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  1.  

    There's are two interesting articles in the Aug 23rd 2007 issue of The Economist called 'The making of a neo-KGB state' and 'Putin's people'. They talk about how the FSB (nee KGB) bosses have solidified their power greatly under Putin, who like his predecessor Yuri Andropov was the head of the security agency before becoming the first man in Russia/Soviet Union). (I don't remember the policy about direct article links. So if you don't want them there, Ron, just let me know and I'll remove them.)

    http://www.economist.com/world/displaystory.cfm?story_id=9682621

    http://www.economist.com/printedition/displayStory.cfm?Story_ID=9687285

    By many indicators, today's security bosses enjoy a combination of power and money without precedent in Russia's history...Apart from Mr Putin, “There is nobody today who can say no to the FSB.”

    Putin's friends in the FSB have been installed as virtual pro-consuls throughout Russia and wield enormous power in many areas of the country.

    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.

    The political clout of these siloviki (strongmen) is backed by (or has resulted in) state companies with enormous financial resources...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.

    This doesn't appear to bode well for the future of Russia or the stability of the region. Once Putin is gone, he will no doubt be replaced by a hand-picked FSB successor who will carry the torch.

    We had an ex-senior member of the CIA running our country not too long ago (Bush 41). But imagine if you will, the worst of the CIA dirty tricks veterans getting "drummed out of power" only to pop up on the boards of major corporations, taking influential cabinet posts and being given the real reins of power in key state legislatures. I'm sure we all have our opinions about the Republicans and Democrats working their supporters into positions of power. But what has happened in Russia seems to me to be something much more dangerous than simple partisan politics.

    What do you all think? Will this last? And what will the effect be for Russia and for the world? Or will another tidal wave of "change" push Putin and the FSB-folks out of the corridors of power?

    • CommentAuthorDave Y.
    • CommentTimeAug 29th 2007
     

    Chris,

    That's really interesting, and more than a little troubling. This is only tangentially related, but I found this article interesting about some of the other work that former KGB-types are getting involved in:

    http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/content/07_33/b4046052.htm?chan=search

    Dave

  2.  

    Hello,

    I am wary of villainizing Putin, especially by using the "KGB, hearts black with evil" tag. One reason is the power of the Cold War still clutching our minds - and I speak not of a Russian threat, but of blowback in its original meaning: American agency-spread propaganda that becomes treated as reality by the press.

    I think that Americans' notions about the KGB can be directly traced to John Barron's propaganda mill in the 1950s, including the Reader's Digest and a series of terrifying books, and the Fleming novel From Russia, With Love. What little meat there was in those came from defectors, who were eager to fulfill all fears and fantasies necessary to get themselves accepted. (Deriabin even became a CIA analyst - what's up with that??). I'm even more wary about the post-1991 rush to cement the KGB story into place: anything published with or by Christopher Andrew is Tory reality-building, as I see it.

    Another reason is my skepticism of how centralized our reportage is. I subscribe to The Economist and read it weekly, as do many of us at this forum, but one thing I think we need to remember is that it is an aggressively, thoroughly, and ambitiously Conservative magazine (I used the capital C because I'm referring to an actual political grouping, in Britain). It's easy to forget that because conservative Brits think the NRA and pro-life are bonkers, and dislike the neocon war (remember, Blair is a Liberal), they are often seen as open-minded and clear-thinking. Hence to the American reader the magazine seems centrist, perhaps even a kind of hard-headed liberal. The same goes for the BBC news. So to get a clearer view, I make sure to check out a wider range of British media. (For the record, I also follow Al-Jazeera and Haaretz.) Not necessarily radical or fringe, just wider, like the New Statesman (a veritable cauldron of leftiness), The Spectator (another conservative), and The Guardian (pluralist, effectively centrist).

    That range of reportage and viewpoints yields an illuminating controversy. The alternate view to the one promoted by the Economist is that conservative British power-players were, and are, in bed with the Yeltsin regime and its looting of Russia. To them, Putin is a threat because he cracked down on organized crime and evicted gangsters from the government.

    This Guardian article, Three militants taken alive as Al-Quaida blamed, isn't written as a rebuttal of any kind. It's interesting to see that just a few years ago, the crisis in Chechnya was not necessarily seen as a free people struggling against the Russian jackboot, but as a possible Saudi-fueled venture. This Spectator article, Putin the poodle, points out the hypocrisies in U.S. policy and statecraft toward Russia in the past six years.

    And acknowledging whatever proviso one wants to bring to Raimondo's judgments, I should also point out that his journalism has always stood up to test. Even if you're not inclined to agree with him, articles like Putin, the patriot and The frame-up of Vladimir Putin provide a ton of archival information through links.

    As I see it now, the alternative argument is at least as strong, and probably better-supported through observation, than the points I see repeated in The Economist and more softly supported by BBC reporting. Then again, I still cannot quite understand why NATO still exists, far less why its membership was permitted to expand, and even far less why the Baltic states should be considered candidates. All of that seems like rank U.S. aggression to me.

    Best, Ron

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