Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Window on Eurasia: FSB Seeks KGB’s ‘Elder Brother’ Role in Near Abroad and Beyond

Paul Goble

            Staunton, March 6 – The FSB has proposed legislation that would allow it to send its officers to other countries for lengthy periods and thus serve, as the Soviet intelligence service did, as “the elder brother” for security services of those states, according to Moscow’s leading independent authority on Russian intelligence operations.

            In an article in yesterday’s “Yezhednevny zhurnal,” Andrey Soldatov, who runs the portal, said that the FSB explained its proposal by saying that it needed officers in these other countries not to defend Russian diplomats from spies but rather to work with other services in “’the struggle with international crimes’” (

            It is already the case, the intelligence expert continued, that FSB officer have been sent to other countries for period of three to six months, but so far, he said, they had served only in Abkhazia, South Osetia and Kyrgyzstan, with 15 FSB officers in each. The proposal would allow the Russian intelligence service to send officers to more countries and for longer periods.

            Russia’s Interior Ministry received the right as of 2007 to send up to 41 of its officers out to Russian diplomatic missions. In 2009, the government increased the length of time they could serve to three years, with the possibility of extending for a fourth. So far, Soldatov said, the MVD had sent ten officers and only one per country.  The FSB wants to do rather more.

            According to the intelligence expert, the FSB’s proposed program is less like that of the Russian MVD than it is like that of the Soviet security agencies in Soviet bloc countries from 1949 to the end of the Cold War.  These officers often numbered several dozen per country and played a key role in the direction of the work of the national intelligence service.

            Allowing for all the differences between that period and now, Soldatov says, it is “obvious that the main task for the special services” in the three countries the FSB has already dispatched officers is not what it claims, the fight against organized crime and terrorism but rather, like the MGB 60 years ago, “the preservation of the existing political regime.”

            One might think that the SVR, the Russian government’s foreign intelligence arm, would be the more natural place from which to dispatch such officers abroad, but the FSB not only wants to use this opportunity to recover from Vladimir Putin’s recent criticism but also can argue that it can play the role of a defender of these regimes even if its officers will also spy on them.


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