This Is No Drill: Vladimir Putin Resurrects The KGB


When Vladimir Putin, a former agent for the KGB, was elevated to the highest office of Russian politics in 1999, he told his intelligence advisers that his secret plan to install KGB officers at the top levels of Russian society had come to fruition. It was taken to be a joke, but as it turns out it was no joke at all.

Over Putin’s unprecedentedly long reign at the head of the Russian state, he has allowed practically all of the highest positions in government to become occupied by his old colleagues who served alongside him in the ranks of the notorious Soviet spying agency. Now it appears that putting these people in place was not simply cronyism, but rather it was building up to a key moment that will completely alter the post-Cold War structure of intelligence gathering.


Boris Yeltsin dismantled the KGB when he came to power following the collapse of the Soviet Union. Now details from Moscow suggest that Putin will reverse this action and combine the FSB (the successor organisation to the KGB) and the Russian foreign intelligence agency. He will have oversight and overall control over all intelligence activities.

Former and current members of the FSB are anxious about the proposed changes. Putin has always had a troubled relationship with the reformed intelligence agency and has never been shy about publicly professing his allegiance to the KGB. But the news should trouble more people than these intelligence officers. Kremlin watchers have suggested that this move clearly indicates that Russia is moving towards war. Russia’s bellicose actions in Syria and Ukraine have been compounded with domestic strife at home. Russia has clearly displayed plans to prepare for a war with foreign countries, and the reformation of the KGB suggests that the administration is poised to deal with domestic troubles harshly as well.

As the security analyst Andrei Soldatov has noted, the KGB was no typical spying agency. He writes; “Its primary task was protecting the regime. Its activities included hunting down spies and dissidents and supervising media, sports, and even the church. It ran operations both inside and outside the country but, in both spheres, the main task was always to protect the interests of whoever currently resided in the Kremlin.”

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