Publication: Russia and Eurasia Review Volume: 1 Issue: 8

By Mikhail Kochkin

With Vladimir Putin’s assumption of power, cadres of former and current Chekists [St. Petersburg intelligence service veterans] have been in great demand in state bodies at all levels, and in the senior management of the most profitable sectors of the Russian economy. This is no great surprise: The former intelligence officer wants his policies and economy to be able to rely on a structure that, compared with others, and by virtue of its detachment from society, has been least affected by corruption, and that, thanks to rigorous selection procedures, has preserved its energetic management personnel. In the last six months or so, this trend has grown stronger–now retired FSB generals are not only appointed as ministers in the federal government and board members with the biggest monopolies, but are also being elected as regional governors. They are called upon to replace potentially obstinate and overly independent local leaders (as already seen in Ingushetia, for example). Arising from this, the press often carries articles on the subject of the “FSB moving into government.” Yet this formulation seems to be already outdated, and now something qualitatively new is taking place, the causes and development of which we will seek to examine here.

In my opinion, the FSB is no longer in fact “moving into government.” It is becoming the government. It has all the characteristics of a corporate political party: A circle of supporters, a financial base, participation in elections, representatives in state bodies and so on. Its stock on the “political exchange” is now rated extremely highly. Its confidence rating among the Russian people comes immediately after the president and the Orthodox Church. And Berezovsky’s accusations that the Russian special services were behind the 1999 Moscow apartment house bombings have only strengthened their popularity; in the eyes of most Russians, this “oligarch in exile” is clearly held in such low esteem that his open confrontation with the FSB has merely increased public sympathy for the services. If the FSB were suddenly to form a party, it would win a majority in the Duma at the next parliamentary elections. Such enormous political capital cannot be left untapped. [1]