Return of the KGB? As democracy ebbs, Putin’s Russia is back on a familiar track

by WorldTribune Staff, September 25, 2016

On the same day his United Russia party solidified one-party control of the government, President Vladimir Putin moved to effectively recreate the Soviet KGB by merging Moscow’s domestic security, foreign espionage and counterintelligence agencies.

According to a report by Kommersant on Sept. 19, Putin’s plan would merge the Federal Security Service (FSB), the Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR) and the Federal Guard Service (FSO) into a new Ministry of State Security (MGB). Only military intelligence would be spared assimilation into the new ministry.

'Iin just a couple weeks Vladimir Putin will turn 64, the same age that Leonid Brezhnev was in 1970 as the Soviet Union was about to enter a decade of economic stagnation, intensified political repression, and escalated foreign aggression.' /AFP/Getty Images
‘In just a couple weeks Vladimir Putin will turn 64, the same age that Leonid Brezhnev was in 1970 as the Soviet Union was about to enter a decade of economic stagnation, intensified political repression, and escalated foreign aggression.’ /AFP/Getty Images

One of the KGB’s predecessors, which functioned as Joseph Stalin’s murderous secret police agency between 1946 and 1953, was also known as the MGB.

The Kommersant report fell on the same day, Sept. 19, as the results of the previous day’s elections were announced.

The United Russia party secured more than three-quarters of the seats in the new State Duma (343 out of 450). The record-low turnout (47.8 percent) election was marred by widespread allegations of fraud.

“And oh, by the way, in just a couple weeks Vladimir Putin will turn 64, the same age that Leonid Brezhnev was in 1970 as the Soviet Union was about to enter a decade of economic stagnation, intensified political repression, and escalated foreign aggression,” Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) reported in a Sept. 22 commentary.

Gennady Gudkov, a former KGB colonel and currently an opposition politician, had warned in an interview with RFE/RL’s Russian Service that the Kremlin regime was going “from authoritarian to totalitarian.”

“The simulated democracy and managed pluralism that marked much of the Putin era are out. Monolithic rule, elite purges, and escalated repression are in,” the commentary by Brian Whitmore said.

Add to that the recent creation of a 400,000-strong National Guard force “that answers to Putin alone and is run by his uber-loyal former bodyguard Viktor Zolotov” and “the Kremlin leader now has his own personal Praetorian Guard that could put down any dissent in society,” in a parallel development to the consolidation of intelligence agencies.

“The KGB, it should be remembered, was not a traditional security service in the Western sense – that is, an agency charged with protecting the interests of a country and its citizens. Its primary task was protecting the regime,” Andrei Soldatov, co-author of the book The New Nobility: The Resurrection Of The Russian Security State And The Enduring Legacy Of The KGB, wrote in Foreign Policy.

“The main task was always to protect the interests of whoever currently resided in the Kremlin. With this new agency, we’re seeing a return to form – one that’s been a long time in the making.”

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