served as a KGB officer and was ambassador to Moldova.

Mikhail Barsukov, head of the Security Council’s military inspection department. A former FSB director.

Sergei Poltavchenko, presidential envoy to the Central Federal District, a KGB lieutenant general.

Grigory Rapota, presidential envoy to the Southern Federal District. He served in the KGB and as deputy head of the Foreign Intelligence Service from 1994 to 1998. He also served as Security Council deputy secretary and secretary-general of the Eurasian Economic Community, a union of Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan.

Anatoly Safonov, presidential counterterrorism envoy. He has served as deputy foreign minister and head of the KGB’s branch in Krasnoyarsk.

Murat Zyazikov, Ingush president, KGB general.

Vladimir Kulakov, Voronezh governor. He headed the KGB’s and later the FSB’s branch in Voronezh.

Valery Potapenko, Nenets governor. He served in the KGB and FSB. Putin appointed him to the post after the previous governor was accused of fraud.

Sergei Lebedev, CIS executive secretary. He formerly headed the Foreign Intelligence Service.

Nikolai Bordyuzha, secretary-general of the Collective Security Treaty Organization. He has worked in the KGB and FAPSI, headed the State Border Service, and served as ambassador to Denmark.

State Companies

Valery Golubev, Gazprom deputy chairman. He served in the KGB.

Alexander Medvedev, Gazprom deputy chairman, head of Gazexport, RosUkrEnergo board member. In what experts say was an undercover KGB job, he worked for Soviet bank Donaubank in Vienna at the same time as Andrei Akimov, now Gazprombank’s chief.

Konstantin Chuichenko, head of Gazprom’s legal department and executive director of RosUkrEnergo. He served in the KGB.

Sergei Ushakov, deputy head of Gazprom’s management committee. He served in the KGB.

Yury Shamalov, head of Gazflot, the Gazprom subsidiary that is exploring the Arctic shelf and plans to handle future Gazprom shipments of liquefied natural gas. He served in the KGB and FSB from 1987 to 2007.

Andrei Akimov, Gazprombank chief. In what experts say was an undercover KGB job, he worked for Vneshtorgbank in Switzerland and for Donaubank, another Soviet bank, in Vienna. He worked at Donaubank at the same time as Alexander Medvedev, now Gazprom’s deputy chairman.

Yevgeny Plyusnin, head of Gazprombank’s personnel department. He served in the KGB and FSB.

Sergei Ivanov, Gazprombank vice president and son of First Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov.

Alexander Ivanov, Vneshekonombank manager, FSB officer, son of First Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov.

Andrei Patrushev, Rosneft aide, FSB officer, son of FSB director Nikolai Patrushev.

Sergei Chemezov, head of Russian Technologies. In what experts say was an undercover KGB job, he worked for an obscure company in Dresden, East Germany, in the 1980s. He told Itogi magazine in 2005 that Putin was his neighbor in Dresden.

Vladimir Yakunin, head of Russian Railways. In what experts say were undercover KGB jobs, he worked in the Soviet Committee for Foreign Trade Relations and later in the Soviet mission to the United Nations.

Is the Top UN Nuclear Arms Inspector a Russian Spy?

CQ Politics reports:

The top U.N. official responsible for monitoring the clandestine nuclear programs of Iran and Pakistan is a Russian spy, according to a new book on Moscow’s espionage operations in the United States and Canada.

The official is identified only by his Russian code name, ARTHUR, but other sources identified him as Tariq Rauf, 54, a Pakistani-born Canadian who is chief of verification and security-policy coordination at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). The job “puts him in direct contact with both inspectors and countries around the globe,” a Canadian online magazine reported last year. “Rauf is responsible for ensuring IAEA scientists get into countries such as Iran and negotiating the access they need to completely verify the use of nuclear material.”

The allegations appear in “Comrade J: The Untold Secrets of Russia’s Master Spy in America After the End of the Cold War” by former Washington Post reporter Pete Earley, author of two previous books on Russian spying in the United States. The book amounts to a blistering memoir by Sergei Tretyakov, a former top Russian intelligence operative stationed in New York and Canada during the 1990s, first with the communist-era KGB and then its successor, the SVR. Earley writes, but Tretyakov does not confirm in the book, that he worked as a double agent for the FBI for three years before he defected to the United States in 2000. Rauf called Tretyakov’s allegation “nonsense.” He had “never” worked “for any intel types whatsoever. I am a impartial loyal international civil servant,” he said by e-mail from the IAEA’s headquarters in Vienna on Friday.

But in the first of two telephone conversations earlier in the day, Rauf was far less dismissive, declining an opportunity to flatly deny the allegations. He refused to say whether he knew or had ever met Tretyakov, who worked under diplomatic cover.

“Comrade J” describes several other alleged Russian spies in Canada only by code name, but in such rich detail that it’s not hard to figure out who they are. Tretyakov’s description of ARTHUR all but names Rauf as his spy. “When Sergei had recruited ARTHUR [in 1990],” Earley writes, “he worked at the Canadian Centre for Arms Control,” a think tank for experts on nuclear weapons. Later, ARTHUR was “a project director at the Center for Nonproliferation Studies, part of the Monterey Institute of International Studies, a California think tank,” he relates.

A few years later, when Tretyakov became deputy chief of Russian intelligence in New York, he renewed his relationship with ARTHUR, who had become “a U.N. senior verification expert,” who specialized in the clandestine weapons programs of “rogue states” such as Iran, Libya and his native Pakistan. “I know that he is still employed at the agency and I have no reason to believe he has stopped working for Russian intelligence,” the one-time master spy says in the book. “He hated America.”

Rauf’s résumé is identical to Tretyakov’s description of ARTHUR’S career. They are one and the same, according to multiple sources. A former Russian diplomat and arms control specialist who knew Tretyakov well in New York, reviewed the description of ARTHUR and said it appeared to describe Rauf. “The fingered Canadian guy, well, you know only too well who could theoretically fit this reference,” he said on condition of anonymity.

Another former Monterey arms expert, when asked whether Rauf might be the spy code-named ARTHUR, said, “Yes, the name you provided is correct.” When contacted for this story, Rauf said a Canadian newspaper reporter had presented him with the same allegations days earlier. He said he had not decided whether to contest the allegations in court. Author Earley said he had examined Tretyakov’s records — photographs, e-mail, even a restaurant napkin on which ARTHUR scribbled notes about Ukrainian missiles — to back up every allegation. “If they want to sue us, fine,” said Earley of all the Canadians that Tretyakov describes as spies. “We’ll just run Sergei up there with our stuff and see what happens.”

Talking Talbott

Tretyakov has other sensational allegations in his book, which officially goes on sale Jan. 24 but is available now online. Tretyakov says Russian intelligence considered Strobe Talbott, the Clinton administration’s top Moscow hand, such a valuable source of inside information, and so vulnerable to its manipulation, that it classified him as a SPECIAL UNOFFICIAL CONTACT.

“I want to underline that he was not a Russian spy,” Tretyakov says of Talbott, who was a Rhodes Scholar with future president Bill Clinton at Oxford and a highly respected Time magazine correspondent before turning to diplomacy. “In fact, I suspect he was the opposite — an ardent American patriot.” But a Russian official under the control of the SVR, then-Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Georgi Mamedov, Tretyakov alleges, was able to get inside information from Talbott by massaging his considerable ego. “He became a valuable intelligence source,” Tretyakov says.

Talbott, who now heads the Brookings Institution, called the book’s “interpretation of events erroneous and/or misleading in several fundamental aspects.”

“[T]here was never a presumption” during his meetings with Mamedov “that what we said to each other in our one-to-one sessions would remain private,” Talbott said.

Tretyakov “offers no amplification or corroboration” on his allegations that Mamedov, whom he socialized with, was able to manipulate his views on Russia. “There can be none,” Talbott said. He further pointed to several U.S. diplomatic accomplishments after the collapse of communism in Russia, which included “getting Russian troops to leave the Baltic states, getting the Russians to accept NATO enlargement . . . to support us in Bosnia and . . . to help in ending the Kosovo war on NATO’s terms.”

Mamedov, now ambassador to Canada, also dismissed the allegations, calling them “rubbish, an attempt to smear a fine American patriot . . . who was always tough as nails in nuclear arms negotiations with us.”

Unanswered Questions

Earley describes in the book how the CIA and FBI introduced him to Tretyakov in a hotel room at the Ritz Tyson’s Corner, near the Washington Beltway, with the idea that they do a book together. Other than that, Earley says, the CIA and FBI had no role in the book, other than vouching for the Russian’s credibility. “The fact that this defector was given a financial package significantly higher than what any other previous Russian spy has ever received is a strong indication of how valuable he has been to us and how much the U.S. appreciates what he did,” an unnamed FBI official told Earley.

The book’s sensational allegations, however, conveniently allow U.S. intelligence to showcase old news — that the Russians have been spying and pulling “dirty tricks” on the United States and its allies as much, if not more, than they were during the Cold War — on a new platform. Likewise, some see the hand of the Bush administration in Tretyakov’s allegation that the IAEA’s top nuclear verification official is a Russian spy. It could be used to taint IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei, who drew the wrath and scorn of the White House by contradicting its claims that Saddam Hussein’s Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. The Nobel Peace Prize laureate has also opposed administration threats to attack Iran.

But if Tretyakov is right about Moscow’s spies, how come nobody he’s fingered has been charged, much less arrested? (He gave the names of his alleged spies to Canadian security officials years ago.) Because he’s making it up, suggests James M. Olson, a former CIA chief of counterintelligence who now lectures on intelligence issues at Texas A&M University. “Tretyakov, obviously egged on by his publisher, needed something sensational to sell his book,” says Olson, who worked against the Russians for three decades.

“The Strobe Talbott allegation is patent nonsense. If there were anything to it, the U.S. government would have acted on it long ago,” said Olson, author of “Fair Play: The Moral Dilemmas of Spying,” a 2007 book. “Sadly, there’s not much honor among spies,” he said. “The CIA can’t control what defectors do and say once they’re settled and on their own.” But a former FBI official offers an alternate explanation: You can’t arrest somebody for espionage on the mere word of a defector (unlike the administration’s policy on suspected terrorists). You’ve got to catch them doing it, which can take years. “You’ve got to have the evidence to go along with it to make a case stand up in court,” says Harry B. “Skip” Brandon, a former deputy assistant director for counterintelligence at the FBI.

In addition, Brandon says, Canadian security officials might have “thought Tretyakov was a disinformation agent,” sent by Moscow to plant misleading information about its secret operations in Canada. “Maybe the Canadians viewed it that way,“ said Brandon, who now runs a global intelligence and security firm in Washington, in partnership with former CIA agent Gene M. Smith. The Canadian Security and Intelligence Service isn’t talking, Spokesperson Manon Bérubé said she was familiar with the book but, “We are not commenting on questions about our operations.”

Nobody Can Be Trusted

“Comrade J” has plenty more sensational spy stories, all of which will be chewed over and debated by national security analysts. President Vladimir Putin, a former KGB spy himself, personally approved of Russian agents stealing millions of dollars worth of U.N. oil-for-food funds during the pre-war Iraq sanctions, Tretyakov says. The notion that “Nuclear Winter” would follow a nuclear exchange was “a myth” promoted by Russian agents to derail the deployment of U.S. missiles in Europe, he says.

But it’s not all bad news.

Russian intelligence, Tretyakov says, got some of its best ideas from American books and movies — mostly thrillers, of course. “Three Days of the Condor,” the 1975 CIA thriller starring Robert Redford, spurred Moscow Center to launch a major new program, he says. “It stuns the hell out of me,” says James Grady, author of the novel the movie was based on, “Six Days of the Condor”, which portrays a CIA unit tasked to find ideas for spy operations in books. “Here we have reality aping fiction, which apes reality, which apes fiction,” Grady said Friday night. “It really closes the loop.”

