Sunday, June 5, 2016

As Economy Falls, Putin Moves to Build Soviet-Like KGB or Ministry of State Security, Kalashnikov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, June 5 – It is almost a law of Russian reality that when the economic situation of the country deteriorates, the first thing the Kremlin thinks about is re-arranging the security services even if it doesn’t provide them with the resources to be able to do much about the country’s underlying situation, according to Maksim Kalashnikov.

            In a commentary on the Forum-MSK portal, the Putin critic says that this is exactly what the Kremlin leader has been doing. In fact, he suggests, that both recent moves and those in prospect put the Russian security agencies on the way to resembling the KGB of the USSR (

            “The FSB which earlier swallowed the border troops and the government’s communications agency, now is swallowing the FSO (the former 9th directorate of the KGB) and the SVR (the former first chief directorate of the KGB of the USSR).” And the creation of a Russian National Guard, he continues, is “only the first sign” of more changes ahead.

            At the same time, apparently on Kudrin’s advice, the Kremlin may create a Federal Bureau of Investigation which will swallow up the Investigations Committee and its subdivisions which are now in the ministry of internal affairs. These moves have consequences for political relationships in the elite, but they won’t necessarily help the country.

            Some argue, Kalashnikov says, that what is coming back into being is “not the KGB or even the FSB but a Ministry of Public Security.” Such people forget that the KGB was set up only in 1954 and on the basis of a Soviet ministry of state security and portions of the ministry of internal affairs.

            Whether what Putin creates is called the KGB or a ministry, he says, doesn’t matter very much. What is important, Kalashnikov argues, is something else entirely.

            “The powerful inter-agency structures of state security in the USSR were set up in a country that was developing at a stormy pace,” but “the current perestroika of the force structures is taking place” when the economy is not only collapsing but everything is moving in a negative direction, something the Kremlin and its entourage understand full well.

            But what they don’t understand or don’t appear to is this: with all the reorganization going on, the Russian government in fact is reducing the staffs of the security agencies in order to save money.  That means that these institutions however they are grouped and whatever they come to be called won’t be able to act effectively.

            Indeed, the reorganizations themselves will inevitably disorder at least some of the country’s security system, and it is time to ask the question, Kalashnikov says, “will there be a paralysis among the siloviki?

            That is entirely possible and some of it may even be by design, with those in the Kremlin who control one part of the security services using reorganizations to undermine those who control another. Kalashnikov says that this may be the case of Sergey Ivanov, the head of the Presidential Administration, and Igor Sechin, with whom he is in conflict.

            What will such political infighting lead to? Nothing good, the commentator concludes.  It may even lead to divisions and destruction of parts of the siloviki, thus opening the way for even more problems as the country’s economy continues its descent – including, he implies, the possibility that these agencies may not be able to cope with real challenges to the powers that be.

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