Friday, January 12, 2007

Ivan's Legacy

Today Russia is very rich and arrogant. So arrogant in fact that assassination on another country's sovereign territory is no longer a taboo. It feels like after Litvinenko anyone is a fair game. How did it come to this? Here is a short story of Russian "secret police", organization that changed tens of official names, but is most widely known as the KGB.

Today KGB is in best shape it has ever been, but things started humbly when the "Iron" Felix Dzerzhinsky created organization charged with keeping the Bolsheviks in power. The organization drew from the human resources and mind set of Tzar's secret police which goes back to Ivan the Terrible and his loyal Maluta. The revolutionary circumstances changed quickly, and the organization had to adapt. Hardened criminals were drafted to help fight the powerful organized crime, as no one knew better the ins and outs of that world. Some were eventually exterminated, but some grew within the organization, further criminalizing mentality passed down through generations of secret police breeding. As they rose in ranks they brought in like-minded people taking the organization on a downward spiral.

Lenin and even Stalin knew very well what power lies within the walls of the Lubianka complex. That is why they took every precaution to keep KGB from real power. To aid in this goal a competing organization, the GRU, was created. KGB and GRU were supposed to keep each other in check and prevent the scenario of either one coming to power. After Stalin came Hruschov, and after he got deposed Brezhnev. Brezhnev was a consensus figure and very weak leader. It was during his reign that KGB started to get out of it's borders and like a cancer, infiltrate everything in sight. By the time of his death KGB was powerful enough to put their own man in power, Yuri Andropov. He turned out to be unfit, and was soon replaced by Chernenko, not a KGB person. He died after only seven moths, poisoned. The next one was a KGB man again, Gorbachov. He however also turned out to be a mistake as well, as is easy to guess, since under his rule the entire USSR broke apart.

In the early 90's KGB started an operation to "cover tracks", as they were afraid of a backslash being the least favorite part of USSR which started to get the dog's treatment. Over several years KGB went through series of reorganizations, splits, renaming, and carefully staged PR campaigns intended to clean wash the old image. The plan worked, and KGB's main part emerged as what we now know as FSB. At the same time in early 90's secret division called URPO was formed within KGB, numbering about 150 members. It's task was to infiltrate organized crime and, when asked to, assassinate specified individuals. Of course, it wasn't the court that decided who needs to be taken out, and the division started to resemble Hire An Assassin organization. Eventually it was publicly exposed in 98' by five high ranking FSB officers, one of which was Alexandr Litvinenko.

The URPO was only the beginning. By that time, although technically Yeltzin was in power, KGB was preparing to replace this accidental man with one of their own. It is notable that all the possible replacements for himself Yeltzin went through, changing them one by one as prime ministers, were KGB people. Putin was the last, and final choice. As Putin himself joked once, "operation of infiltrating our man to the post of the President is accomplished successfully". Indeed it was.

As extensively exposed in this article (Russian), during the 90's a directive was born within KGB of which the URPO was but one practical realization. The directive talked about establishing illegal (this is how it is in the text) spy networks that are to infiltrate commercial organizations, banks, judicial, legislative, and executive branches of government. This was justified as measure against organized crime that already infiltrated all those institutions. As a special measure the directive allowed for physical termination of leaders or members of those criminal organizations. Since it was assumed that any legal organization could be infiltrated by a criminal one, this meant that any person could be considered a subject of physical termination. 007s indeed.

In order to carry out this activity, and properly shelter the KGB from possible exposure, directive instructed how to created separate "teams" comprised from "ex"-KGB members, "ex"-criminals, and ex-special forces officers. Over the last decade there were numerous cases were groups of this type with clear and direct ties to KGB were exposed in connection to assassinations by police investigators. To the most part either the people involved mysteriously died or the cases were closed or both. Almost or all acts of terrorism in the past decade (details are beyond the scope of this post) that occurred (or nearly occurred) in Russia also tie back directly to KGB. Reasons for such less targeted killings are usually political which speaks volumes about how far up the chain of command the decisions might have came down from.

Over the past fifteen years Russia is transitioning to a new era. The mentality of people behind Putin, and Putin himself was forged in best traditions of KGB, which in turn inherited many traits of organized crime. In fact, it is the most dangerous and powerful criminal organization I ever heard of. They have their own state, bigger in size then some continents. They are bent on extending their power to the west, through infiltrations, assassinations, coercion, economic expansion, and fueling of military conflicts. Sit tight. The Russians are coming.


Irina Tsukerman said...

You'd like The Good Shepherd then. ; )

Good post. Do you know of any good histories of KGB? By "good", I mean detailed and as accurate as possible under the circumstances.

Yury Puzis said...

No unfortunately. But let me know if you find one.

Woland said...

Let's say that nowadays they are more busy robbing their country and stashing their money in the western banks.

It would be nice to see the day when price of oil falls to 9$ per barrel. Preferably, due to lack of demand.

Yury Puzis said...

Don't forget about gas, too.