One of Condor’s major themes: Nobody can be trusted.

Certainly not a defector, Grady says.

“If you burn people you convinced to trust you with their lives,” Grady says, “ultimately you burn any reason to trust you.”

Annals of Oleg Shvartsman

Reuters reports:

Russia’s state arms exporter has filed a lawsuit against a businessman who said it was seeking to grab private assets, the latest salvo in what analysts have said is a turf war raging behind the scenes between Kremlin clans. The dispute between fund manager Oleg Shvartsman and arms exporter Rosoboronexport offered a rare public glimpse into infighting between the opaque groups around President Vladimir Putin as he prepares to hand over to a favored successor. The row began when Shvartsman said in a newspaper interview in November that he was planning to act as a corporate raider on behalf of Kremlin-linked interests that included Rosoboronexport and Igor Sechin, Putin’s media-shy deputy chief of staff. The arms exporter denied it had any links to Shvartsman or his businesses, or that it planned to work with him.

Observers interpreted his claim as part of an orchestrated attack on the “siloviki– a loose grouping of Putin associates with security backgrounds in which Sechin and Rosoboronexport’s overall boss Sergei Chemezov are key figures. Shvartsman’s newspaper interview sent shockwaves through Russia’s political and business elite because any claim that top officials have business interests is considered taboo. In the latest move, Rosoboronexport on Friday filed a case in the Moscow Arbitration Court against Shvartsman and Kommersant, the business newspaper which published his interview, the court said on its web site The court said the arms exporter had filed the case because it was “seeking to protect its business reputation.” Neither Rosoboronexport nor Shvartsman could be reached immediately for comment. Kommersant editor Andrei Vasilyev told Reuters he knew nothing of the lawsuit because he was on holiday outside Russia. Shvartsman previously said the newspaper quoted him out of context.

The hugely popular Putin is to step down next year and he has endorsed his close ally Dmitry Medvedev to succeed him, virtually assuring Medvedev victory in a presidential election in March. The biggest threat to a smooth handover is an outbreak of infighting inside the Kremlin as rival clans jostle for influence after Putin leaves office. Some observers saw Putin’s endorsement of Medvedev, a former law professor with no security background, as a blow to the “siloviki” and a victory for rival groups. But analysts say the “siloviki” could still hit back by trying to derail a handover of power to Medvedev. Commentators speculated that a Kremlin group was behind the initiative to publish the interview and that its aim had been to discredit the “siloviki” and weaken their influence.

Remember the KGB Coup?

The Associated Press reports:

Vladimir Kryuchkov, the former KGB chief who spearheaded a failed coup against Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, has died, officials said Sunday. He was 83. Kryuchkov died Friday in Moscow of an unspecified illness, a spokesman for the Federal Security Service said. Kryuchkov worked with future Soviet leader Yury Andropov in the Hungarian Embassy in the 1950s. When Andropov became head of the KGB in 1967, he helped Kryuchkov rise through the ranks. Kryuchkov in 1974 was appointed chief of the KGB’s First Main Directorate in charge of spying abroad. In 1988, Gorbachev appointed Kryuchkov as KGB chief. In August 1991, Kryuchkov joined other hard-line Communists who ousted Gorbachev and declared a state of emergency. The coup collapsed after three days, and Kryuchkov and other coup plotters were jailed but freed on an amnesty in early 1994. Last month, Kryuchkov warned of “big trouble” if a turf battle between security agencies continues to fester. He and other KGB veterans called on the feuding forces to unite behind President Vladimir Putin. Kryuchkov’s funeral is planned for Tuesday.

Failed? Who says it failed? The KGB currently rules Russia, doesn’t it?

Russian Spies Swarm Britian, Create Terror Risks

The Times of London reports that frenzied, aggressive spying by Russia is forcing British authorities to divert resources from their fight against terrorism. In other words, Vladimir Putin is acting in league with Osama Bin Laden

A 23-YEAR-OLD man has been arrested under the Official Secrets Act for allegedly attempting to pass military information to the Russians. The suspect, who lives in Yorkshire, had worked at a government establishment but is not a former serviceman. He was arrested in a Metropolitan Police operation on Wednesday. A Scotland Yard spokeswoman confirmed a suspect was being held at a Yorkshire police station. She said he had been arrested under the Official Secrets Act and for a suspected explosives offence after certain materials were found. It is claimed the man, from Skipton, North Yorkshire, was trying to leak military secrets from his previous occupation to the Russians. Scotland Yard would not comment on the allegations. Police have searched a residential and business address linked to the suspect. He had only recently moved to Yorkshire.

One of the most recent cases of an arrest under the Official Secrets Act involved Ian Parr, a former employee at BAE Systems Avionics. He subsequently admitted the offences and was jailed for 10 years in April 2003. Parr, from Rochford, Essex, tried to sell the Russian confidential details of seven defence projects, including a missile system then being deployed in Iraq. He met his “contact” in a pub but later found out he was in fact trying to betray his country to an undercover MI5 officer. Sentencing Parr, Judge Michael Hyam said the sentence reflected the seriousness of the offences. “I cannot accept that you were so naive that you did not know what you were doing was a risk to the nation’s security,” he said.

UK-Russia relations have deteriorated in the last two years. There was particular anger that the Russian authorities refused to extradite suspects thought to be involved in the death of Alexander Litvinenko, a former KGB officer who died of radiation poisoning last November. Last July the British government expelled four Russian diplomats from London in response to the lack of cooperation over the Litvinenko investigation. The Kremlin responded by expelling four British embassy staff. The security and intelligence services are known to be on alert over the passing of British defence secrets to Russia. Just two days before last week’s arrest Jonathan Evans, the director-general of MI5, warned of the continuing espionage threat from Russia.

“There has been no decrease in the numbers of Russian intelligence officers conducting covert activity in the UK, despite the cold war ending nearly two decades ago,” he said. “MI5 is expending resources to defend the UK against unreconstructed attempts by Russians, and others, to spy on the UK. “The size and nature of this threat means that MI5 still has to devote significant amounts of equipment, money and staff to countering this threat, when they could be devoted to countering the threat from international terrorism.”

Last night Peter Hill, 23, a risk analyst, was charged for possession of explosive materials including sodium chlorate and a metal hollow tube. He was bailed until April next year pending further inquiries into alleged breaches of the Official Secrets Act.

Brilliant Coalson on the KGB "Mind"

For La Russophobe‘s money, you can’t get better, more insightful analysis of Russia than what comes from Robert Coalson, whose brilliant column in the Moscow Times was required reading and is much missed (ah, the days of Coalson and Felgenhaur — those were the days!). Radio Free Europe carries his latest opus, dealing with the Chekist “mindset.”

No one knows how many people were working for or with the KGB when the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991. That information was never revealed in a country where even rudimentary lustration never got off the ground.

Journalist Yevgenia Albats, in her 1992 book “A State Within A State,” estimates that 720,000 people actively worked for the agency (across the entire Soviet Union) and some 2.9 million “cooperated” with it. To a large and, perhaps ultimately, unknowable extent, many of these people now rule Russia and seem well on the way to building an undemocratic system of political and economic control that can last into the foreseeable future.

Sociologist Olga Kryshtanovskaya estimates that 26 percent of Russia’s senior political and commercial leadership are siloviki, the term for people who emerged from the state security organs or the military. If one tries to account for everyone connected with the security organs in one way or another, Kryshtanovskaya’s estimate rises to 78 percent of the elite.

The Rise Of The Chekisty

At the top of this vast pyramid of power stand those — like President Vladimir Putin — who were formed and socialized with the KGB during the 1970s, when Yury Andropov was reinvigorating the agency and instilling a new sense of mission and pride following the gradual and partial exposure in the 1950s and 1960s of the crimes committed by the secret police under Lenin and Stalin.

Although it would be an exaggeration to speak of this group in terms of conspiracy, it definitely forms a network or community of like-minded professionals, a largely mutually supporting community sharing common values, a common worldview, and common approaches to problem solving. Albats, writing in “Novoye vremya” this month, described this group as “a union of people bound by a common past, a common education, and even a common language of gestures….”

It is important to distinguish ordinary siloviki, a broad term that encompasses a wide range of views along the nationalist-patriotic-militarist spectrum, from the chekisty, the KGB products who are directing Russia’s political and economic development and who see themselves as the nearly messianic saviors of Russia from a raft of internal and external enemies.

The term “chekist” comes from the Russian abbreviation ChK, or Extraordinary Commission, which was the original secret police organization set up under Lenin by the sadistic Feliks Dzerzhinsky, and an abbreviation that was echoed by the August 1991 KGB-led coup attempt against Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev, which called itself the State Committee for the Emergency Situation (GKChP). In a 1967 speech, Andropov praised Dzerzhinsky as “a man infinitely devoted to the revolution and ruthless toward its enemies.” Dzerzhinsky himself wrote in 1919 that “I know that for many there is no name more terrifying than mine.”

Enemies All Around

Ignoring the ChK’s dark history of political oppression and domestic terror, modern-day chekisty are proud to wear this badge. As Federal Antinarcotics Committee Chairman Viktor Cherkesov, a leading member of Putin’s inner circle who made his reputation fighting political dissent as the head of the KGB’s Leningrad Directorate, wrote in “Komsomolskaya pravda” in 2004: “I remain faithful to the main thing — to the sense of my work as a chekist. To the sense of my chekist fate. I did not reject this faith during the peak of the democratic attacks in the early 1990s, as everyone knows. I will not reject it now.” Duma Deputy Anatoly Yermolin, a longtime KGB hand and a graduate of the KGB’s Andropov Academy who now serves on the Foreign Affairs Committee, told RFE/RL on October 10: “I like the word [chekist]. I got used to it during long years of service in chekist units.”

The chekist mind-set has a number of important facets that are influencing the way this network is guiding Russia’s development. First and foremost, stemming from the origins of the ChK and having received reinforcement during the long years of the Cold War, is a fundamentally martial orientation. “Our profession, of course, is a military one,” Cherkesov wrote in his 2004 article. This mentality colors the chekists’ perceptions of everything from developments on the world stage to domestic political disputes, sometimes even giving chekist actions and statements a tinge of paranoia. “The collapse of the chekist community — the system of ensuring national security — is necessary only to the enemies of that security,” Cherkesov wrote. He goes on to cite the need for “cleansing…the antistate and antisociety viruses that have infected our society.” In 1994, KGB Major General Boris Solomatin wrote in “Trud” that “through the efforts of some journalists and politicians, state-security officers are being made outcasts in their own state.”

Among the many “enemies” the chekist feels threatened by, pride of place has always been given to the United States, which was routinely called “the main enemy” by the KGB. Many chekisty believe the United States is determined at the least to subordinate Russia, if not to see the country broken up into insignificant entities. The war in Afghanistan in the 1980s was the most direct sustained conflict between the CIA and KGB, and the sting of the KGB’s “defeat” and the sometimes sophomoric crowing of the United States about that outcome can hardly have been forgotten by Andropov’s successors. Some of the most powerful chekisty in Putin’s inner circle, including deputy presidential-administration head Viktor Ivanov and Federal State Reserves Agency head Aleksandr Grigoryev, served in Afghanistan.

By Any Means Necessary

The martial mind-set of the chekisty gives their thinking a distinctly teleological flavor; that is, the ends justify the means. Feeling surrounded by enemies, certain that only they understand what is needed to save the country, and operating with impunity, the only limits to chekisty action are those of their own imaginations and consciences — and there is considerable evidence that their consciences are no limit at all.

In her book, journalist Albats describes how a KGB general threatened her for serving as a member of the State Commission to Investigate the Activities of the KGB during the (August 1991) Coup. The general needn’t have bothered, since that commission was headed by silovik General Sergei Stepashin and its work led to nothing.

