It is far from inevitable that the looming historical defeat of the Russian armed forces in their full-blown invasion of Ukraine will shutter the core of the counterintelligence state. On the contrary, the growing militarisation and securitisation of Russian society will most likely bring the Federal Security Service (FSB), the regime’s ‘sword and shield,’ to the forefront as a primary instrument of maintaining subservience and order.
Russia watchers have a tendency to lump together the armed forces and the security services under one umbrella term ‘siloviki’ (power ministries). The military and the security services, however, are two distinct actors, with separate hierarchies and institutional cultures. In this sense, a more suitable and nuanced concept to understand contemporary Russia would be a ‘counterintelligence state’ that is best characterised by its intelligence and security agencies’ extensive penetration into public and private sectors. And the armed forces are a primary target for such penetrations.
This paper provides a historical background of the omnipresent penetration by the FSB and elaborates on the functions of its directorates: countering the ‘Western influence’; foreign intelligence, including external counterintelligence and intelligence from the territory; military counterintelligence; economic counterintelligence; control of other ‘siloviki’; and internal security of the organisation. As the post-Soviet developments in the 1990s have demonstrated, any optimistic expectations for a post-Putin regime may well be betrayed as long as the security services continue to function with the same personnel, principles, and methods.
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