News powers invested in the FSB are a recompense for Dmitry Medvedev’s liberal initiatives.

The parliament passed the law expanding powers of the Federal Security Service (FSB). The president has a fortnight to make up his mind and either sign the document or veto it. That general public will appeal to the president not to invest additional powers in the FSB goes without saying. General public already did, when the initiative of the government that had originated within the FSB itself was discussed by the parliament.

The chief executive has already answered general public. News agencies quoted him as saying on July 15, “First, let me remind you that this is our domestic legislation and not an international treaty. Second, every sovereign state has the right to perfect its legislation, including legislation pertaining secret services. We will do it. And I’m telling you right here and now that what is being done these days is being done on my orders.” What news agencies somehow missed to report was the context and the background. Both are quite important, in this case. Dmitry Medvedev made this statement at the joint press conference with Angela Merkel of Germany when a foreign correspondents directed questions to both leaders. Medvedev was asked about Iran and Merkel, about Russian democracy from the standpoint of investigation of human rights activist Natalia Estemirova’s assassination.

To begin with, the president could not afford being lectured in whatever a magnanimous manner. Hence his sharply-worded response. So, the first explanation of this turn of events (Medvedev the liberal backs authoritarian secret services) comes down to a simple assumption that he only meant to demonstrate unanimity within the ruling tandem. And by the way, however liberal and democratic general public might bristle over this unanimity and solidarity, it is not the first time Medvedev is demonstrating it. When debates over restriction of the jury’s powers became quite heated at the onset of Medvedev’s term of office, everyone expected either a veto or at least criticism of United Russia from the president. He did neither and signed the law. Off the record, state officials close to the president admitted that the head of state had personally okayed every function to be withdrawn from the jury’s jurisdiction.

As a matter of fact, there is more to all of that than solidarity of the tandem. Medvedev made too many gifts to the liberal and human rights community of late. Presidents in Russia are supposed to maintain equilibrium, particularly when they intend to run for another term of office before long. There are lots of people in Russia with jailer’s mentality, people who hate liberals’ guts. Something has to be done for them too. Last but not the least, neither is the FSB a structure to be neglected by the head of state. It does need additional powers and sources who usually know what they are talking about claim that it is not for the use of enemies of the regime that the FSB needs them.

“They need nothing additional in terms of powers to deal with enemies of the regime,” said a source. “They already have ample powers for that. What the FSB needs is an opportunity to make its reports even more glowing. It does report prevented terrorist acts, heaps of confiscated weapons, etc. but what it cannot report are successes on the ideological front. The new law will take care of that. The FSB will be reporting warnings issued by the thousand now.”