Members of an independent commission set up in 2002 by longtime dissident and rights activist Sergei Kovalyov to investigate the possible involvement of the Federal Security Service (FSB; one of the KGB’s main successor organizations) in a series of 1999 apartment-building bombings were not so lucky: Duma Deputy Sergei Yushenkov was shot dead in Moscow in April 2003; Duma Deputy and investigative reporter Yury Shchekochikhin died of suspected thalium poisoning in July 2003; former KGB investigator Mikhail Trepashkin, who served as the commission’s investigator, was arrested in October 2003 and sentenced to four years in prison in a closed trial; and the commission’s key witness, former FSB officer Aleksandr Litvinenko, died of radiation poisoning in London in November 2006. The Russian secret services’ involvement in the February 2004 assassination in Doha of former acting Chechen President Zelmikhan Yandarbiyev was established by a Qatari court.

A State Within A State

When the Soviet Union collapsed and the country passed through the traumas of the 1990s, the KGB and the chekist community were able to maintain relative cohesion because of two key factors: secrecy and information. Their ability to resist lustration, to have the instigators of the 1991 coup attempt exonerated and even honored, and ultimately to place one of their own in the presidency — all of which seemed virtually impossible in 1992 and 1993 — must have proven the crucial importance of maintaining and monopolizing these assets.

As a result, chekist systems — political, administrative, or commercial — must be closed and opaque. Within Putin’s administration, we see the complete elimination of normal checks and balances, only partially replaced by internal checks of dubious and unconfirmable reliability. Speaking of possible illegalities within the security services, Cherkesov wrote that “people must know that, in addition to the prosecutor’s investigation, their fate will always be protected by the involvement of the agency itself, by the strength of our fraternity of service.” The chekist community develops its own methods of disciplining individual members without endangering the hidden fraternity itself.

The KGB always worked as a state within a state, and that capacity served it well during the crises of the 1990s and to the present day. The Putin administration works in the same way that the KGB did, salting organizations throughout society with representatives of the chekisty, who can be counted on to facilitate the chekist agenda when necessary. This phenomenon regularly rears its head with regard to prosecutors and judges, but shadows of it emerge occasionally in the work of journalists, regulators, politicians, businesspeople, and others. “There is no area of our lives — from religion to sports — where the [KGB] doesn’t pursue some interest of its own,” KGB defector Oleg Kalugin said in the early 1990s. And those ends are pursued through pressure, manipulation, sabotage, and subterfuge instead of by means of the rule of law or institutionalized procedures that might produce unwelcome results or restrictive precedents.

A 1993 Moscow conference on “The KGB: Yesterday, Today, And Tomorrow” adopted a resolution stating: “We believe that the development of a democratic process in the country is impossible while state security services continue to perform functions of state management.” This statement has been borne out by events of the last 15 years. At the same time, the international community has found Russia to be an increasingly unreliable player whose words and actions often seem fundamentally out of sync. The rise of the silovik in Russia would be an alarming enough phenomenon both within Russia and abroad; the rise of the chekist is an order of magnitude more worrisome.

The Queen Gets Up in Mr. Putin’s Face

The Moscow Times reports on how the British monarch is thumbing her nose at the malignant little troll who creeps about in the Kremlin. You go, girl!

It was once Colonel Oleg Gordievsky [pictured below, right] of the KGB. Today it is Sir Oleg Gordievsky KGB after the queen honored the former Soviet intelligence officer by appointing him Knight Governor of the Most Distinguished Order of the Bath at a ceremony in Buckingham Palace. Others who have been invested into this ancient order have included the late Ronald Reagan, Caspar Weinberger and Sir Bob Geldof.

“I’m delighted to be able to put the letters KGB after my name,” said Sir Oleg, speaking from his top secret MI5 safe house at 25 Rosewood Villas, Cheltenham. “Even since I was a boy growing up in a crumbling pannelny dom in Nizhny Strashnov, I dreamed of such an honor. To be a knight of chivalry became the goal of my life.

“I read stories about Rapunzel letting down her silky hair from the turrets of her castle or about the heroic exploits of secret orders like the Knights of the Vine, who operated entirely at night in expensive restaurants, where they rescued priceless bottles of wine from confinement in cold, damp, badly lit cellars. Of course, that was all just childish fantasy. But in real life, to be in the KGB became my only professional ambition — a kind of complex.”

Sir Oleg entered the KGB as a talented young college graduate in the early 1970s. Despite rapid promotion, he became disillusioned with life on Lubyanskaya Ploshchad when he realized that it was never going to provide him with boxes at Ascot racecourse, Centre Court seats at Wimbledon or completely free access to the British secret service, even though the latter was explicitly mentioned in his compensation package.

So in 1985, he moved to Britain. Twenty years later, he had all three. Now he is a British KGB as well, the icing on Sir Oleg’s life cake. He is the only retired colonel in Cheltenham to have both KGBs.

“I’m over the moon,” said this now fully anglicized Russian, grinning impishly over a cup of Tetley’s Oop North tea (with milk and four sugars). “It’s almost like hearing that England has won an international soccer match.”

The rarely awarded KGB is used to honor exceptional individuals who have rendered important nonmilitary service to the queen in Britain or another member of the Commonwealth.

The Queen Gets Up in Mr. Putin’s Face

The Moscow Times reports on how the British monarch is thumbing her nose at the malignant little troll who creeps about in the Kremlin. You go, girl!

It was once Colonel Oleg Gordievsky [pictured below, right] of the KGB. Today it is Sir Oleg Gordievsky KGB after the queen honored the former Soviet intelligence officer by appointing him Knight Governor of the Most Distinguished Order of the Bath at a ceremony in Buckingham Palace. Others who have been invested into this ancient order have included the late Ronald Reagan, Caspar Weinberger and Sir Bob Geldof.

“I’m delighted to be able to put the letters KGB after my name,” said Sir Oleg, speaking from his top secret MI5 safe house at 25 Rosewood Villas, Cheltenham. “Even since I was a boy growing up in a crumbling pannelny dom in Nizhny Strashnov, I dreamed of such an honor. To be a knight of chivalry became the goal of my life.

“I read stories about Rapunzel letting down her silky hair from the turrets of her castle or about the heroic exploits of secret orders like the Knights of the Vine, who operated entirely at night in expensive restaurants, where they rescued priceless bottles of wine from confinement in cold, damp, badly lit cellars. Of course, that was all just childish fantasy. But in real life, to be in the KGB became my only professional ambition — a kind of complex.”

Sir Oleg entered the KGB as a talented young college graduate in the early 1970s. Despite rapid promotion, he became disillusioned with life on Lubyanskaya Ploshchad when he realized that it was never going to provide him with boxes at Ascot racecourse, Centre Court seats at Wimbledon or completely free access to the British secret service, even though the latter was explicitly mentioned in his compensation package.

So in 1985, he moved to Britain. Twenty years later, he had all three. Now he is a British KGB as well, the icing on Sir Oleg’s life cake. He is the only retired colonel in Cheltenham to have both KGBs.

“I’m over the moon,” said this now fully anglicized Russian, grinning impishly over a cup of Tetley’s Oop North tea (with milk and four sugars). “It’s almost like hearing that England has won an international soccer match.”

The rarely awarded KGB is used to honor exceptional individuals who have rendered important nonmilitary service to the queen in Britain or another member of the Commonwealth.

Goble on Russia’s Fifth Column Abroad

Scholar/blogger Paul Goble explains Russia’s neo-Soviet attempts to develop a “fifth column” to undermine the West:

The Kremlin’s effort to organize and direct what the Russian officials call “compatriots” abroad – a term many of them apply collectively to Russian citizens living abroad, Russian emigres of all waves, and former Soviet citizens living outside the CIS – has provoked protests from both emigres and domestic groups. Many Russian emigres and domestic nationalist groups object to the Kremlin’s lumping together such disparate groups. Others complain Moscow’s involvement opens them to charges of being a Russian “fifth column.” And still a third group, otherwise sympathetic, object to the heavy-handed way Russian officials are carrying it out.

Earlier this year, Russian officials said that they hoped to create “coordinating councils of Russian compatriots and former citizens of the USSR” around the world. A week ago, Russian emigres staged a demonstration in Prague against the effort to set up the first of these bodies for Western Europe. According to a Russian nationalist site in Moscow, the emigres said that they objected to “the administrative command methods [used by the Moscow organizers], the depoliticization of the Russian diaspora in Europe,” and the subordination of its activities to the Russian government. A small group of emigres assembled outside the Russian Center of Science and Culture in the Czech capital. Among the slogans on their signs was “”No to an all-European Coordinating Council of Russian Compatriots! Yes to a European Russian Forum! Yes to a constantly acting World Russian Assembly.” Other slogans included “The Coordinating Councils of Russian Compatriots are an experiment in offering to Europe a Supra-National Identity—the [non-ethnic] Russian people” and “The Multi-national Russian people is a utopia! Like the utopian idea of the Soviet people [which] lead to the destruction of the USSR.” And still another banners said, “Coordinating councils of Russian compatriots are a propagandistic, administrative measure for the liquidation of an independent Russian diasporas in Europe!” and “No to the neo-bolsheviks and neo-communist from United Russia.” Inside the Cultural Center where the meeting was being held, participants heard Konstantin Kosachev, the chairman of the Duma International Affairs Committee, say that the pro-Kremlin United Russia Party would “in the near future” develop its own conception for the support of compatriots abroad.”

Moreover, the Russian news agency,, reported on September 24th that Moscow plans to organize six more regional compatriot conferences and some 60 national conferences over the next year alone, all of them on the model of the Prague session and intended to lead to the creation of coordinating councils. Given Moscow’s support for this effort, such organizations almost certainly will be created. But the protests in Prague and the anger among some Russian nationalists at home make it likely that this will be yet another brainchild of the Kremlin that will prove to be stillborn.

Annals of Cold War II: Friendly, Reliable Russia Sends Spying into Overdrive

Spying on the United States by Russia and China has rebounded almost to Cold War levels, the top U.S. spy chief told Congress on Tuesday in seeking a permanent expansion of U.S. eavesdropping authority. National Intelligence Director Mike McConnell made the accusation as the White House stepped up lobbying a skeptical Democratic-led Congress for broadened surveillance powers, which are primarily cast as a counterterrorism tool. “China and Russia’s foreign intelligence services are among the most aggressive in collecting against sensitive and protected U.S. systems, facilities and development projects,” McConnell told the House of Representatives Judiciary Committee in written testimony. “Their efforts are approaching Cold War levels,” he said. McConnell declined to elaborate after the hearing. His spokesman, Ross Feinstein, said the testimony was meant to emphasize that the eavesdropping authority under the 1978 Foreign Intelligence and Surveillance Act, or FISA, is needed for traditional counterintelligence as well as terrorism surveillance. “FISA is beyond a terrorist tool, we are talking about foreign intelligence as well,” he said.

China and Russia, along with Iran, have long been considered leading countries which spy on the United States. Russian President Vladimir Putin, a former KGB agent, has overseen the re-emergence of the Russian security apparatus and promoted Cold War intelligence successes against the West. U.S. National Counterintelligence Executive Joel Brenner cited China earlier this year as among countries who seek civilian and military advantage by spying on the United States. “The Chinese are leveraging the American R&D (research and development) budget … in support of their own war-fighting capability,” Brenner said in a March speech to the American Bar Association.


