Vienna, June 25 –Dmitry Medvedev’s personnel changes at the Federal Security Service (FSB) and the Federal Narcotics Control Service (FSKN) do not point to any liberalization in the Kremlin’s approach, however much some in both Moscow and the West have invoked them as an indication that the new Russian president plans to change Putin’s policies in the security area.
Instead, Anatoly Soldatov, a leading Moscow analyst, argues in an article published not in Russia but in Poland, Medvedev’s moves are a continuation of Vladimir Putin’s policies at the end of his presidency (wyborcza.pl/1,76842,5326130,Specsluzby_Miedwiediwa.html; available in Russian at www.agentura.ru/dossier/russia/people/soldatov/colonka/medvedevservices/).
And those policies, Soldatov says, are intended to expand the country’s security agencies beyond their traditional role as guardians of the state to become active supporters of Russian corporate interests, both public and private, not only within the Russian Federation but internationally as well.
When Medvedev recently fired FSB head Nikolai Patrushev and FSKN leader Viktor Cherkesov, however, “many [immediately] drew the conclusion that Medvedev was more liberally inclined than was Vladimir Putin,” the longtime specialist on intelligence services points out. But such judgments, he continues, are at a minimum “a great exaggeration.”
At least since the fall of 2007, he argues, “the Kremlin really has revised the place and role of the force structures, but this does not have any relationship to the personality of Medvedev and his views about liberal values. Instead, it reflects a further “’corporatization’ of the Russian state.
When Putin appointed Mikhail Fradkov head of the Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR), the then Russian president said that that service must “more actively stand up for the defense of the economic interests of our companies abroad.” Thus, Soldatov adds, “the president “directly required” a state agency to “act in the interests of Russian companies” rather than the state.
The recent scandal involving Russian purchases of secret helicopter technology in Germany, the Moscow analyst says, suggests that Putin’s directive was quickly implemented. And the more recent discovery of “spies” within TNK-BP as Moscow seeks to oust British interests there suggests that the FSB has been given the same charge.
Thus, the longtime researcher on Russian security agencies suggests, “the general trend of converting [Moscow’s] special services into agents of Russian business” begun under Putin “has been followed” by Medvedev in the latter’s “choice of people to head the two main Russian special services – the SVR and the FSB.”
Like Fradkov whose career and even connections with the intelligence services were in the economic area – in the 1970s, Fradkov served in the Soviet embassy in India where he was involved in the sale of Soviet armaments to New Delhi –Aleksandr Bortnikov, Medvedev’s choice to head the FSB, is someone more concerned with economic issues than anything else.
Bortnikov throughout his career at the FSB has focused on economic issues, rising to the position of head of its economic section prior to his appointment as director. In that capacity, he did not display the kind of naked ambition or interest in high Kremlin politics that have landed others at the FSB in trouble.
Soldatov concedes that “the actions of the Kremlin are not always logical, but in this case, we see an absolute consistency in the actions first of Putin and then of Medvedev,” a pattern that makes nonsense of claims that the new president has displayed his “liberalism” by such appointments.
Instead, the editor of the Agentura.ru portal suggests, what is on view both in Putin’s actions and those of Medvedev is the “’corporatization’ of the Russian state:” the transformation of the intelligence services into instruments for the promotion of the economic and hence political interests of the Russian state.
It is of course possible that Medvedev may prove to be in some way more liberal than his predecessor was, Soldatov clearly implies, but the current Russian president’s latest personnel moves in the intelligence area are not convincing evidence of that, however much some in Moscow and even more in the West want to believe.