THE KGB AND PRAGMATISM

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THE KGB AND PRAGMATISM

Novoe Vremya, No. 12, March 21, 2002, p. 13

Since Vladimir Putin became president, all kinds of dissidents, intelligentsia, and others have continued to blame him for his past. Their main charge: what might a KGB officer do with this kind of power?

While I am not overjoyed about the second president’s career, it seems to me that his background is often misinterpreted.

Putin received his rank of lieutenant colonel not in the security structure, but in the foreign intelligence service. Unlike the KGB, Soviet foreign intelligence was directed against the West, not against its own people; which is not very good either, but it’s a minor offense, by comparison.

What did the Soviet foreign intelligence service do over the decades? It produced information which the Soviet government wanted to hear, and compiled analyses ordered from the top. Overall, the intelligence service kept an eye on the “imperialist tricks”, the “class enemy”, and the “conditional enemy”. The criteria for intelligence activities were also fairly donditional: it served the foreign policy agenda of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. The results are well known: the agenda of the Communist Party no longer exists.

DOES AMERICA CHOOSE RUSSIA’S LEADERS?

Zavtra, No. 12, March 21, 2002, p. 1

According to our diplomatic sources, Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov’s visit to Washington was another round of assessing candidates for the top job in Russia after Putin’s resignation. They say Ivanov made a more favorable impression than Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov, as Ivanov’s criticism of the USSR proved his ability to make the due economic and geopolitical concessions to the US. The final decision is to be made after a meeting with present Security Council Secretary Vladimir Rushailo and Moscow region governor Boris Gromov…

AFGHANISTAN OUT OF CONTROL

Zavtra, No. 12, March 21, 2002, p. 1

The failure of the anti-Taliban campaign in Afghanistan, which ended in the capture of empty caves in the mountains, is evidence of the inability of the US army to fight in the mountains. Resistance in other regions of Afghanistan is growing, and many pro-Talib Pushtuns are returning from Pakistan. As a result, Washington is losing control of the situation. In particular, the cool reception given to Afghan leader Khamid Karzai in Germany proves it: the German authorities refused to give financial aid to the present Kabul government, and so does Britain….

OPPOSITION TO ATTACK ON IRAQ

Zavtra, No. 12, March 21, 2002, p. 1

According to our sources in Beirut, the recent diplomatic curtsey to the Arabs is connected with preparations for a major attack on Iraq. Washington hoped that after this action the “good Arabs” of Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Egypt, Syria, and Turkey would join the anti-Iraq coalition without “losing face”. However, the refusal of Egypt, Syria, and Turkey to join in the escapade is likely to change US strategy in the Middle East once again. Europe and the Islamic world are also concerned about Bush’s readiness to use tactical nuclear weapons as a means of “frightening terrorists”.

ANOTHER CHUBAIS PLOT?

Zavtra, No. 12, March 21, 2002, p. 1

According to our Kremlin sources, the dismissal of Viktor Gerashchenko and appointment of Sergei Ignatiev as head of the Central Bank is a “great victory” for the Chubais clique. Since 1991, Ignatiev has been a close associate of Anatoly Chubais, carrying out his most delicate errands. The plans of presidential economic advisor Andrei Illarionov to control the currency reserves of the Central Bank through some sort of “reserve fund” are most unlikely to be realized, as Ignatiev is being ordered to stage a re-run of the 1998 economic default: to take place in early 2003. Finally, the exchange rate is to be aimed at extracting rubles from the people and conclusively discrediting the Putin administration….

SELF-DESTRUCTION

Kriminalnaya Khronika, No. 12, March 20, 2002, p. 2

According to official statistics, last year 2.9 million crimes were committed in Russia. And 1.5 million of these crimes were in the category of major crimes.

Abduction cases rose by 10%, and the number of crimes connected with selling drugs increased by 50%. At the same time, crime-solving rates fell by almost two-thirds; which means the drug mafia is winning the battle.

It should also be noted that all these statistics are a long way from the complete picture: many criminologists agree with Alexander Gurov, who estimates the real number of crimes in Russia at 20 to 30 million a year.

THE PANKISI GULF

Versty, March 21, 2002, p. 1

According to polls done by the Public Opinion Foundation, 41% of respondents have a positive view of Georgia; 39% are indifferent toward it; and only 15% of respondents have a negative view of it. When asked about Georgia, 14% say it is associated in their minds with beautiful scenery, health resorts, and mineral water springs; 5% of respondents mentioned tangerines and Georgian wine; and 5% more mentioned Georgian hospitality. Only 8% of respondents associate Georgia with its president. However, 15% of respondents like Eduard Shevardnadze, and 63% dislike him. There have been enough reasons lately for this dislike to arise.

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