Democratic lawmakers last month helped pass temporary legislation expanding federal authority to eavesdrop on foreign conversations. But many are wary of granting permanent authority without more restrictions to protect against broad eavesdropping on Americans’ international calls. They say U.S. President George W. Bush abused his trust by creating and not properly informing the U.S. Congress of a program of warrantless eavesdropping of international communications by people in the United States with suspected foreign enemies. “The power to invade people’s privacy cannot be exercised unchecked,” New York Democratic Rep. Jerrold Nadler said at the hearing. The eavesdropping program was put under court supervision earlier this year, and in August Congress passed six-month authority for the eavesdropping to continue. McConnell said that no Americans had been targeted for warrantless eavesdropping since he took over the job in February. He also said the government’s ability to collect foreign intelligence had declined this year until the temporary surveillance expansion was passed, but had since rebounded. Highlighting his call for the new powers, Bush is to visit on Wednesday the National Security Agency, which carries out electronic surveillance. The White House issued a fact sheet arguing that the rights of Americans would not be compromised by the legislation.
“The intelligence community needs all the appropriate tools,” White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said.

The Economist on the KGB-ificiation of Russia

The Economist offers a brilliant two part review of how the KGB has taken Russia over even more pervasively than under communism:

Part I: The Fall and Rise of the KGB

ON THE evening of August 22nd 1991—16 years ago this week—Alexei Kondaurov, a KGB general, stood by the darkened window of his Moscow office and watched a jubilant crowd moving towards the KGB headquarters in Lubyanka Square. A coup against Mikhail Gorbachev had just been defeated. The head of the KGB who had helped to orchestrate it had been arrested, and Mr Kondaurov was now one of the most senior officers left in the fast-emptying building. For a moment the thronged masses seemed to be heading straight towards him.

Then their anger was diverted to the statue of Felix Dzerzhinsky, the KGB‘s founding father. A couple of men climbed up and slipped a rope round his neck. Then he was yanked up by a crane. Watching “Iron Felix” sway in mid-air, Mr Kondaurov, who had served in the KGB since 1972, felt betrayed “by Gorbachev, by Yeltsin, by the impotent coup leaders”. He remembers thinking, “I will prove to you that your victory will be short-lived.”

Those feelings of betrayal and humiliation were shared by 500,000 KGB operatives across Russia and beyond, including Vladimir Putin, whose resignation as a lieutenant-colonel in the service had been accepted only the day before. Eight years later, though, the KGB men seemed poised for revenge. Just before he became president, Mr Putin told his ex-colleagues at the Federal Security Service (FSB), the KGB‘s successor, “A group of FSB operatives, dispatched under cover to work in the government of the Russian federation, is successfully fulfilling its task.” He was only half joking.

Over the two terms of Mr Putin’s presidency, that “group of FSB operatives” has consolidated its political power and built a new sort of corporate state in the process. Men from the FSB and its sister organisations control the Kremlin, the government, the media and large parts of the economy—as well as the military and security forces. According to research by Olga Kryshtanovskaya, a sociologist at the Russian Academy of Sciences, a quarter of the country’s senior bureaucrats are siloviki—a Russian word meaning, roughly, “power guys”, which includes members of the armed forces and other security services, not just the FSB. The proportion rises to three-quarters if people simply affiliated to the security services are included. These people represent a psychologically homogeneous group, loyal to roots that go back to the Bolsheviks’ first political police, the Cheka. As Mr Putin says repeatedly, “There is no such thing as a former Chekist.”

By many indicators, today’s security bosses enjoy a combination of power and money without precedent in Russia’s history. The Soviet KGB and its pre-revolutionary ancestors did not care much about money; power was what mattered. Influential though it was, the KGB was a “combat division” of the Communist Party, and subordinate to it. As an outfit that was part intelligence organisation, part security agency and part secret political police, it was often better informed, but it could not act on its own authority; it could only make “recommendations”. In the 1970s and 1980s it was not even allowed to spy on the party bosses and had to act within Soviet laws, however inhuman.

The KGB provided a crucial service of surveillance and suppression; it was a state within a state. Now, however, it has become the state itself. Apart from Mr Putin, “There is nobody today who can say no to the FSB,” says Mr Kondaurov.

All important decisions in Russia, says Ms Kryshtanovskaya, are now taken by a tiny group of men who served alongside Mr Putin in the KGB and who come from his home town of St Petersburg. In the next few months this coterie may well decide the outcome of next year’s presidential election. But whoever succeeds Mr Putin, real power is likely to remain in the organisation. Of all the Soviet institutions, the KGB withstood Russia’s transformation to capitalism best and emerged strongest. “Communist ideology has gone, but the methods and psychology of its secret police have remained,” says Mr Kondaurov, who is now a member of parliament.

Scotched, not killed

Mr Putin’s ascent to the presidency of Russia was the result of a chain of events that started at least a quarter of a century earlier, when Yuri Andropov, a former head of the KGB, succeeded Leonid Brezhnev as general secretary of the Communist Party. Andropov’s attempts to reform the stagnating Soviet economy in order to preserve the Soviet Union and its political system have served as a model for Mr Putin. Early in his presidency Mr Putin unveiled a plaque at the Lubyanka headquarters that paid tribute to Andropov as an “outstanding political figure”.

Staffed by highly educated, pragmatic men recruited in the 1960s and 1970s, the KGB was well aware of the dire state of the Soviet economy and the antique state of the party bosses. It was therefore one of the main forces behind perestroika, the loose policy of restructuring started by Mr Gorbachev in the 1980s. Perestroika‘s reforms were meant to give the Soviet Union a new lease of life. When they threatened its existence, the KGB mounted a coup against Mr Gorbachev. Ironically, this precipitated the Soviet collapse.

The defeat of the coup gave Russia an historic chance to liquidate the organisation. “If either Gorbachev or Yeltsin had been bold enough to dismantle the KGB during the autumn of 1991, he would have met little resistance,” wrote Yevgenia Albats, a journalist who has courageously covered the grimmest chapters in the KGB‘s history. Instead, both Mr Gorbachev and Yeltsin tried to reform it.

The “blue blood” of the KGB—the First Chief Directorate, in charge of espionage—was spun off into a separate intelligence service. The rest of the agency was broken into several parts. Then, after a few short months of talk about openness, the doors of the agency slammed shut again and the man charged with trying to reform it, Vadim Bakatin, was ejected. His glum conclusion, delivered at a conference in 1993, was that although the myth about the KGB‘s invincibility had collapsed, the agency itself was very much alive.

Indeed it was. The newly named Ministry of Security continued to “delegate” the officers of the “active reserve” into state institutions and commercial firms. Soon KGB officers were staffing the tax police and customs services. As Boris Yeltsin himself admitted by the end of 1993, all attempts to reorganise the KGB were “superficial and cosmetic”; in fact, it could not be reformed. “The system of political police has been preserved,” he said, “and could be resurrected.”

Yet Mr Yeltsin, though he let the agency survive, did not use it as his power base. In fact, the KGB was cut off from the post-Soviet redistribution of assets. Worse still, it was upstaged and outwitted by a tiny group of opportunists, many of them Jews (not a people beloved by the KGB), who became known as the oligarchs. Between them, they grabbed most of the country’s natural resources and other privatised assets. KGB officers watched the oligarchs get super-rich while they stayed cash-strapped and sometimes even unpaid.

Some officers did well enough, but only by offering their services to the oligarchs. To protect themselves from rampant crime and racketeering, the oligarchs tried to privatise parts of the KGB. Their large and costly security departments were staffed and run by ex-KGB officers. They also hired senior agency men as “consultants”. Fillip Bobkov, the head of the Fifth Directorate (which dealt with dissidents), worked for a media magnate, Vladimir Gusinsky. Mr Kondaurov, a former spokesman for the KGB, worked for Mikhail Khodorkovsky, who ran and largely owned Yukos. “People who stayed in the FSB were B-list,” says Mark Galeotti, a British analyst of the Russian special services.

Lower-ranking staff worked as bodyguards to Russia’s rich. (Andrei Lugovoi, the chief suspect in the murder in London last year of Alexander Litvinenko, once guarded Boris Berezovsky, an oligarch who, facing arrest in Russia, now lives in Britain.) Hundreds of private security firms staffed by KGB veterans sprang up around the country and most of them, though not all, kept their ties to their alma mater. According to Igor Goloshchapov, a former KGB special-forces commando who is now a spokesman for almost 800,000 private security men,

In the 1990s we had one objective: to survive and preserve our skills. We did not consider ourselves to be separate from those who stayed in the FSB. We shared everything with them and we saw our work as just another form of serving the interests of the state. We knew that there would come a moment when we would be called upon.

That moment came on New Year’s Eve 1999, when Mr Yeltsin resigned and, despite his views about the KGB, handed over the reins of power to Mr Putin, the man he had put in charge of the FSB in 1998 and made prime minister a year later.

The inner circle

As the new president saw things, his first task was to restore the management of the country, consolidate political power and neutralise alternative sources of influence: oligarchs, regional governors, the media, parliament, opposition parties and non-governmental organisations. His KGB buddies helped him with the task.

The most politically active oligarchs, Mr Berezovsky, who had helped Mr Putin come to power, and Mr Gusinsky, were pushed out of the country, and their television channels were taken back into state hands. Mr Khodorkovsky, Russia’s richest man, was more stubborn. Despite several warnings, he continued to support opposition parties and NGOs and refused to leave Russia. In 2003 the FSB arrested him and, after a show trial, helped put him in jail.

To deal with unruly regional governors, Mr Putin appointed special envoys with powers of supervision and control. Most of them were KGB veterans. The governors lost their budgets and their seats in the upper house of the Russian parliament. Later the voters lost their right to elect them.

All the strategic decisions, according to Ms Kryshtanovskaya, were and still are made by the small group of people who have formed Mr Putin’s informal politburo. They include two deputy heads of the presidential administration: Igor Sechin, who officially controls the flow of documents but also oversees economic matters, and Viktor Ivanov, responsible for personnel in the Kremlin and beyond. Then come Nikolai Patrushev, the head of the FSB, and Sergei Ivanov, a former defence minister and now the first deputy prime minister. All are from St Petersburg, and all served in intelligence or counter-intelligence. Mr Sechin is the only one who does not advertise his background.

That two of the most influential men, Mr Sechin and Viktor Ivanov, hold only fairly modest posts (each is a deputy head) and seldom appear in public is misleading. It was, after all, common Soviet practice to have a deputy, often linked to the KGB, who carried more weight than his notional boss. “These people feel more comfortable when they are in the shadows,” explains Ms Kryshtanovskaya.

In any event, each of these KGB veterans has a plethora of followers in other state institutions. One of Mr Patrushev’s former deputies, also from the KGB, is the minister of the interior, in charge of the police. Sergei Ivanov still commands authority within the army’s headquarters. Mr Sechin has close family ties to the minister of justice. The prosecution service, which in Soviet times at least nominally controlled the KGB‘s work, has now become its instrument, along with the tax police.

The political clout of these siloviki is backed by (or has resulted in) state companies with enormous financial resources. Mr Sechin, for example, is the chairman of Rosneft, Russia’s largest state-run oil company. Viktor Ivanov heads the board of directors of Almaz-Antei, the country’s main producer of air-defence rockets, and of Aeroflot, the national airline. Sergei Ivanov oversees the military-industrial complex and is in charge of the newly created aircraft-industry monopoly.

But the siloviki reach farther, into all areas of Russian life. They can be found not just in the law-enforcement agencies but in the ministries of economy, transport, natural resources, telecoms and culture. Several KGB veterans occupy senior management posts in Gazprom, Russia’s biggest company, and its pocket bank, Gazprombank (whose vice-president is the 26-year-old son of Sergei Ivanov).

Alexei Gromov, Mr Putin’s trusted press secretary, sits on the board of Channel One, Russia’s main television channel. The railway monopoly is headed by Vladimir Yakunin, a former diplomat who served his country at the United Nations in New York and is believed to have held a high rank in the KGB. Sergei Chemezov, Mr Putin’s old KGB friend from his days in Dresden (where the president worked from 1985 to 1990), is in charge of Rosoboronexport, a state arms agency that has grown on his watch into a vast conglomerate. The list goes on.

