The Economist has posted a fascinating story on the influence of the ex-KGB, the FSB, on Russian politics. Or, perhaps, it would be better to say that it exposes how the FSB has become Russia's political structure. While the Left in the US worries over the ability for the CIA to reads its email, in Russia the CIA's equivalent is essentially the reigning power.
Over the two terms of Mr Putin's presidency, that “group of FSB operatives” has consolidated its political power and built a new sort of corporate state in the process. Men from the FSB and its sister organisations control the Kremlin, the government, the media and large parts of the economy—as well as the military and security forces. According to research by Olga Kryshtanovskaya, a sociologist at the Russian Academy of Sciences, a quarter of the country's senior bureaucrats are siloviki—a Russian word meaning, roughly, “power guys”, which includes members of the armed forces and other security services, not just the FSB. The proportion rises to three-quarters if people simply affiliated to the security services are included. These people represent a psychologically homogeneous group, loyal to roots that go back to the Bolsheviks' first political police, the Cheka. As Mr Putin says repeatedly, “There is no such thing as a former Chekist.”
The money quote:
The KGB provided a crucial service of surveillance and suppression; it was a state within a state. Now, however, it has become the state itself. Apart from Mr Putin, “There is nobody today who can say no to the FSB,” says Mr Kondaurov.
It all reminds me of how poorly we handled the downfall of the Soviet Union. We could have helped them build a capitalist state based on Constitutionally-protected individual rights, and could now have a powerful ally. But instead, we let them flounder, leaving them intellectually disarmed and thus unable to plot the proper path from Communism to freedom. Of all our mistakes in the last century or so, this one may perhaps be one of the costliest.