Publication: Fortnight in Review Volume: 6 Issue: 14

On June 28, Russian President Vladimir Putin elevated Vyacheslav Trubnikov to a specially created post as overseer of Moscow’s CIS policy. Trubnikov will be First Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, with the title of Federal Minister, full cabinet rank, and the mandate of presidential envoy for relations with CIS countries. Trubnikov, moreover, holds the rank of a four-star general. That unprecedented combination of prerogatives means that Trubnikov will be involved in both policymaking and policy implementation.

Trubnikov’s immediately preceding post was that of head of Russia’s Foreign Intelligence Service–SVR, one of the KGB’s direct successors–from 1996 to May 2000. According to the official biography, Trubnikov was born in 1944, joined the KGB’s First Main Directorate–that for foreign intelligence–in 1967, worked undercover in Soviet embassies abroad, headed that Main Directorate’s South Asian department in 1990-91, and was the SVR’s First Deputy Director from 1992 to 1996.

With a career background in Indian subcontinent affairs, and fluent in Hindi, Trubnikov is not known to have any direct experience with, or specialized knowledge of, the CIS countries. Putin’s decision therefore suggests that he expects Trubnikov to bring covert operations techniques to bear in Russia’s relations with CIS countries and to maximize reliance on intelligence officers in the formulation and execution of Moscow’s policies. Officials in Moscow and in CIS countries’ capitals undoubtedly realize that Trubnikov’s nominal superior, Foreign Affairs Minister Igor Ivanov, will not hold the reins of policy in the CIS area.

The selection of Trubnikov rounds off a series of presidential appointments and decisions which have placed Moscow’s CIS policy in the hands of KGB career veterans. One of these, Security Council Secretary Sergei Ivanov, has to all intents and purposes taken over the functions of CIS Executive Secretary Yuri Yarov. Another KGB veteran, Yevgeny Primakov, has been appointed by Putin to chair a newly created Russian governmental commission in charge of arbitrating the Transdniester conflict in Moldova. At the recent CIS summit in Moscow, Putin unsuccessfully attempted to create that same mechanism for arbitrating the conflicts in the South Caucasus.

Stemming from the president, himself an ex-KGB career officer, the trend seems to be percolating from the policy making level to subordinate levels. On June 30, Putin approved a revised concept of Russia’s foreign policy, which–according to initial reports–includes at least two significant changes directly relating to the CIS. First, it raises the “defense of compatriots in the near abroad” higher on the scale of foreign policy priorities; and, second, it provides for “enlarging the role of intelligence services” in the formulation and implementation of Moscow’s policies.