Many officers of the active reserve have been seconded to Russia’s big companies, both private and state-controlled, where they draw a salary while also remaining on the FSB payroll. “We must make sure that companies don’t make decisions that are not in the interest of the state,” one current FSB colonel explains. Being an active-reserve officer in a firm is, says another KGB veteran, a dream job: “You get a huge salary and you get to keep your FSB card.” One such active-reserve officer is the 26-year-old son of Mr Patrushev who was last year seconded from the FSB to Rosneft, where he is now advising Mr Sechin. (After seven months at Rosneft, Mr Putin awarded Andrei Patrushev the Order of Honour, citing his professional successes and “many years of conscientious work”.) Rosneft was the main recipient of Yukos’s assets after the firm was destroyed.

The attack on Yukos, which entered its decisive stage just as Mr Sechin was appointed to Rosneft, was the first and most blatant example of property redistribution towards the siloviki, but not the only one. Mikhail Gutseriev, the owner of Russneft, a fast-growing oil company, was this month forced to give up his business after being accused of illegal activities. For a time, he had refused; but, as he explained, “they tightened the screws” and one state agency after another—the general prosecutor’s office, the tax police, the interior ministry—began conducting checks on him.

From oligarchy to spookocracy

The transfer of financial wealth from the oligarchs to the siloviki was perhaps inevitable. It certainly met with no objection from most Russians, who have little sympathy for “robber barons”. It even earned the siloviki a certain popularity. But whether they will make a success of managing their newly acquired assets is doubtful. “They know how to break up a company or to confiscate something. But they don’t know how to manage a business. They use force simply because they don’t know any other method,” says an ex-KGB spook who now works in business.

Curiously, the concentration of such power and economic resources in the hands of a small group of siloviki, who identify themselves with the state, has not alienated people in the lower ranks of the security services. There is trickle-down of a sort: the salary of an average FSB operative has gone up several times over the past decade, and a bit of freelancing is tolerated. Besides, many Russians inside and outside the ranks believe that the transfer of assets from private hands to the siloviki is in the interests of the state. “They are getting their own back and they have the right to do so,” says Mr Goloshchapov.

The rights of the siloviki, however, have nothing to do with the formal kind that are spelled out in laws or in the constitution. What they are claiming is a special mission to restore the power of the state, save Russia from disintegration and frustrate the enemies that might weaken it. Such idealistic sentiments, says Mr Kondaurov, coexist with an opportunistic and cynical eagerness to seize the situation for personal or institutional gain.

The security servicemen present themselves as a tight brotherhood entitled to break any laws for the sake of their mission. Their high language is laced with profanity, and their nationalism is often combined with contempt for ordinary people. They are, however, loyal to each other.

Competition to enter the service is intense. The KGB picked its recruits carefully. Drawn from various institutes and universities, they then went to special KGB schools. Today the FSB Academy in Moscow attracts the children of senior siloviki; a vast new building will double its size. The point, says Mr Galeotti, the British analyst, “is not just what you learn, but who you meet there”.

Graduates of the FSB Academy may well agree. “A Chekist is a breed,” says a former FSB general. A good KGB heritage—a father or grandfather, say, who worked for the service—is highly valued by today’s siloviki. Marriages between siloviki clans are also encouraged.

Viktor Cherkesov, the head of Russia’s drug-control agency, who was still hunting dissidents in the late 1980s, has summed up the FSB psychology in an article that has become the manifesto of the siloviki and a call for consolidation.

We [siloviki] must understand that we are one whole. History ruled that the weight of supporting the Russian state should fall on our shoulders. I believe in our ability, when we feel danger, to put aside everything petty and to remain faithful to our oath.

As well as invoking secular patriotism, Russia’s security bosses can readily find allies among the priesthood. Next to the FSB building in Lubyanka Square stands the 17th-century church of the Holy Wisdom, “restored in August 2001with zealous help from the FSB,” says a plaque. Inside, freshly painted icons gleam with gold. “Thank God there is the FSB. All power is from God and so is theirs,” says Father Alexander, who leads the service. A former KGB general agrees: “They really believe that they were chosen and are guided by God and that even the high oil prices they have benefited from are God’s will.”

Sergei Grigoryants, who has often been interrogated and twice imprisoned (for anti-Soviet propaganda) by the KGB, says the security chiefs believe “that they are the only ones who have the real picture and understanding of the world.” At the centre of this picture is an exaggerated sense of the enemy, which justifies their very existence: without enemies, what are they for? “They believe they can see enemies where ordinary people can’t,” says Ms Kryshtanovskaya.

“A few years ago, we succumbed to the illusion that we don’t have enemies and we have paid dearly for that,” Mr Putin told the FSB in 1999. It is a view shared by most KGB veterans and their successors. The greatest danger comes from the West, whose aim is supposedly to weaken Russia and create disorder. “They want to make Russia dependent on their technologies,” says a current FSB staffer. “They have flooded our market with their goods. Thank God we still have nuclear arms.” The siege mentality of the siloviki and their anti-Westernism have played well with the Russian public. Mr Goloshchapov, the private agents’ spokesman, expresses the mood this way: “In Gorbachev’s time Russia was liked by the West and what did we get for it? We have surrendered everything: eastern Europe, Ukraine, Georgia. NATO has moved to our borders.”

From this perspective, anyone who plays into the West’s hands at home is the internal enemy. In this category are the last free-thinking journalists, the last NGOs sponsored by the West and the few liberal politicians who still share Western values.

To sense the depth of these feelings, consider the response of one FSB officer to the killing of Anna Politkovskaya, a journalist whose books criticising Mr Putin and his brutal war in Chechnya are better known outside than inside Russia. “I don’t know who killed her, but her articles were beneficial to the Western press. She deserved what she got.” And so, by this token, did Litvinenko, the ex-KGB officer poisoned by polonium in London last year.

In such a climate, the idea that Russia’s security services are entitled to deal ruthlessly with enemies of the state, wherever they may be, has gained wide acceptance and is supported by a new set of laws. One, aimed at “extremism”, gives the FSB and other agencies ample scope to pursue anyone who acts or speaks against the Kremlin. It has already been invoked against independent analysts and journalists. A lawyer who complained to the Constitutional Court about the FSB‘s illegal tapping of his client’s telephone has been accused of disclosing state secrets. Several scientists who collaborated with foreign firms are in jail for treason.

Despite their loyalty to old Soviet roots, today’s security bosses differ from their predecessors. They do not want a return to communist ideology or an end to capitalism, whose fruits they enjoy. They have none of the asceticism of their forebears. Nor do they relish mass repression: in a country where fear runs deep, attacking selected individuals does the job. But the concentration of such power and money in the hands of the security services does not bode well for Russia.

And not very good at their job

The creation of enemies may smooth over clan disagreements and fuel nationalism, but it does not make the country more secure or prosperous. While the FSB reports on the ever-rising numbers of foreign spies, accuses scientists of treason and hails its “brotherhood”, Russia remains one of the most criminalised, corrupt and bureaucratic countries in the world.

During the crisis at a school in Beslan in 2004, the FSB was good at harassing journalists trying to find out the truth. But it could not even cordon off the school in which the hostages were held. Under the governorship of an ex-FSB colleague of Mr Putin, Ingushetia, the republic that borders Chechnya, has descended into a new theatre of war. The army is plagued by crime and bullying. Private businessmen are regularly hassled by law-enforcement agencies. Russia’s foreign policy has turned out to be self-fulfilling: by perpetually denouncing enemies on every front, it has helped to turn many countries from potential friends into nervous adversaries.

The rise to power of the KGB veterans should not have been surprising. In many ways, argues Inna Solovyova, a Russian cultural historian, it had to do with the qualities that Russians find appealing in their rulers: firmness, reserve, authority and a degree of mystery. “The KGB fitted this description, or at least knew how to seem to fit it.”

But are they doing the country any good? “People who come from the KGB are tacticians. We have never been taught to solve strategic tasks,” says Mr Kondaurov. The biggest problem of all, he and a few others say, is the agency’s loss of professionalism. He blushes when he talks about the polonium capers in London. “We never sank to this level,” he sighs. “What a blow to the country’s reputation!”

Part II: Putin’s People

“OUR pilots have been grounded for too long. They are happy to start a new life.” So said Vladimir Putin as he sent Russia’s nuclear bombers back aloft on the world-spanning patrols they had suspended after the collapse of the Soviet Union. This comes hard on the heels of talk of reopening a Russian naval base in the Mediterranean, joint war games with China and the planting of the Russian flag in the polar seabed. The Soviet Union is dead and communism long buried. But Mr Putin wants you to know that the Russian bear is back—wearing a snarl with its designer sunglasses.

How has this situation come about? It is tempting to search for mistakes by Western governments, to look for the culprits who “lost Russia”. Yet as our briefing this week explains, the role of outsiders has been secondary. The best way to understand both Mr Putin’s ascent into the Kremlin and his rule since is to see them as the remarkable recovery of the culture, mentality and view of the world of the old KGB.

When Mr Putin was plucked from obscurity to become first Boris Yeltsin’s prime minister and later his successor as Russia’s president, few in the West had heard of this former KGB officer, who had briefly been head of the FSB, the KGB‘s post-Soviet successor. Just before he became president, Mr Putin told his colleagues that a group of FSB operatives, “dispatched under cover to work in the government of the Russian federation”, was successfully fulfilling its task. It was probably a joke. Yet during his two terms since then, men from the FSB and its sister outfits have indeed grabbed control of the government, economy and security forces. Three out of four senior Russian officials today were once affiliated to the KGB and other security and military organisations.

Why they do it

What motivates these so-called siloviki? In part, the wish for revenge on those who challenged them in the early 1990s, especially after the abortive KGB coup of August 1991. Greed may be the most powerful motive: some Kremlin insiders have hugely enriched themselves in the past decade, and corruption may be worse even than in the later Yeltsin years. But the new elite also has an ideology of sorts. They see the break-up of the Soviet Union as, in Mr Putin’s words, the “greatest geopolitical catastrophe” of the 20th century. Capitalising on a widespread sense that Russia has been humiliated, they want to create as mighty a state as the Soviet Union once was. They see the West as a foe bent on stopping them.

In this, Russia’s rulers have strong domestic support. It is hard to gauge Mr Putin’s popularity in a country with such tightly controlled media, but his opinion-poll ratings are impressively high. That nobody doubts his ability to choose his own successor owes a lot to his suppression of all dissent, but it reflects also the fact that voters have little love for the tiny liberal opposition remaining. Thanks to GDP growth that has averaged almost 7% a year under Mr Putin, many Russians feel better off, even if a lot are still poor. And many share the desire to reassert Russia’s greatness—and a deep-rooted belief that the West is Russia’s natural enemy.

It is foolish for people in the West to deny that Russia is a great power and that, in some ways, its influence has increased. When Mr Putin became president, its GDP was the world’s tenth-biggest and foreign reserves stood at $8.5 billion. Today Russia’s economy is the world’s eighth-largest, and the reserves are $407.5 billion. The Kremlin has played adeptly on Europe’s dependence on Russian gas to enhance its influence. On issues such as Kosovo or Iran, Russia has used its seat on the UN Security Council to force the West to pay it attention.

To achieve true greatness, unclench that fist

Yet the siloviki‘s ambitions remain misguided. That is not because there is anything illegitimate about wanting a strong Russia. What is wrong is how they define that strength—in the Soviet terms of awe and anxiety—and how they pursue it. The economy, for a start, is heavily dependent on high prices for oil, gas and other commodities that may not last. Russia is weak in manufacturing, services and high-tech industries. Putting spies in charge of big firms is a recipe for failure: they know how to grab assets and jail foes, but not how to run real businesses. Foreign investors may still covet Russia’s natural-resource sector, but a climate in which assets can be arbitrarily taken back by state officials and then redistributed to cronies is not welcoming. Both foreign and, more strikingly, domestic investment are very low compared with China.

