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Putin's re-Sovietized Russia.

ITEM: "Vladimir Putin is on course to complete Russia's transition into an authoritarian state--and it will have happened while the West not only stood by, but nodded its benign approval," wrote Gary Kasparov in a March 12 Wall Street Journal column. The renowned Russian chess champion and veteran anti-Communist urged Western leaders to ask some "pertinent questions" about Putin's regime: "Why is Mr. Putin suffocating the media? Why are business leaders who do not obey his orders being jailed? Why are the elections rigged in favor of Mr. Putin and his henchmen?"

ITEM: In a March 22 column, Toronto Sun foreign affairs analyst Eric Margolis recalled a 1991 visit to the then-Soviet Union during which he toured the Lubyanka Square headquarters of the KGB secret police and had extensive conversations with the new generation of KGB officers. "A decade later, KGB alumni have assumed total power under former KGB colonel Vladimir Putin," noted Margolis. "Last week's barely contested elections in Russia confirmed Moscow's hard men are now completely in charge of a one-party state. President Vladimir Putin has ruthlessly scattered Russia's feeble democratic forces, brought the media totally under his control, broken the robber barons, and crushed regionalism. He is now an absolute ruler.... KGB hard men [now control] security, information, banking and finance, oil, metals, trucking and foreign trade ... [as well as] major industries and services...."

ITEM: Vladimir Putin "has packed his government with 'men with epaulettes,'" noted a March 5 AP dispatch from Moscow. Under the reign of Putin and his KGB cohorts, known collectively as siloviki, Russia has been "turning back the clock to Soviet times."

ITEM: Putin's rise to power was propelled by a series of terrorist bombings in Russia in September 1999; the attacks were blamed on Chechen terrorist groups connected to al-Qaeda. "The 1999 bombings proved to be Mr. Putin's political making," commented the March 13 London Daily Telegraph. "He positioned himself as a strongman who would crush the Chechen rebels and restore order to the ailing country." However, "a growing body of proof has surfaced that links the bombings ... to the FSB--the revamped KGB. Independent investigators, including several MPs, who have sought to look into the case have been intimidated, arrested or beaten."

ITEM: In its March 22 issue, the liberal journal The New Republic reported that "fear of government repression ... has driven 33,000 Russians to seek political asylum in industrialized countries in the past year." According to the magazine, "The Putin administration's real belief system can be summed up in three letters" : KGB.

AHEAD OF THE CURVE: Nearly a decade ago, THE NEW AMERICAN--in defiance of the conventional wisdom that the Cold War had ended with the self-liquidation of the Soviet ruling elite--devoted an entire issue to documenting the tact that Russia's Communist nomenklatura was still firmly in control of that unfortunate country. Our September 18, 1995 analysis drew extensively from the revelations and warnings offered by Anatoliy Golitsyn, the most important KGB defector to reach the West. Years prior to the advent of Mikhail Gorbachev's "perestroika," Golitsyn warned of a detailed, long-range disinformation campaign by the KGB that would culminate in the emergence of a "reformer" as Soviet ruler, the demolition of the Berlin Wail, and the apparent demise of the Soviet Union itself. Golitsyn also warned that the KGB and its key allies would remain in charge of Russia.

On numerous occasions over the past decade, this magazine pointed out that Russian President Boris Yeltsin, described by the New York Times as "a man who did much to free his nation from the stranglehold of Communism," had actually helped the KGB maintain its death grip by appointing KGB veterans as prime ministers. One of them was Sergei Stepashin, who signed a cooperation accord with FBI Director Louis Freeh during a July 4, 1994 meeting in Moscow.

In our September 13, 1999 issue we correctly identified Vladimir Putin, the former head of the KGB (now called the FSB), as "Russia's Next President." The terrorist bombings in Moscow occurred later that same month, shortly after Putin was appointed prime minister. Citing reports in the (relatively) independent Russian press, we noted in our October 25, 1999 issue that the bombings offered Moscow a "Reich stag Fire-style civil emergency to justify the re-imposition of police state measures." A subsequent detailed examination of the incident ("Putin: Prophet or Provocateur?" in our April 8, 2002 issue) laid out compelling evidence that the Moscow terror bombings were indeed the handiwork of the renamed KGB.

Russia's rulers set aside December 20--the anniversary of the KGB's founding--as "National Security Organs Day," a celebration of history's most murderous secret police organization. In our February 14, 2000 issue, we reported that Putin had used the previous December's commemoration to announce that "a group of FSB colleagues dispatched to work undercover in the government has successfully completed its first mission"--an allusion, no doubt, to his own elevation to power. In the same issue we cited the despairing observation of veteran Russian dissident Sergei Grigoryants, who had been arrested many times by the KGB: "The KGB has risen from the ashes and come to power in Russia. It is the logical outcome of the process that has been unfolding for the past decade." In terms of who visibly wields power, Grigoryants is correct. But behind the scenes, the Communist nomenklatura never lost control.
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Title Annotation:Ahead Of The Curve
Author:Grigg, William Norman
Publication:The New American
Geographic Code:4EXRU
Date:May 3, 2004
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