Saturday, June 7, 2014

Window on Eurasia: A Mini-Brezhnev Doctrine? -- FSB Promises to Block Revolutions in CIS Countries

Paul Goble

            Staunton, June 7 – In yet another example of the Kremlin’s shamelessness about its plans to use its power across the former Soviet space in what constitutes an updated but geographically smaller Brezhnev doctrine, FSB head Aleksandr Bortnikov  says his agency will react quickly and harshly to any attempt to overthrow existing regimes in the CIS countries.

            That statement in Mensk on Thursday ( is a dramatic shift from the euphemisms such as “fraternal help,” “international responsibility,” and “peacekeeping operation” that the FSB has used in the past, commentator Aleksandr Prodrabinek points out (

            This openness about the role of the Russian security services reflects the fact that “after the annexation of Crimea, the Russian authorities have ceased to restrain either their actions or their declared intentions” or, it should be said, their fears that the kind of revolutionary change that has already transformed Ukraine will spread, Podrabinek continues.

            Bortnikov told his CIS intelligence service colleagues that Russia’s FSB “considers that there can be in these countries forces with definite intentions concerning the overthrow of the authorities,” that any such actions are “impermissible,” and that “we will act harshly in the framework of the law not to give an opportunity to destructive force” to carry out their plans.

            “The latest events in Ukraine confirm,” he said, that certain figures of the opposition and “foreign forces” intend to “overthrow the authorities with the goal of changing the constitutional system.” The CIS intelligence services must react by “combining forces, in particular by exchanging information.”
Bortnikov’s message is clear, Podrabinek says. “If the authorities of the [CIS] countries don’t take upon themselves a concern about the security of the despotic regimes [there], then the FSB of Russia will,” a warning that echoes what Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev said about challenges to communist rule in the Soviet bloc 40 years ago.
The FSB head added that “destructive forces act illegally and are financed by western NGOs, which are located” in these countries, the commentator says. Thus, the security agencies have as their targets “social activists, NGOs, and the opposition,” or, “in a word, national traitos if one uses the language of Mr. Putin.”
Moreover, Bortnikov continued, the Russian security agencies won’t wait until there is a crisis but will engage “above all” in “prophylactic” measures designed to prevent things from ever getting out of hand, yet another warning that if other governments don’t take steps in this direction, Moscow will.
It seems clear, Podrabinek concludes, that “the main goal of this close interaction [of the security services of the CIS countries] is not the exchange of experience and information but he informal subordination of the special services of these countries to the Lubyanka” and the Russian government.
                What remains to be seen is how the CIS countries will react. Georgia left in 2008, Ukraine is in the process of leaving now, and others, even if their leaders welcome Moscow’s protection but concerned by such intervention, could easily do the same in the future, especially if the CIS gains the reputation of a “club of dictators.”

            Indeed, just as the overbearing attitude and actions of Moscow designed to keep communists in power across the Soviet bloc sparked the movements that ultimately ended that system, so too this latest claim of a right to interfere in CIS countries could hasten the day that that organization finally disintegrates.


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