Nor is it sensible to revive Russia’s old anti-Western, zero-sum strategic thinking. The West tried to be a friend in the Yeltsin years, but has since been put off by Russian belligerence. A resurgent Russia can throw its weight around the neighbourhood and intimidate ex-Soviet republics such as Georgia, Ukraine and the Baltics; but by alienating its neighbours Moscow harms its own interests too. By dint of size and military strength, Russia is a power in the world. Yet today even the “soft power” that the Soviet Union once wielded through communism has mostly gone. In its place is only fear.

The biggest misreading of all is over Russia’s own political future. The siloviki have shown they can squash opposition, suborn the courts and stay in charge. But, as in all autocracies, they are acutely nervous about the future. Mr Putin’s popularity will not easily transfer even to a hand-picked successor. More generally, as ordinary Russians get richer, they may grow dissatisfied with their present masters, especially when they see them stealing and mismanaging the economy. Russia has huge problems: crime, poor infrastructure, secessionism and chaos in the north Caucasus, appalling human-rights abuses and a looming demographic catastrophe. To counterbalance these woes, the new elite may resort to even wilder forms of nationalism; and that nationalism could turn into a monster that even its creators cannot control.

In truth, the biggest threats to Russia’s future stem not from its “enemies” but from internal weaknesses, some of them self-inflicted. For a Russian ruler, or ruling class, to accept that truth would take real courage—and real patriotism.

Russia Escalates Cold War II Unilaterally

How is reasonable, reliable, civilized Russia trying to resolve its dispute with Britain after expelling four British diplomats in a pure act of spite? Well, according to the Moscow Times, first it is kicking out totally innocent business men, inviting Britain to do the same (followed by the US and EU):

Moscow has asked the British Embassy’s top trade and development official to leave the country in a move suggesting the ongoing diplomatic dispute between Britain and Russia could spill over into the economic sphere. Reports that the senior embassy official is responsible for liaising with Russian government officials and British investors indicate that Andrew Levi counsellor for economic and scientific affairs, is one of the four British Embassy officials who have been told to leave. Multiple sources close to Levi, who oversees trade and investment, have confirmed that he is one of the four and is due to leave the country Sunday. The sources close to Levi spoke on condition of anonymity, and a British Embassy spokesman said Wednesday that it was standard practice not to identify staff involved in tit-for-tat expulsions. Levi himself could not be contacted Wednesday. Analysts were surprised the list of officials being expelled included such a high-ranking official, although they were divided on what effect this would have on the climate for British investment in Russia. Sources familiar with Levi’s case said Wednesday that he had played a significant role in dealing with recent difficulties faced by British firms operating in Russia. They said he acted as the point man during the negotiations over the Sakhalin-2 crisis, where Shell was forced to sell a controlling stake in a $22 billion energy project in the Far East to state-controlled Gazprom.

Next, Russia is announcing that it plans to dramatically increase espionage, inviting Britain, the EU and the US to do the same. In other words, Cold War II. The Associated Press reports:

President Vladimir Putin vowed Wednesday to strengthen Russia’s military capability and intensify spying abroad in response to U.S. plans to build missile defense sites and deploy troops in Eastern Europe. “The situation in the world and internal political interests require the Foreign Intelligence Service to increase its capabilities permanently, primarily in the field of information and analytical support for the country’s leadership,” Putin said at a meeting with senior military and security officers in the Kremlin, Interfax reported. The Foreign Intelligence Service is a successor to the KGB. Putin did not identify specific targets, but officials in the United States and Britain have said recently that Moscow has intensified its spying in those countries. Putin said U.S. plans to station troops in Eastern Europe and Washington’s intention to base missile defense sites in Poland and the Czech Republic pose security challenges for Russia. Washington says the facilities are needed to protect the United States and Europe from missiles from Iran or other rogue states. Putin has proposed that the United States use a radar base in Azerbaijan for missile defense. U.S. officials have questioned whether the facility is technically compatible with U.S. systems.

Kicking the Cold War up a Notch: Britain Honors Gordievsky

The BBC reports that Britain has tiven a high state honor to a major Soviet dissident, once again heroically getting right up in Russia’s face as the Cold War unfolds. Britain led the world in standing up against the first Soviet dictatorship, thankfully apppears ready to assume that role again:

Former KGB colonel Oleg Gordievsky [pictured, right, shaking hands with then U.S. president Ronald Reagan], who became the highest-ranking Soviet spy to defect to the west, has been honoured by the Queen. He has been appointed a Companion of the Most Distinguished Order of Saint Michael and Saint George. The recognition in the Birthday Honours Diplomatic List means he now holds the same title as book spook James Bond. And like 007, Mr Gordievsky operated in the murky world of secret assignments, assassinations and allegations. Disillusioned with the political situation in his homeland, he operated as a double agent during the Cold War. He passed on an unprecedented amount of information to British security while serving as KGB bureau chief in London. His help led to the expulsion of 25 Soviet agents working undercover in the UK.At the time, his defection was hailed by then Foreign Secretary Sir Geoffrey Howe as “a very substantial coup for our security forces”. Mr Gordievsky was MI5’s greatest asset between 1982 and 1985, when his cover was blown and he was ordered back to Moscow. He was eventually smuggled back to the West and has since written a number of books about the operations of the KGB. Fictional superspy James Bond was made a CMG in Ian Fleming’s novel From Russia With Love. Mr Gordievsky’s honour is for services to the security of the UK.

See also reports in the Guardian and the Independent. This comes directly on the heels of Russia, in crazed neo-Soviet fashion, responding by the announcement that Britain would prefer murder charges against Andrei Lugovoi by launching an investigation of whether Alexander Litvinenko was killed as part of a British spy conspiracy against Russia.

From Russia with Spies

If anyone needed any more conclusive proof that a cold war is now underway between Russia and the United States, or that Russia is no more a friendly and reliable partner of the U.S. than Iran or China, the Sunday Times provides it:

IT IS time to send for George Smiley. Russia’s covert foreign intelligence operations against America have reached cold war levels under President Vladimir Putin, according to Washington officials. White House intelligence advisers believe no other country is as aggressive as Russia in trying to obtain US secrets, with the possible exception of China. In particular the SVR, as the former KGB’s foreign intelligence arm is now known, is using a network of undercover agents in America to gather classified information about sensitive technologies, including military projects under development and high-tech research.

Yuri Shvets, a former KGB agent, said: “In the days of the Soviet Union, the number of spies was limited because they had to be based at the foreign ministry, the trade mission or the news agencies like Tass. Right now, virtually every successful private company in Russia is being used as a cover for Russian intelligence operations.” Intelligence experts believe that since Putin became president in 2000, the Russians have rebuilt a network of agents in the United States that had been depleted during the country’s transition from communism.

Putin served 16 years in the KGB, including a spell in foreign intelligence in East Germany. He became head of the FSB, the domestic security service. According to Shvets, the FSB has been operating widely in America because of its favoured status with Putin. Agents, some acting under diplomatic cover, are said to be trying to recruit specialists in American facilities with access to sensitive information.

A rare insight into the SVR’s methods was gained six months ago when the authorities in Canada deported a Russian man who had been masquerading as a Canadian citizen. The alleged SVR agent had been living under a false identity as Paul William Hampel and was detained carrying a fake birth certificate, £3,000 in five currencies and several encrypted pre-paid mobile phone cards. He claimed to be a lifeguard and travel consultant but counter-intelligence officers believe he based himself in Montreal because the city is the centre of the Canadian aerospace industry. Carrying a Canadian passport, he would have been able to travel freely to the United States. In another incident last year, the Americans arrested Ariel Weinmann, a former US navy submariner, on charges of spying for the Russians. Weinmann was accused of making electronic copies of classified information which he sought to pass on to his handlers. He was sentenced to 12 years in jail.

John Pike, a military and security analyst who runs, said a surge in recruitment of US intelligence operatives since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 had presented great opportunities for the Russians to penetrate the CIA and other agencies. Shvets believes Russian agents are also entering America legally as immigrants, a rarity in the strictly controlled Soviet era. The increase in Russian intelligence activity abroad is in step with Moscow’s more aggressive stance since Putin came to power and turned the country’s lagging economy around on the back of record high oil prices.

Putin’s abrasive style has frustrated Washington. Relations between Russia and the United States are worse than at any time since the collapse of the Soviet Union. Comparisons with the tension of the cold war years have become commonplace. “President Putin thinks the United States has been weakened by Iraq,” said Richard Holbrooke, a former US ambassador to the United Nations. “He thinks he has been strengthened by recent events and high-priced oil and he is trying to put Russia back on the international map.” Estonia, the Baltic state, appeared last week to have become the target of a cyber attack after a row with Moscow over its decision to relocate a Soviet-era military monument. The Estonians claim professional hackers from Russia targeted the internet sites of ministries, parliament, banks, the media and large companies, causing their systems to crash. The attack followed Russian calls to impose sanctions on Estonia, cuts in Moscow’s oil and gas deliveries and a campaign of intimidation by a Kremlin-backed youth group against the Estonian ambassador. Nato has sent a cyber-crime expert to help the Estonians, fearing that it could be next.

These concerns were raised last week at a European summit attended by Putin and Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, at Samara in southern Russia. Merkel traded barbs with Putin over Russia’s human rights record and complained that critics of the Kremlin, including Garry Kasparov, the former chess champion, were prevented from attending a protest march. Moscow and Brussels are due to start talks on an agreement to cover trade, energy and foreign policy but Poland has been blocking the negotiations as a result of a Russian ban on its meat exports. The Kremlin’s relations with Lithuania are also tense following Moscow’s decision to cut oil supplies to the Baltic state.

In February Putin accused America of imposing its will on the rest of the world. He said that Washington’s plans to install 10 interceptor missiles in Poland and a radar station in the Czech Republic — part of an anti-missile shield bitterly opposed by the Russians — “could provoke nothing less than the beginning of a nuclear era”.

Past as Prologue: Annals of the KGB

Writing in the Sacramento Bee, syndicated columnist David Ignatius issues an ominous warning about the dangers of Russian intelligence:

Roll back the tape to January 1964: America is still reeling from the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, and investigators don’t know what to make of the fact that the apparent assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald, lived for three years in the Soviet Union. Did the Russians have any role in JFK’s death? At that very moment, a KGB defector named Yuri Nosenko surfaces in Geneva and tells his CIA handlers that he knows the Soviets had nothing to do with Oswald. How is Nosenko so sure? Because he personally handled Oswald’s KGB file, and he knows the spy service had never considered dealing with him.

For many spy buffs, the Nosenko story has always seemed too good to be true. How convenient that he defected at the very moment that the KGB’s chiefs were eager to reassure the Warren Commission about Oswald’s sojourn in Russia. What’s more, Nosenko brought other goodies that on close examination were also suspicious — information that seemed intended to divert the CIA’s attention from the possibility that its codes had been broken and its inner sanctum had been penetrated.

The Nosenko case is one of the gnarly puzzles of Cold War history.

It vexed the CIA’s fabled counterintelligence chief, James Jesus Angleton, to the end of his days.

And it has titillated a generation of novelists and screenwriters — most recently providing the background for Robert De Niro’s sinuous spy film, “The Good Shepherd.”

Now the CIA case officer who initially handled Nosenko, Tennent H. Bagley, has written his own account. And it is a stunner. It’s impossible to read this book without developing doubts about Nosenko’s bona fides. Many readers will conclude that Angleton was right all along — that Nosenko was a phony, sent by the KGB to deceive a gullible CIA.

That’s not the official CIA judgment, of course. The agency gave Nosenko its stamp of approval in 1968, and again in 1976. Indeed, as often happens, the agency itself became the villain, with critics denouncing Angleton, Bagley and other skeptics for their harsh interrogation of Nosenko. In its eagerness to tidy up the mess, the agency even invited Nosenko to lecture to its young officers about counterintelligence.

It happens that I met Angleton in the late 1970s, in the twilight of his life in the shadows. I was a young reporter in my late 20s, and it occurred to me to call the fabled counterintelligence chief and invite him to lunch. (Back then, even retired superspooks listed their numbers in the phone book. I can still hear in my mind his creepily precise voice on the answering machine: “We are not in, at present. …”)

Angleton arrived for lunch at his favorite haunt, the Army and Navy Club on Farragut Square, cadaverously thin and dressed in black. He might have been playing himself in a movie.

He displayed all the weird traits that were part of the Angleton legend, clasping his Virginia Slims cigarette daintily between thumb and forefinger and sipping his potent cocktail through a long, thin straw.

And he was still obsessed about the Nosenko case. He urged me, in a series of interviews, to pursue another Russian defector code-named “Sasha,” who he was convinced was part of the skein of KGB lies. The man ran a little picture-framing shop in Alexandria and seemed an unlikely master spy. I gradually concluded that Angleton had lost it, and after I wrote that he himself had once been accused of being the secret mole, he stopped returning my phone calls.

Bagley’s book, “Spy Wars,” should reopen the Nosenko case. He has gathered strong evidence that the Russian defector could not have been who he initially said he was; that he could not have reviewed the Oswald file; that his claims about how the KGB discovered the identities of two CIA moles in Moscow could not have been right.

According to Bagley, even Nosenko eventually admitted that some of what he had told the CIA was a lie.

What larger purpose did the deception serve? Bagley argues that the KGB’s real game was to steer the CIA away from realizing that the Russians had recruited one American code clerk in Moscow in 1949, and perhaps two others later on. The KGB may also have hoped to protect an early (and to this day undiscovered) mole inside the CIA.

Take a stroll with Bagley down paranoia lane and you are reminded just how good the Russians are at the three-dimensional chess game of intelligence. For a century, their spies have created entire networks of illusion — phony dissident movements, fake spy services — to condition the desired response.

Reading Bagley’s book, I could not help thinking: What mind games are the Russians playing with us today?

Annals of Cold War II: Send in the Spies

The Moscow Times reports on yet another convincing demonstration by Russia that it is a friendly, reliable country that means the USA no harm:

A senior U.S. counterintelligence official said Thursday that Russia had fully restored its espionage capabilities against the United States after a period of decline following the Cold War.

Joel Brenner, the head of the Office of the National Counterintelligence Executive, said the United States was concerned that Russia was continuing to ramp up its operations.

“The Russians are now back at Cold War levels in their efforts against the United States,” he said at an event held by the American Bar Association, a lawyers’ group. “They are sending over an increasing and troubling number of intelligence agents.”

The comments come at time of greater tension between the two countries. President Vladimir Putin has sharply criticized the United States in recent months, and he told Arab leaders in a letter Thursday that Washington should set a time limit for its military presence in Iraq. Also Thursday, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov criticized the United States for conducting naval maneuvers in the Persian Gulf.

Brenner, whose job is to oversee counterintelligence strategy and policy for U.S. intelligence chief Mike McConnell, did not provide details about suspected Russian intelligence operations in the United States. Sensitive counterintelligence activities are classified.

But he said Moscow appeared less interested in U.S. commercial and military technology than other countries, including China, which U.S. officials including China, which U.S. officials have described as the greatest counterintelligence threat facing the United States.

McConnell also warned the U.S. Senate last month that Russia was taking a step backward in its democratic progress and could be heading for a controlled succession to Putin. Moscow responded by describing his remarks as “outdated assumptions.”

The U.S. government has suffered several embarrassing security breaches at the hands of Russian and Soviet intelligence moles, including former CIA case officer Aldrich Ames and former FBI agent Robert Hanssen.

Brenner said Ames provided the Soviets with enough information about U.S. officials to “decapitate” America’s leadership in the event of war.

But Moscow intelligence does not now appear interested in posing a physical threat to U.S. leaders. “It’s not a strike threat they’re after. I don’t want to give that impression,” Brenner said.

Russian officials have expressed frustration at what they see as U.S. foreign policy unrestrained by consultation with other world powers, including Russia. They have criticized the expansion of NATO into the former Soviet sphere of influence and U.S. plans to install radar and interceptors in Eastern Europe as part of a missile defense program.

In turn, U.S. officials have warned that Russia’s increased assertiveness in challenging U.S. policy is complicating cooperation on important foreign policy goals, including counterterrorism, nonproliferation and the promotion of democracy in the Middle East.

Both sides have denied that the tension means a return to the Cold War.

The Kremlin said Thursday that Putin had sent a letter to a summit of Arab leaders calling for a time limit on the U.S. military presence in Iraq.

Putin said in the letter to the summit, which opened Wednesday in the Saudi capital, that Russia highly valued “the Arab world’s contribution to building a just, multipolar world order and political and diplomatic settlement of crises.”

In what sounded like a veiled criticism of the United States, Putin complained in the letter against a “policy of unilateral use of force and a desire to monopolize conflict settlement.” He also criticized those seeking to “provoke a confrontation between civilizations and faiths.”

Lavrov, meanwhile, criticized the United States for conducting naval maneuvers in the Persian Gulf.

Lavrov said: “The Persian Gulf is in such a troubled state today that any actions in the region, especially those with the use of the navy and other military forces, should, of course, take into account the need to prevent the exacerbation of the situation even further. It has already been heightened to the limit.”

The U.S. exercise, which ended Wednesday, was the largest show of force in the Gulf since the 2003 invasion of Iraq, with 15 ships, 125 aircraft and 13,000 sailors taking part in maneuvers a few dozen kilometers off Iran’s coast.

The Putinization of Russia

William F. Jasper of The New American exposes the horrors of Putin’s Russia:

The return of the iron fist.“KGB influence ‘soars under Putin,'” blared the headline of a BBC online article for December 13, 2006. The following day, a similar headline echoed a similarly alarming story at the website of Der Spiegel, one of Germany’s largest news magazines: “Putin’s Russia: Kremlin Riddled with Former KGB Agents.”

In the opening sentences of Der Spiegel’s article, readers are informed that: “Four out of five members of Russia’s political and business elite have a KGB past, according to a new study by the prestigious [Russian] Academy of Sciences. The influence of ex-Soviet spies has ballooned under President Vladimir Putin.”

The study, which looked at 1,061 top Kremlin, regional, and corporate jobs, found that “78 percent of the Russian elite” are what are known in Russia as “siloviki,” which is to say, former members of the KGB or its domestic successor, the FSB. The author of the study, Olga Kryshtanovskaya, expressed shock at her own findings. “I was very shocked when I looked at the boards of major companies and realized there were lots of people who had completely unknown names, people who were not public but who were definitely, obvious siloviki,” she told Reuters.

Other supposed experts — in Russia and the West — have also expressed surprise and alarm at the apparent resurrection of the dreaded Soviet secret police. After all, for the past decade and a half these same experts have been pointing to the alleged demise of the KGB as the primary evidence supporting their claim that communism is dead.

From the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917, the Russian security apparatus Cheka (and its later permutations: OGPU, NKVD, MGB, KGB) had been the “sword and shield” of the communist world revolution.

“We stand for organized terror,” declared Felix Dzerzhinsky, the first chief of the Cheka for Soviet dictator Vladimir Lenin. In 1918, Dzerzhinsky launched the campaign of arrests and executions known as the Red Terror. Krasnaya Gazeta, the Bolshevik newspaper, expressed the Chekist credo when it reported approvingly in 1918 of the terror campaign: “We will make our hearts cruel, hard and immovable, so that no mercy will enter them, and so that they will not quiver at the sight of a sea of enemy blood.”

Unflinching cruelty and merciless, bloody terror have been the trademark of the communist secret police, from the Cheka to the KGB. Obviously, the demise of such an organization would be cause for much rejoicing. Hence, when the KGB was ordered dissolved and its chairman, General Vladimir Kryuchkov, was arrested in 1991 after attempting to overthrow “liberal reformer” Mikhail Gorbachev in the failed “August Coup,” many people in the West were only too willing to pop the champagne corks and start celebrating our supposed victory over the Evil Empire.

But, as Mikhail Leontiyev, commentator for Russia’s state-controlled Channel One television, recently noted, repeating a phrase popular among the siloviki: “Americans got so drunk at the USSR’s funeral that they’re still hung over.” And stumbling around in their post-inebriation haze, many of these Americans have only recently begun noticing that they had prematurely written the KGB’s epitaph, even as it was arising vampire-like from the coffin.

However, there is really no excuse for Olga Kryshtanovskaya or any of her American counterparts to be stunned by the current siloviki dominance in Putin’s Russia. For nearly a decade, even before he became Russia’s “president,” The New American has been reporting on Putin’s KGB pedigree and his steady implementation of a long-range Soviet deception strategy, including the public rehabilitation and refortifying of the KGB-FSB.

We reported in 1999, for instance, on Putin’s ominously revealing speech for Security Organs Day, celebrating the accomplishments of Dzerzhinsky and the Cheka. We reported in 2002 on Putin’s restoration of important communist symbols:

• the Red Star, as Russia’s official military emblem;

• the Red Banner, as Russia’s military flag;

• the music of the old Soviet anthem, albeit with new words;

• and his attempt, along with Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov, to restore the giant statue of Dzerzhinsky to its former place of honor in Moscow’s Lubyanka Square.

Public opposition to the glorification of “Iron Felix” have (temporarily) scotched Putin’s plans for Dzerzhinsky’s statue. Nevertheless, as we have reported, in 2005, Putin did restore a smaller bust of the mass-murdering Chekist to a pedestal at the infamous Lubyanka headquarters of the KGB-FSB.

Any reasonable person would have seen these events as very significant clues that maybe Vladimir Putin is not the “reformer” and the “democrat” that Boris Yeltsin, Bill Clinton, George Bush, and the New York Times told us he is. And if those clues weren’t enough, there is a trail of corpses from Chechnya to London, as well as Putin’s Soviet-style foreign and domestic policies that hearken to Brezhnev and Andropov, if not Stalin. The recent murder-by-poison of KGB-FSB defector Alexander Litvinenko in London (see article on page 17) and the murders of journalist Anna Politkovskaya, special forces operative Movladi Baisarov, central bank official Andrei Kozlov, and ex-FSB general Anatoly Trofimov — to name but a few — are sending an unmistakable message to everyone with eyes to see and ears to hear that the KGB (though not under that name) is firmly in control of the Kremlin.

Defector Exposes Deception

The media-anointed Russian experts have proven time and again to be spectacularly, dangerously wrong. We, at The New American, have chosen instead to rely upon verifiable facts, combined with analysis informed by the incomparable insights of Anatoliy Golitsyn, arguably the most important Soviet defector ever to come to the West.

No other defector has had access to the KGB’s inner sanctum, where the Soviet Union’s top-secret, long-range plans for strategic deception were hatched. And no other Russian expert comes close to matching Mr. Golitsyn’s accurate analysis and prescient predictions concerning the Soviet bloc and its current incarnation as Russia and the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS). Golitsyn’s astounding track record, which stretches back more than 40 years, fundamentally challenges every major assumption underpinning U.S. policies concerning Russia, the CIS, China, and the global communist system.

If Golitsyn is correct, then rather than winning the Cold War, as Western politicians, military leaders, academicians, and media figures have been proclaiming since 1991, we instead have been celebrating while in very grave peril. Like the ancient Trojans, we have fallen for one of the oldest deceptions. Unable to breach Troy’s impregnable walls, the Greeks feigned defeat and pretended to fade away. Believing that they had finally defeated the Greeks, the Trojans brought the Greeks’ peace offering — the giant wooden horse — inside their formidable walls. And while the Trojans were engaged in celebrating — well, we know the rest of the story.

According to Golitsyn, in 1960 the Communist Party Central Committee of the Soviet Union, with implementing help from the KGB, secretly set in motion a long-range plan that is still playing out today. A key feature of this plan would be a whole series of controlled “splits” within the communist movement and between communist countries that the Kremlin strategists would use to manipulate Western policies. This was initiated at the 1960 Moscow Congress of 81 communist parties from around the world. All genuine factions, splits, and power struggles within the communist bloc were completely ended at that meeting. From that point forward, any such infighting between communists, or any popular resistance against communism, would be artificial and under the full control of the extensive secret-police networks permeating societies under communist rule.

The “Sino-Soviet Split,” the alleged splits between the USSR and Romania, Yugoslavia, and Czechoslovakia, and Moscow’s “break” with so-called “Eurocommunist” moderates in Western Europe were all elaborate deceptions managed by the Kremlin and its KGB strategists. An equally elaborate deception is the KGB-created “Russian Mafia,” which is blamed for the corruption, violence, chaos, and mayhem that have plagued Russia and the CIS since they “went capitalist.” In truth, all of the leading Russian crime bosses, the “oligarchs,” — Loutchansky, Gusinsky, Berezovsky, Khordokovsky, Mogilevich — are veterans of the KGB-FSB and/or the Komsomol, the Communist Youth, and were “set up” in business by the KGB, following a refined version of Lenin’s New Economic Program of the 1920s. Besides providing the fictitious appearance of a genuine free market to attract Western capital and technology, the KGB-Mafia also provides an efficient means for dealing with political undesirables: when a foreign or domestic “troublemaker” needs to be liquidated, it can be done with the blame falling on unidentified criminal elements, rather than the State, or communist officials.

Amazingly Accurate Predictions

With his intimate knowledge of the KGB strategy, Golitsyn accurately foresaw, years ahead of actual events, many specific developments that have now occurred. He correctly predicted that Soviet dictator Yuri Andropov would be succeeded by “a younger leader with a more liberal image,” perfectly describing Mikhail Gorbachev and the political restructuring process that would be carried out under the name “perestroika.”

In his 1984 blockbuster book, New Lies for Old, Golitsyn correctly predicted that Solidarity would be legalized in Poland and allowed to form a coalition government with the communists after sham multiparty elections. He also foresaw, with astonishing precision, democratization in Czechoslovakia, with a revival of former communist dictator Dubcek and close allies; the opening of the Berlin Wall and the reunification of Germany as the core for a United Europe; the implementation of “democracy” in such countries as Romania and Hungary; the end of the Warsaw Pact; and the efforts of Eastern European governments to join the European Community as a prelude to unification with the West. Golitsyn even stated that these changes would begin during the five years following his 1984 book — which actually happened, from Gorbachev’s appointment in 1985 to the renewal in Eastern Europe since early 1989.

Mark Riebling, author of the important 1994 book Wedge: The Secret War Between the FBI and CIA, says of Golitsyn’s predictions in New Lies for Old: “139 out of 148 were fulfilled by the end of 1993 — an accuracy rate of nearly 94 percent.” That record is even more astonishing when one considers that Mr. Riebling’s assessment includes only the more prominent of Golitsyn’s projections; it does not include many of his more subtle analyses and forecasts. No other foreign policy analyst even comes close to Golitsyn’s level of accuracy and depth of analysis.

James J. Angleton, the CIA’s chief of counterintelligence, and Alexander Count de Marenches, who headed French intelligence, both saw Golitsyn as an invaluable ally and an indispensable asset in our efforts to understand the Soviets’ geo-political chess game. Unfortunately, both of these men were opposed by powerful forces in their governments who wanted to believe in and embrace the perestroika deception. Angleton and de Marenches were fired, while Golitsyn and his warnings were ignored — when they weren’t scorned and ridiculed.

A Not-so-grand Bargain

On May 20, 1991, Russia’s economic adviser Grigory A. Yavlinsky met with a group of cognoscenti from the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), the private U.S. organization that has dominated both Republican and Democratic administrations since at least FDR’s time. The group, which included Stephen Sachs, Graham Allison, Stanley Fischer, and Robert Blackwill, drew up what they termed a “grand bargain” which recommended granting the Soviets $15 to $30 billion per year for several years. A few days later, on May 24, the New York Times went even further with an editorial (“A Western Spur to Soviet Reform”) urging a Soviet bailout package of $150 billion. This was followed with an article by Allison and Blackwill in the CFR’s prestigious journal Foreign Affairs calling for aid of “$15 billion to $20 billion per year for each of the next three years.”

At a 47-nation Soviet aid conference convened in Washington in January 1992, President George Bush (the elder) pledged more than $5 billion. But that was just to prime the pump; untold billions have followed since.

As costly as our Russian foreign policy has been financially, the cost to our national security has been immeasurably greater. For more than two decades, America’s leaders have marched our nation headlong into the deadly perestroika trap, ignoring the warnings of Anatoliy Golitsyn and the overwhelming evidence that vindicates those warnings. They have embraced the Russian and CIS leaders as our “allies” and intertwined our military, police, and intelligence agencies as “partners” in global security.

Now, with Putin’s FSB Chekists coming brazenly into the open, it is long past time to repudiate this deception and reverse course — before the trap door is shut and bolted behind us.

Sounding the Warning

In 1984, ex-KGB officer Anatoliy Golitsyn’s important book New Lies for Old appeared, warning of a coming spectacular disinformation offensive by the communists. This strategic long-range offensive, he said, would be aimed at convincing the West that communism had disappeared, in order that the West might accept gradual convergence with the “former” communist states. Here are some of his (then) startling predictions:

• “The ‘liberalization’ [in the Soviet Union] would be spectacular and impressive. Formal pronouncements might be made about a reduction in the communist party’s role; its monopoly would be apparently curtailed. An ostensible separation of powers between the legislative, the executive, and the judiciary might be introduced. The Supreme Soviet would be given greater apparent power and the president and deputies greater apparent independence.”

• “The communist strategists are equipped, in pursuing their policy, to engage in maneuvers and strategems beyond the imagination of Marx or the practical reach of Lenin and unthinkable to Stalin. Among such previously unthinkable strategems are the introduction of false liberalization in Eastern Europe and, probably, in the Soviet Union and the exhibition of spurious independence on the part of the regimes in Romania, Czechoslovakia, and Poland.”

• “If [liberalization] should be extended to East Germany, demolition of the Berlin Wall might even be contemplated.”

• “The first communist strategy of strengthening and stabilizing the bloc politically and economically has been assisted by Western economic aid and by the acceptance of détente and cooperation with communist governments…. By accepting Sino-Soviet rivalry as genuine … the West is creating opportunities for the construction of new alignments that will rebound, in the long run, to its own detriment…. By providing advanced technology first to the Soviet Union, then to China, the West has helped to shift the balance of military power against itself…. Taking détente at its face value, the West has been ready to accept the notion of a long-term evolution of communism and its ultimate convergence with the democratic system.”

• “The European Parliament might become an all-European socialist parliament with representation from the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe. ‘Europe from the Atlantic to the Urals’ would turn out to be a neutral, socialist Europe.”

In 1995, Golitsyn published The Perestroika Deception, a 250-page book updating the unparalleled insights of his earlier analysis in New Lies for Old.

• “The [Soviet] strategists are concealing the secret coordination that exists and will continue between Moscow and the ‘nationalist’ leaders of [the] ‘independent’ republics…. This is not true self-determination but the use of ‘national’ forms in the execution of a common Communist strategy.”

• “The power of the KGB remains as great as ever…. Talk of cosmetic changes in the KGB and its supervision is deliberately publicized to support the myth of ‘democratization’ of the Soviet political system.”

• “Scratch these new, instant Soviet ‘democrats,’ ‘anti-Communists,’ and ‘nationalists’ who have sprouted out of nowhere, and underneath will be found secret Party members or KGB agents.”

• “After the Second World War the victorious allies correctly applied a de-nazification program to eliminate former Nazis and their influence from the institutions and political life of the new Germany. No equivalent de-communization program has been applied in the USSR or Eastern Europe. The Soviet Party, the KGB, and the armed forces with their political commissars remain intact.”

Has the BBC been Infiltrated by the Kremlin?

Last week La Russophobe reported on charges from Russian dissidents that the BBC was going soft on Russia. Now, BosNewsLife offers a possible reason why:

In an open letter published this week in British media, dissidents complained about the allegedly pro-Kremlin tone of the BBC programs and bias towards Russian President Vladimir Putin, a former agent of the feared Soviet-era secret service, the KGB. The activists, led by Oleg Gordievsky, a former KGB spy turned British MI6 agent, and Vladimir Bukovsky, an author who spent 12 years in Soviet prison camps, are particularly angered by the unexpected axing of a program presented by Seva Novgorodsev that had run for 19 years. His program regularly featured guests who were enemies of the Moscow government, such as Litvinenko and the journalist Anna Politkovskaya whose murder he was investigating. The BBC reportedly received a protest letter signed by 1,000 listeners around the world.


“At a time when Britain needs a strong voice in Russia more than at any point over the past decade, the taxpayer-funded BBC Russian Service radio seems to have considerably mellowed in its tone towards the Russian government,” The Daily Telegraph newspaper quoted the letter as saying. “By design or by neglect, it has become more accommodating of Russian government views, dispensing with difficult questions and denying a platform to some critics.”

In addition, the BBC Russian service went off air in Moscow and St Petersburg, two major radio markets, in December around the time of the murder in London of Alexander Litvinenko, a former officer in the KGB. “Unexplained technical difficulties” with the BBC’s local partners were reportedly blamed.

A BosNewsLife investigation meanwhile revealed that at least one senior Russian editor had links with the former Soviet Union regime and the KGB. Andrei Ostalski, the editor-in-chief of the BBC Russian Service in London (pictured, left), admitted in an article on the network’s Russian website that he had worked for a decade for the Soviet-era news agency TASS, seen as a mouthpiece of the Kremlin and the Communist Party, during the height of the Cold War.


On the eve of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979, an event he called “the entry of Soviet forces,” Ostalski said he was asked, and agreed, to closely cooperate with the chief of the analytical department of the KGB, a man identified as Nikolai Leonov. He said that “on Christmas night” of December 24, 1979, they were asked to “attentively monitor the international reactions to the entry of Soviet forces in Afghanistan.” Ostalski, moved to the United Kingdom soon after the break up of the Soviet Union, in the early 1990s. BosNewsLife also established that several other editors and producers received prestigious Communist-era education in Moscow, which was closed for dissidents, their children, or those who were not loyal to the regime. While the BBC leadership has apparently tried to supervise the Russian staff, there have been serious problems with the implementation of that policy. “Our chief of the Russian service, Sarah Gibson, has a limited knowledge of the Russian language. She doesn’t even speak good Russian,” a source told BosNewsLife on condition of anonymity.


Gibson made clear however that she is competent to do her job and that she tries to ensure a more balanced and professional Russian service, BosNewsLife learned. “Yet we lost the best journalists, we are missing their independent and critical reporting,” the source said. “Most items are now produced from the studio or with the current Russian staff.” Under Gibson, tariffs for radio reports produced by often critical, independent, freelance correspondents and stringers decreased recently by up to 30 percent, from the original $130 to about $90. For often struggling journalists, that amount is barely enough to work on the required radio packages of up to four minutes in expensive capitals such as Moscow, where they have to cover their own travel and equipment expenses, correspondents said. The BBC has strongly denied it is silencing critical voices. “The service remains an important and strong source of impartial and independent news and current affairs renowned for asking difficult questions on behalf of its listeners. We reject any suggestion that we have made compromises in our questioning of any point of view in any debate.”